30 Nights and Tomorrow On

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All the promises at sun down, I meant them like the rest (Pearl Jam – Future Days)

She wondered if she did something wrong.

The dial turned to another miscall. Elizabeth threw her phone to the bed. Last night was already bizarre. Firstly, Gilbert actually agreed to have dinner with her. Secondly, Gilbert ordered a heck of coffee—that guy couldn’t even stand a sip of it. Thirdly, he paid for their bills. Not just his own, Elizabeth’s wagyu steak too.

And if it couldn’t get any more unusual, Gilbert left her abruptly there. Elizabeth thought there’s more to his thought that got stuck on his throat. For some reason that she didn’t know, he couldn’t spill it out. So he tried to go along with all Elizabeth said, shoving his worry back deeper to his skin, desperately waving it off.

But for Elizabeth, it was too obvious that he tried too hard. He looked very much suffocated by the burden he placed himself.

A mail was delivered to her apartment this morning. Elizabeth, still on her pajamas, went out on sandals to get it. It’s surprisingly warm for a winter morning. Gray clouds were nowhere near sight; the sky was all vivid and clear blue with a slight orange spark coming from the skyline between the scrapers. Today’s going to be a good day, she thought.

Or not at all.

The mail, wrapped neatly inside an envelope, was her daily schedule sent directly by the headquarter. Her fingers traced the blank ink printed boldly; a list of her clients’ life was spread out in mere letters. It’s probably her thousandth letter or more, yet she still had the same chill flowing down her spine everytime she opened one.

Names, addresses, times. Someone was going to die soon.

Elizabeth checked for her first client which was an hour away. Her mind had shifted from Gilbert to work. She’s not sure, though. Gilbert would likely end up on her mind during work today, but she’d handle it later.

Getting into her coat, she stepped out and locked her room. Another door behind her back was opened after a little fuss. Elizabeth turned around to greet a woman in her fifty, holding a basket and a paper.

“Good morning,” Elizabeth said. The woman smiled, hurrying to close her door. “Off to grocery-shopping this early, Mrs. Lee?”

“Someone has to, darling. Want me to drop something for you?” Mrs. Lee replied with her soft husky voice.

Mrs. Lee was a long-time neighbor, she’d been occupying her room long before Elizabeth moved in. She’s previously an elementary school teacher who’s after retiring worked in a Sunday school—and it showed. Perhaps she just liked kids that much, seeing little Elizabeth moved in alone years ago had touched her in some ways. She started buying Elizabeth fruits and vegetables, sometimes just leaving them on her knob. She spared her some breakfast and dinner, bought Elizabeth new clothes whenever it’s Christmas, and taught her how to sew a loose button. Elizabeth surely missed those moments. As a grown-up now, there were something she couldn’t depend on anymore.

“It’s alright. I’m a responsible adult, my fridge is full,” Elizabeth replied, tightening the button of her blazer.

“Oh, look. A baby bird has left its nest.” Mrs. Lee tucked her basket to her arm, her wrinkly eyes scanned Elizabeth’s entire profile. “Gosh, you’re so grown-up now. That blazer suits you. You must be the prettiest salary-woman in this world.”

Yeah, just like the rest of them, Mrs. Lee thought Elizabeth was working for an office in the downtown. Insurance company, she lied once to ease the suspicion.

“My, my. If I were, then there’s no way I’m single now,” she joked, but then got struck by the truth of it. No one would ever believe that she’s single if not for her job.

“Should I set you up on a blind date, then? Some of the young teachers in my church are having the same trouble finding their other half, apparently.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I’m not into church boys.”

“You like it wild. I can see that.”

“Mrs. Lee!”

“Oops. I should go. Talk to you later about... your blind date.”

Before she could say more, Mrs. Lee left. The devilishly calming laugh had faded off as the elevator door closed. Elizabeth wished she could join her until the bottom floor, clarifying that she really meant it when she said she’s not into church boys, but she realized she forgot the envelope. She went inside again, rushing to grab the envelope and checked her schedule for the last time, making sure she got the first address right—before her eyes accidentally landed on a familiar name in the list, whose address was suspiciously close to where Elizabeth lived.

She dropped the envelope. A hole started to form somewhere in her chest. She just remembered, nothing ever came good during a nice weather in the middle of winter.

Irene Lee, age 56, Sunday school teacher, was scheduled to be stamped at 8 PM without fail today.


