So near and yet so far. The joy of being a telepath is that even accross country, your loved ones are as close as you think. Best if read following "Only Letters" and/or "Something New".
The futon and bedside clock continued to mock her, however. Even without her glasses she could see the hands glowing softly green in the darkness. 2AM. This was ridiculous. She was tired, absolutely exhausted, she should be- as Richard put it- "building log cabins in Canada" right now. Not that she snored, of course, but the point was she should have fallen asleep hours ago. She never had trouble sleeping in strange places. Why was she having so much trouble falling asleep in her own new bed in her own new house?
Because she was the only one in it, she realized.
It wasn't that bed was made for two, it was that it held only one. It'd been over twelve years since she'd seen Karl last but the thought of him still made her heart ache. She tried not to think about him but clung to his memory tightly. Who knew what had become of him? Where he was, what had happened to him? She'd thought several times of asking Julian but, well, no he wouldn't want to hear from her. He probably didn't know, anyway. None of them had spoken much after the Unpleasantness. At least Marguerite had gotten a happy ending out of the abominable mess.
She sighed and sat up, hugging her knees and admitting defeat to her insomnia. If she was going to be awake, she might as well do something constructive. However, she didn't feel like getting out of bed and going down to her work table. The hard-repressed thoughts of Karl tugging at her heart told her that she would probably spend the night crying. She didn't want to cry and almost shed tears at that.
Twelve years. Twelve long years since she'd seen him last, nine since she'd heard from him, his final letter read and re-read so many times that the ink had nearly faded away into the worn paper. She'd worried and fretted herself half sick when the newspapers proclaimed Dessau part of Nazi territory. Karl's last letter had been written just two weeks before. The longest weeks of her entire life. She'd taken up smoking seriously then, just to calm herself. She sniffed hard around the sudden knot in her throat. If only he had come with them... Now she was all alone. Her parents murdered, brother killed in action, sister estranged, and her beloved...heaven only knew. What she did know, somewhere in the back of her mind, deep in her gut and bones, in her heart of hearts, was that he was still alive. The little pockets of essence, the sort of spiritual cubby holes in her heart and mind that had belonged to her brother and parents were empty now, and grown over slightly like their far off graves, the grass of time slowly spreading over the wound and soothing the ache. She felt no cold vacuum when she reached for Karl, heard no empty echo. His space was occupied yet silent, and felt somehow oddly stretched, as if the physical distance somehow affected her emotional attachment to him. Perhaps it did. She really had no idea how these things worked and had no one to ask. Her mother was dead. And she dared not ask such foolishness of any of the men. She had an image to maintain. Dash it all, why did she have to be the only girl?
Another sigh had escaped her lips. He would have come to her, had the damn Nazis waited another two weeks. Would have come to her, would have...asked her. She knew he would have, he'd all but said as much to her on several occasions. He'd intended to ask for her hand, to marry her. He'd already spoken to her father about it, she knew. Hidden in a garment bag her wedding dress hung perfect and untouched, shoved to the back of her closet. She'd never wear it now. It wasn't that she minded being a spinster, what bothered her was the lack of Karl. She would have liked to smack whoever had said "Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Clearly, they had never been in love.
Edna didn't believe in chance. She did, however, believe in providence. To excuse the random meeting of two people both under four foot tall, both Supers, who would become not only friends but lovers as coincidence was asking too much. It had been the hand of God in her mind, and she eyed that hand sternly, waiting on the thin hope that it might carry him back to her. So far, it seemed to have only hidden him from harm. If Karl had been hurt or worse she would have surely known. She had felt the mental sting of death and bite of injury from family members and other friends. Karl only felt distant. Why he would choose to cut himself off from her like that...she could not guess. She swallowed vainly against the lump in her throat, her eyes watering rebelliously at the action.
She hid her face in her tucked-up knees, wrapping her arms around them. She didn't want to think about this, didn't want to dissolve into a blubbering mess, didn't want to lie awake all night until she'd cried herself sick. She would too, she knew. She'd done so before. His face drifted in her mind's eye, his shy smile and kind blue eyes. She could almost feel his small, strong arms around her, drawing her close, the tickle of his goatee against her forehead. The memory of his scent, the vanilla of his pipe smoke, washed cotton of his shirt, thick, clean odor of strong soap and vaguely mediciney smell of the hospital, stung tears to her eyes. His embrace had been warm and comforting and the empty air around her seemed to mock the thinness of her silk pajamas all the more.