She expected Gilbert to really visit her head today, nonetheless she had bigger matters to deal right now. And it took half of her brain capacity, Elizabeth swore she could faint or break down anytime in the middle of a busy crossing.

It’s not that she had troubles to let go. This was her whole job: stamping people, numbering their countdown. As a church person, Mrs. Lee would probably be glad of the news, saying she’s finally called home by the Father. And it’s not like Elizabeth had to witness her dying—heck, she’d die first than her.

How to put it, she wondered. Mrs. Lee was like her own mother. Let alone knowing she’s going to die in 30 days, stamping her felt like diagnosing your own parents’ remaining time. Even worse, as a stamper she had no right to know how she would die. It’d be reassuring if Mrs. Lee died peacefully in her sleep, but as the criminal rate dangerously increased these days, there’s a bigger chance she’d die in a painful way.

A ring on her phone startled her. She looked down to see Gilbert’s been texting her a late reply.

“what the heck liz why are you calling me ten times am i now your emergency contact now please remove.”

“Gilbert,” she called again, this time it reached the other side. “Bad news.”

“You always have one.” He sighed. The voice on his side was heavily filled with siren and car horns, he might be in the middle of fetching a soul from another car accident. “Did you forget to bring your wallet?”

“I have to stamp Mrs. Lee tonight. What am I supposed to do?!”

Silence, except for more horns. Elizabeth bit her nails.

“What are you supposed to do, you ask?” he replied a while later, dragging his voice low. “Who is Mrs. Lee again and why does she matter?”

“God, you stupid. She’s my neighbor who once treated you two bunches of banana. I get it that you don’t feel thankful enough and wish you got more, but at least remember her last name!”

“Ah, that Sunday school aunty.” He hissed. “Well, she’s at that age.”

“No, she’s not! She’s just 56!”

“I mean, kind people always die first. Deal with it.” Elizabeth was about to rebut, but quickly interrupted by another response. “Stamp her, then. That’s your job. Why even bother calling me ten times to ask stupid things.”

“I-It’s not that easy, you know. How am I able to stay calm if I don’t know how she will die? Can someone guarantee she’ll die painless? She’s a kind person, that’s why I want her the best for her!”

“I don’t know what you are trying to say,” Gilbert said. It pierced slowly to Elizabeth’s heart. “Are you asking me to ask every of my colleagues who got to harvest Mrs. Lee’s soul and spoiled you when and where and how she died? It’s against the rules. Even a brat like me has integrity.”

“I’m saying—"

“Forget it. That’s none of our responsibility. Just do what you have to do and be professional. Work comes first, put aside your feelings.” He mumbled something away from the phone. “Anyway, if you have so much time to worry about other people’s death, I think you should worry more about yourself. Bet my ass Yuriko was also thinking the same thing when she stamped you. But it had to be done anyway. Didn’t you say death is just another stage of life?”

Elizabeth froze. The voice of her own speech rang loudly in her ears.

“Now you know the feeling.” It’s a sigh of retreat, a second of vulnerability from the other side, something inside Elizabeth clenched upon realizing it. “I have to work. Catch you later, until whenever.”

She dropped her arms. The dismissal felt like a harsh slap to her. The pain was burning on her head as she looked at her watch. Almost time.


The walk to her apartment was quiet. Elizabeth spared some of her times to sprawl on her bed, massaging her temples. She had changed into a warm sweatshirt earlier and now was waiting for a noise out there. Mrs. Lee sure went home late today.

The moment of uncertainty didn’t draw much longer as a rush of plastic bags and keys clashing together outside called her loud. She pushed herself to her feet, combing her hair with her fingers just to make it a little appropriate before fleeing to the kitchen, taking some of her shopping with her. Elizabeth realized she was shaking when she’s trying to pull her doorknob, so she took a deep breath and pushed them out at once before tightening her fist and stepping out.

A few knocks to the door before hers; Mrs. Lee didn’t leave Elizabeth cold for too long in the corridor.

“Oh. Hello again.” The middle-age woman scanned Elizabeth from toes to head. “You’re home early today.”

“It was a short day, indeed.” Elizabeth was not sure what to say. Mrs. Lee probably realized it too from how stiff her shoulders were. “Mind if I come inside for a bit? I have something to say.”

“Is it about the blind date?”

“It could be anything, honestly. I don’t have any agenda, just one.” She lifted the bag on her hand with vegetables peeking out from it. “Hotpot?”

Mrs. Lee chuckled, opening the door wider for Elizabeth to get in. Things had not changed much, as far as Elizabeth remembered. Mrs. Lee’s room was still as old-fashioned as it deemed to be by its owner. It’s stuffy at some corners with books and newspapers, but spacious enough in the middle to sit. Back when she’s new in the neighborhood, Mrs. Lee often invited her in for dinner. Right now, Mrs. Lee sat in the same spot as Elizabeth was years ago while waiting for her meals.

“I said it jokingly, but it’s true. It’s hard to believe that you’re an adult now,” Mrs. Lee muttered from behind. Elizabeth was too occupied with the stove to turn around and see her expression. “You can even cook for yourself. I feel like you don’t need me anymore.”

“That’s not true. I still have yet to learn how to change the lamps when it’s out. I would like to have you change it for me, but at the same time I’m afraid you’re going to suffer from back pain after climbing the ladder. So I usually ask Gilbert to do it for me.”

“You might as well ask Gilbert to teach you while doing so.”

Elizabeth giggled, her mind was imagining how impatient Gilbert would be being her teacher. “That’s a no. I have enough of him.”

“I should bring him more bananas next time. He seems to like it. When will he come over?”

The water’s all boiled now, she quickly put half of the ingredients in and stirred some flavoring onto it. “Whenever he wants to borrow some money from me. Maybe two weeks later.”

“Or I can just leave the bananas to you! Aren’t you two working at the same branch?”

She swallowed, hands absently stirring the soup. The steam was puffing against her face as well as stronger aroma began to fill the room. It was looking good, at least. “Doesn’t mean we meet everyday. But I’ll try.”

“Does Gilbert have a girlfriend yet?”

That question almost made Elizabeth choke. “W-What?”

“I don’t know, just asking.” She could hear Mrs. Lee’s pretended-to-be-innocence face just behind her back. “I mean, you’re not interested in religious men. Not saying Gilbert is a bad guy, but he might be more suitable than those teachers. You two fit each other in all of your disagreement.”

“Mrs. Lee, please don’t bother pushing on it. Some people are best left as friends. I’m not sure if he considers me as a friend, though. But on rare occasions, he can really show care toward something. It depends, I guess.”

Carefully, Elizabeth turned off the stove and wrapped a cloth around the pot, moving it to the dining table where Mrs. Lee had prepared as she stood up to take out her antique bowls and chopsticks. She complimented Elizabeth’s cooking though saying she’s still lacking in original flavor, but overall she’d make a good wife. Elizabeth choked for real this time.

“To Gilbert, I mean,” she corrected.

“He’ll puke on my lap.” Elizabeth snorted. “What happened to setting me up on a blind date though.”

“I changed my mind. From now on I decided you and Gilbert will be my ship.” Mrs. Lee took another sip from her bowl. “You know, it’s true that some people are best left as friends, but not when both of them are hopeless romantic.”

“We’re not—"

“I used to think we were both hopeless romantics. I guess, it’s just me then.”


“My husband.” Mrs. Lee raised her stares. “My ex-husband. Years later I realized he’s a realist.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “You have hus—no, I mean, you even got divorced? How come I have no idea?”

“It’s already a long time ago! Long before I met you!”

“I’m sorry...”

“It’s fine.” Mrs. Lee sighed. “It didn’t matter anymore. We found out I couldn’t have any kids both naturally and with help, he didn’t waste his time to propose a divorce. I was disappointed to know what kind of man he was, so I straight down agreed to it.”

“Is it possible to meet a man in this era who marries just to have kids?” Elizabeth said in between her teeth, her fist clenched on her lap.

“He’s pretty conservative. Well, me too, actually. It’s no big news.” She laughed, mouth’s full and all. “But it has its fun. I’m not regretting it even one second. After all, I met you later. I have you now.” She sipped the remaining soup on the pot. “You’re like my own daughter, Liz. I hope you realize that.”

Elizabeth’s shove of spoon stopped mid air. She dropped everything including her gaze, suddenly got reminded of the reason why she was here.

“Really?” she asked, and it came out weak.