He should be here, right here beside her, helping to fill this hatefully big, empty bed. He could be out cold and snoring, obliviously hogging the mattress or tenderly holding her close beneath the modesty of the satin sheets, she didn't care. So long as he could be here with her, within arm's reach, that was what she wanted most. Just to see him, touch him, hear his voice again.
"Karl..." her voice was small and pitiful in her own ears and she closed her lips tight against any further outbursts though there was no one hear her. She buried her face in her knees again and sobbed.
Karl... Oh Karl where /are you? Why don't you answer me? I miss you so much... Where are you? Please.../
In her grief, her loneliness, she did something she hadn't done all those vacant years; something she'd been too afraid to attempt for fear of what she might find. She reached out and touched him.
Karl kept his eyes closed against the half-dark of his room. The apartment was small, just a studio really, one big room with everything in it and then a bathroom tacked on in one corner. It still felt over-sized to him. Everything in America was big. He sighed. Sleepless nights were not uncommon for him, but tonight no phantoms haunted him, just a vague feeling of emptiness. He was all alone. The absoluteness of his isolation chilled him a little as he thought about it. Across the ocean and a lifetime away there had always been someone close by. At home he'd shared a room and a set of twin beds with his brother, in college and medical school, Julian, in the barracks...(he shuddered briefly at that)...there had been personnel and prisoners aplenty to watch his every move. Now there was no one. He had no roommate and few friends, none of them close, too afraid of what they might discover. Now here he lay, alone with the silence of his room in a bed meant for two people.
It had come with the apartment and Karl had not thought much about it at the time. Indeed, hadn't thought about it in any capacity until now. Other couples had surely shared this bed before he became its lone occupant. He tried not to think about them. It wasn't because he might need to disinfect the mattress that he tried to turn his thoughts away, it was the company, the peace, the solace of a companion that stung him. Karl curled up tighter, trying to take up even less space if possible. He was used to furniture being out-sized for his stature but tonight the mattress seemed doubly wide, the empty expanse of white sheets and blankets laughing at him. He'd never been able to make himself sleep in the middle. Perhaps it was because of the imprints left by previous, larger bodies. No reason he could invent seemed to be able to explain why he felt compelled to choose one side as "his" and stay there.
With a defeated sigh he turned away from the door to face the vacant space to his right. Edna ought to be there, he realized. In any other time and place she would have been, sleeping soundly, her breathing soft and even, not six inches away. He reached out a hand to close that distance but his fingers only touched cold and empty air. He would have asked her, had he gotten the chance. Her father had approved and her mother too. If only he'd gone with them. Those lost credits mattered precious little now. How vain, how foolish had he been back then. Even with the Third Reich looming over their heads he'd thought they would have all the time in the world. And then she'd left and he'd been dragged off and what felt like another lifetime had come between them, making the separation permanent.
He could never have her now, not that she would want him. He'd done too much, seen even more. He would not wish those horrors on anyone, least of all her. There was some comfort to take in the knowledge that she was all right. The newspapers and fashion magazines cheerfully announced to him that she had survived the Blitz and the following years unscathed. All the photos showed her smiling. Everyone loved her; her beauty, her genius, her talent. He loved her too, but no one knew it. Instead he quietly saved the articles that mentioned her name and clipped the pictures of her smiling face, pasting them into a scrap book where he could safely love her from a distance. He never considered giving her up. The thought never even entered his head. Certainly he could never be close to her, not now, not ever, but stop loving her? It was too absurd a thought to be entertained.
Mostly he was so busy and so tired that he did not have a chance to think about her. It was an effective and intentional strategy that usually worked quite well, but this night he found he could not get her out of his head. He didn't keep any of her photographs out- that would have looked odd and made the separation even harder to bear- but he could picture her clearly in his mind. So small, so delicate, every detail perfectly formed in miniature. She was a blend of two cultures, the best of both East and West: silky black hair, dark and shiny as wet ink, soft and feathery in his hands; deep brown eyes, large yet almond-shaped, full of laughter and secrets; soft, fair skin; and a pretty little nose too flat to be German and too prominent to be Japanese. Dressed in elegant costumes of her own design she had seemed like a living china doll to him, the fabric sweet with the exotic, spicy scent of clove smoke and the lighter fragrance of jasmine. A sigh escaped his lips. What he wouldn't give to take her in his arms right now, to turn back the clock and do things properly. If he'd only come with her she might be lying here now, close enough to touch, the rings on their fingers binding them together for as long as time on earth lasted.