“Sure! When I heard there’s a kid trying to move into the room in front of me, I was wondering what kind of parents left their teenage daughter living alone and made her handle everything all by herself. That time when I caught you eating cup noodles for breakfast everyday, I felt like I had to help you. I felt like I was here for this, for you. We certainly don’t meet everyday, but every time I see you, I always get reminded about what it means to have a meaningful life. You saved me, Liz.”

It was... everything Elizabeth wanted to hear. In the end, however, she couldn’t even bring herself to look Mrs. Lee in the eyes.

“I’m sorry, I suddenly get emotional.” Mrs. Lee wiped the tears off her cheeks. Her callused hands went to hold Elizabeth’s trembling hand. Elizabeth, a second away from breaking down, was quick enough to pull her hand from any kind of contact with Mrs. Lee’s. She glared at the woman before registering the frown on her face. “What is it?”

“I-I...” She had to look terrible enough for Mrs. Lee to show so much concern like this. “I feel honored. I, too, think of you as a mother figure. Thanks for being there for me.”

“No need to say it.” Mrs. Lee’s expression went softer. “That’s what a mother is for. I’m glad we have this kind of talk. Don’t you think it feels more like a goodbye?”


“You suddenly want to make a hotpot in my kitchen and have dinner with me. You looked exactly fine this morning, now it seems like you have been struck by a lightning somewhere this afternoon.”

“I’m just tired,” Elizabeth said, which was half right.

“I think I know what it is.”

“Really, I’m just—"

Mrs. Lee offered Elizabeth her palm. It was a sad smile, yet she delivered it proudly. “Your deadline is almost up. Stamp me.”

It wasn’t until a few seconds passed, Elizabeth’s train of thought ended up wrecked in the middle. Her eyes went down to trail Mrs. Lee’s palm, thin skin and fairly white, blue veins streaming constantly beneath—enough to tell she’s alive. She remembered how soft it was back when Mrs. Lee’s still young, casually handing her money to buy fruits and honey.

The palm stayed steady in the air, waiting to be embraced. It’s an open invitation. Elizabeth always dreamed of clients who would accept her touch at first try; someone who didn’t need to be consoled first, someone who’s strong enough to greet death. This time, it felt like she was the one who’s not ready to greet death.

“Mrs. Lee,” she said, flinched at how shaken she sounded. “H-How... did you know?”

Mrs. Lee watched as Elizabeth found her eyes. Red, watery rim circled her eyes, lips pressed thin, the wrinkle ran through the line of her face. Though calm and at ease, Mrs. Lee couldn’t just tell her body to follow. “Of course I know, Elizabeth.” She swallowed a sob. “I’m your mother.”

She laughed, as if she got a long span ahead. “Well, not your biological mother, as you already knew. I also happen to work at church. Of course I’m familiar with this thing. It’s just... never that I think I’ll be stamped by you of all stampers I have encountered. Truly, fate always clicks in the end.”

“You should’ve told me that you—" Elizabeth breathed in, tears were warm against her cheeks. ”—I thought you really fell for that insurance company scheme!”

“That one was a good one. I bit my tongue not to laugh when you said that. Well, now that I’m going to leave, I should really apply for insurance. Did you happen to know someone who one hundred percent works in the insurance company?”


“It can wait. Now, what must be done has to be done.”

Elizabeth forgot; her palm’s still waiting for her.

She wondered why a job she had done for as long as she lived was now felt like a curse to her. Surely she never loved getting around to number people, but one on another day she decided she’s going to take it as a blessing. Now everything hurt—everything stabbed her. Perhaps it’s the sentimental value that back stabbed her. Gilbert always said not to get attached, not even to small things like leaves or dirt. Elizabeth wasn’t sure what it meant until attachment brought her helpless.

Perhaps it’s the time you wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important, whispered Saint-Exupéry once in her dream.

Elizabeth wiped her eyes, taking a long sigh. The grip on her thighs tightened. She focused her blurry sight on the woman in front of her, who’s now smiling at her. “Promise me something.”


“Make sure you finish this with no regret. Make sure you finish this happily, no matter what happens. They say happy souls go straight to heaven.”

Mrs. Lee’s agape. The palm clenched tight before retreating to her side. “Won’t I go to purgatory first?”

“They’ll let you pass quickly.”

Like a pair of wings, Mrs. Lee opened both her arms and laughed when Elizabeth hugged her. She was warm and tender, the old sweater smelled like early autumn. A smile was pressed to her hair—

—Elizabeth felt like home.


Gilbert fucked up.

Not only he acted cold toward all the miscalls Elizabeth gave (even though he was staring at the vibrating phone the whole time and was waiting his whole life to pick them up), he also told someone, who happened to be one of Elizabeth’s close people, to fuck off and die. Now he’s been itching to call her back and apologize. Angels did not side with him however, he’s too superior to drop the hard-to-get act.

Elizabeth didn’t call him afterward. She should have stamped Mrs. Lee by the time he finished work. It was sometime before midnight he decided to storm his way out through the harshness of winter, all and all to ease the guilt that couldn’t stop tormenting his common sense.

The corridor of her apartment felt like something taken straight from a horror movie. Gilbert shivered at a random breeze and quickly found his way to the door at the end of the hall. He looked back to the door just in front of her room. The light’s out. Mrs. Lee had gone to sleep.

Elizabeth’s room, however, was as bright as it was on New Year Eve. Maybe she’s sad and couldn’t sleep. Maybe he’d see her sobbing her entire carpet if he suddenly broke into the door. No, Gilbert shook his head, couldn’t bear the image even for one second. Maybe she just forgot to turn off the lamp after going to sleep!

So he knocked. Too soft for his strength, too polite for his usual perk. No answers from the other side. Gilbert facepalmed hard, he should have called or something. Again, riding a golden wagon he was, no way he would start a call after that minor fight. Yet, here he was, admitting his defeat.

The door clicked, Gilbert almost jumped in horror. The light inside soaked him as he caught her eyes. Elizabeth rubbed her already red eyes, making them redder.

“What the hell...?” was the first thing she spitted out. “Has my 30 days come to end? Are you here to pick my soul?”

Gilbert didn’t realize he was holding his breath until he pushed her in and closed the door behind. He held his breath again, unsure why he did that. Maybe because it’s cold outside that he’s driven to that kind of action. Or maybe because the guilt had come back.

“Gilbert, what in the world are you thinking—"

“How’s her?” he said fast. “That Mrs. Lee you talked about. You stamped her, right?”

She nodded, weak. “All well and clear.”

“A-Are you hungry now? Let’s order a delivery. Whooper sounds nice, isn’t it?”

“No one serves a delivery at this kind of hour.”

“I can make fried rice, then! If you let me borrow your kitchen.”

“Last time it burnt. You burnt Yuriko’s kitchen too.”

“I practiced, goddamn it!”

“Hey.” Elizabeth took a step forward, closing the gap between them. The lights on the hall were dim, but Gilbert could strangely make out the shape of her face. She was frowning, crunching her nose in annoyance. What an ugly face, yet he couldn’t take his eyes off her. “I don’t know what brings you here, but—" she stopped when she reached the end of the hall, pinning the bigger man underneath the weight of her stares ”—good timing. I’m about to call you and say thank you.”


She darted her eyes away. “Thank you. For saying those horrible things to me. After all, I’d never finish this if you didn’t slap me that time.”

“I didn’t mean that, you know.”

Now she caged him with those eyes again, more intense and heavy at the end of the shot. “What do you mean you didn’t mean that?!”

“I didn’t mean to put it that way. I was too frustrated with myself when I talked to you, so the result was kinda meh. I came here to... apologize.”


The air shifted into a grim silence. Elizabeth took a step backward before retreating to her kitchen. Gilbert breathed out, running his hands through his hair. He said it. Now what?

“It’s fine. I’m smart enough to pick only the good fruits,” she said quickly, shattering the cold air between. She seemed busy grabbing something in the fridge. Gilbert allowed himself to draw closer. “What was bothering you? It was so unusual for a great king like you to be frustrated.”

“Nothing for your concern. Beside, I’m frustrated the whole time I’m talking to you just by how stupid you are.”

“Don’t blame me. Blame your nonexistent social skill.”

The words hit right in his vital point like a bullet. Gilbert’s always aware of his lack of communication skill, but no one had ever directly told him that he sucked deeply at that.

“Maybe if you’re smart enough, I will be motivated to actually try and fix my social skill.”

“It doesn’t have to be me, does it? You can always practice with someone else.” She raised her head and closed the fridge, her hands were already holding three bunches of bananas. “After all, I’m not going to be your forever bantering partner.”

Gilbert raised his eyebrows, deciding to focus on the bananas instead of the pain clutching his chest. “Are you a monkey?”