But that would never happen. Not now, not ever. He'd lost her forever when the swastika had been etched into his shoulder, branding him eternally as a murderer. He had unwillingly turned traitor to everything he loved and there was no way to reverse that, to somehow make it better. Some injuries were too severe to risk surgery. No amount of nipping and tucking- literal and not so much- would ever make him fit for her again. Turning, he hid his face in the pillow, unbidden tears blotting on the soft fabric. He could almost hear her small voice, soft soprano wearing coarse against clove smoke.
Karl... Oh Karl where /are you? Why don't you answer me? I miss you so much... Where are you? Please.../
The words stung him to his core and he cowered against having to provide an answer. He couldn't tell her he was hiding because he loved her, because he didn't want to stain her perfect body with his bloody hands, blacken her heart with his own dark secrets, strike her mind's eye blind with the depravity he'd witnessed. These were scars he never wanted to show her. Ever.
He could not answer, huddled under the bedclothes, willing himself invisible to her. Something reached and touched him, the contact gentle and faint as a summer breeze. He'd know it anywhere. Trembling, he raised his head turned his frightened eyes to see.
It would never be clear, in the half-remembered dream that this seemed to be, who was where; whether some ghost of lost love had journeyed to a cramped California apartment or the elegant boudoir of a mansion in upstate New York. At the moment, it didn't matter. Nobody took note of the fact that they were still in their pajamas, or their bedrooms. The only fact that registered was that suddenly, inexplicably, they were no longer alone.
Edna's eyes, streaming with tears, grew wide behind her glasses. Karl gawked stupidly, too dumbfounded to turn and shrink from her presence. He was never given the chance. With a soundless wail she flung her arms around him in a hug that nearly knocked him on his back. Burying her face in his shoulder she let loose the tears she'd held for so long. Karl took a moment to try to make sense of it all but quickly decided against it, content to dream if a dream this was. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her as close as he could without breaking her ribs, muffling his own sobs in her narrow shoulder. His heart ached with the gratitude of seeing her again and he rocked her slightly as he held her. After a few precious moments of just holding one another close Edna recovered from her bout of tears and turned her attention fully to him.
Oh God...I thought I'd never see you again... The words were not spoken so much as thought, her lips already otherwise employed kissing him.
I'm sorry... he stammered mentally, balking at first as she pressed her lips against his. It didn't take long for him to succumb and kiss her in return. Oh God when had they last kissed like this? Not in ages... Not since...since... The point of reference would not come, his heart refusing to let his memory poison the moment. She didn't stop at his mouth. After an endless instant she broke away but only to dot his face, his eyes, his cheeks, his chin with quick, short kisses before returning to his lips again to drink deeply of his soul. Her kisses were passionate, almost desperate, heaped upon one she'd long feared dead in feeling if not in fact. How often this was repeated he didn't bother to count, only enjoyed and returned it.
The rush of emotion made him blissfully dizzy, feelings long compressed and ignored finally freed. Edna clung to him as one drowning and he to her, as if her tiny body could lift him above the mire of the years they'd spent apart. Eventually she did knock him to his back, sending them both sprawling slightly on the sheets. Neither seemed to notice. He never thought of reaching for her hem, it didn't occur to her to search for his shirt buttons. Instead they simply huddled close, each sheltering in the other's arms, breathless. Pressed so close he could hear her tiny heart pounding against his, each beat accented by her thoughts and echoed in his own.
I love you... I missed you...
His lips found hers and he lost himself again, perfectly willing to drown in her embrace. For a long moment they lay and held each other close, Edna's head on his shoulder, his cheek resting on her raven-soft head. The last thing he remembered, before drifting off to the first real night's sleep he had in years, was that if he were to die before waking, he would have died happy.
Dawn's soft, harsh light filtered mistily in through the long window's of Edna's room, the pale rays prodding her to wakefulness far too soon. Her face- sticky and swollen with the salt of dried tears- clung to the pillow slightly as she raised her head to blearily glare at the intruding sun. She'd been having a good dream, why did daylight have to go and spoil it like that? Already the sweetness lingering in her mind was fading. She clung to the wispy threads, desperate to remember at least part of what had made the dream so good. Looking down, she noticed she'd fallen asleep on her side, her right arm thrown across the empty side of the bed and the sheets disturbed as if her bedfellow, loathe to disturb her, had simply crept away to work early without waking her. She smiled to herself. Of course.
A dream is a whish your heart makes when you're fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartache, whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is bleeding,
If you keep on believing,
The dream that you wish will come true
She'd have to write that down for Walter, he liked sentimental nonsense. Not, she reflected running a hand across the disturbed sheets, that all of it was nonsense. She sniffed quietly at one last tear and smiled. Mama was right, the thoughts of her heart had not gone unheard.