Elizabeth glared at him. “Mrs. Lee asked me to give these to you. I told her how disappointed you were when she only gave you two bunches. So she gave you three this time.”

“Great, Liz. What a great way to humiliate me. What am I supposed to say when we meet again?!”

“Uh? Thank you, I guess?”

She set them on the dining table and pulled both of the chairs out. Gilbert took a seat before she even let him, eyes watching the curl of her hair as Elizabeth prepared a glass of water for him. She looked so pretty, wearing those homey sweatshirt and pajamas pants, hair falling somewhere above her waists, hands not holding a big book containing her agenda and information of clients.

Then again, it reminded him so much just how much human they were. How small they were in the mercy of death.

“What are you staring at, perv?!” She dropped down in front of him, a glass of water landed loud on the table, some of the water even jumped. Gilbert rushed to drink half of the glass as if he was taking a shot of something. The warm of his cheeks told him he had to.

“Staring at how dumb you look now.” He gulped, feeling wrong at what he said. “You look dumber especially at night.”

Elizabeth frowned, but rolled with it as she sipped her drink. “Yeah, sounds like something you totally will say. Someone has to be suffering a vicious cold right now if you really go to compliment me.”

Huh. He wondered too. Someone had to be suffering a vicious cold right now—because she looked seriously pretty by the front, closer look.

“Mrs. Lee knew that I was a stamper, by the way.”

Gilbert had not finished calming himself when she dropped that out of nowhere. “W-Wait, well, yeah. She works at the church. And you live next to her. So she really found out.”

“She might know about you too. By the end of my visit, she asked whether a client could request a reaper. And she asked me to ask you.”

“I’m flattered, but politely refused so. As you can see, I have my own integrity regarding to my occupation and policy as I have sworn to carry what best for both—"

“I wish clients could request for their reapers, though,” Elizabeth said. “If my time comes, I want you to send me off.”

His heart sunk to the bottomless pit of his stomach upon being reminded by that. “Is it because you want to spit on me even after you become a soul?” he asked, but that came out too flat to fit his usual taunt.

“That, too. I just... I don’t know. I just want to see you. Later, I mean. Just to ease me.”

“I’m not your son.”

“I know.” She chuckled, also too dry to fit her usual mock. “It’s a selfish desire. I should drop that.”

“I’ll make sure you get treated alright by whoever handles you later. We, reapers, have connection, you know.”

“I wonder if my reaper is handsome... I want it to be the last thing I see on this earth. Imagine seeing heaven before actually entering it.”

“By ‘alright,’ I mean I’ll make sure you see hell before entering the actual hell.”

“Ow, now you wish me to go to hell instead while I already made my contract with heaven!”

“They can just drop the contract and then drop you to hell.”

“I’ll drag you to it!”

Gilbert went home half an hour later after Elizabeth insisted on lending him her scarf since it’s bloody cold out there. She ended up wrapping it around his neck forcefully, a little bit too tight for his own liking. The crazy thing about the whole event was how close her fingers were into brushing him in the chest when she tried to put it on him. What if she could feel how loud his heart was drumming against the rib of his cage just by the tip of her fingers?! That’s be too embarrassing, since Gilbert was supposed not to have any reasons behind that.

So he quickly made his way out as Elizabeth still murmuring ten basic safety of going home alone in the middle of the night; it’s making Gilbert feel like twelve again, reading a letter sent by his parents during his quarantine in church. This time, he didn’t hate it.

The door closed, blocking all the light coming from her room. The air became chilly again, gnawing at his bones. The scarfs on his neck didn’t help at all. It smelled strongly like her.

Another day had passed. The number on her collarbone had decreased by one. Gilbert had waited until the light of her room went off before he started to walk out of her apartment building. He forced his feet to bring him home auto-pilot as his mind wandered. Come on, he had resolved this earlier.

That he’d be happy. No matter what happened. Because she’s happy too. And that’s all that mattered.

Deep down, he wanted to send her off. Just to be true to both himself and her for the last time. To tell her that she had lived a good life. To assure her that she could relish everything and have a peaceful rest. To say things he’s afraid to say when they still had time.

Only if God let fate click between them.

“Coward,” he whispered at himself as drops of snow covered the starless sky. He laughed, running his fingers on the soft material of Elizabeth’s scarf, lessening the knot as he caught a breath. “Here goes nothing.”

Time remaining: 27 days.

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