“Bastien?” The Bible in my hands landed on the floor with a thud. A million emotions crashed over me like a wave. Anger mingled with happiness, sadness mixed with confusion, and the grief that plagued me for two years tugged at my heart.
For the longest time, I’d dreamed Bastien would come home like this. That he wouldn’t be dead after all, and that we’d go back to how we used to be. This was more of a nightmare.
“Can I come in?” he shouldered his bag and balanced on a crutch.
I opened the door wider and stepped aside, wondering why Bastien was leaning on a crutch. That wasn’t the only thing different about him, though. His dark waves, soaked by the rain, hung to his shoulders, and he stood almost a foot taller than me.
“Camila?” my mother called me from the top of the stairs. “¿Hay alguien en la puerta?” |Is someone at the door?|
Bastien stepped into the foyer, a puddle amassing beneath his feet.
“Dios mio.” |Oh my God.| My mother raced down the stairs and hugged Bastien tightly. “Welcome home.”
His bags fell softly onto the floor as he wrapped his arm around her, “Thank you, Valentina.”
She hugged him and let him go, and then she hugged him again. “Ha pasado mucho.” |It’s been a long time|
“Yo se,” |I know| he smiled and looked at me from over her shoulder, “and I’m sorry.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at him as I turned and walked up the stairs.
“I should be happy, right?” I paced the floor of Delilah’s room. “I mean, he’s not dead. That should make me happy.”
“It makes sense why you’re not,” Delilah sat up in bed, her hair mussed by sleep and her voice groggy.
“I had finally started to move on,” I stopped pacing and climbed into bed next to her. “And then he just shows up on my doorstep?”
Delilah rolled over and wrapped the comforter around her. “Why does him being here stop you from moving on?” she asked, her voice muffled by the pillows.
“Because,” I huffed, “now I have nothing to move on from.”
She murmured her agreement and pulled the sheets over her head.
Throwing my head back into the pillows, I covered my eyes and breathed deeply, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
From under the sheets, I could see Delilah nod her agreement.
“How’d the museum interview go?” I nudged her.
She peeked out from under the sheets. “They offered me the fellowship,” she shrugged.
“Delilah!” I clasped my hands together, “That’s amazing news! Are you going to take it?”
“Am I going to travel and work in art galleries around the world?”
I ignored her sarcasm and congratulated her. “Where do you go first?”
“To Rome,” she shrugged again, trying to hide her excitement.
“When do you leave?”
“Beginning of May.”
We talked until she fell asleep. It was still dark outside when I left her room and made my way to the guest rooms - this had to be the longest night ever.
I found myself not willing to go to sleep yet, so I wandered around the house until I ended up at Bastien’s door. I had absolutely no idea why I was standing there, but I knocked anyway.
I waited for an awkward seven seconds until he finally opened the door.
“Mila?” Bastian poked his head out into the hall.
He stood in a clean white shirt and denim jeans, his hair still wet from the rain.
“I just came by to make sure you got settled in,” the lie tumbled out of my mouth like an avalanche.
“Well,” he leaned against the doorway and looked back into his room, “I think I’m settled in. It’s so different being here instead of on base.”
I laughed weakly and turned to go back to my room.
“Did you want to come in?” He blurted out the invitation awkwardly as he opened the door wider.
“I got you a gift,” he started once I stepped into his room.
“I found it while I was away,” he limped over to his bag and rummaged through it until he pulled out a notebook.
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair, “Bastien-”
“In your last letter, you said you’d gotten into writing poetry. Although,” Bastien closed his bag and looked up at me,” that was almost two years ago.”
“You stopped responding a year before that.”
He chuckled and held the notebook out to me.
“Bastien - ”
“It’s just a birtnday gift, Mila,” he shrugged and extended the notebook further.
“After two years,” I grabbed the notebook and flipped through its pages as I sat down on the edge of the bed, “you can’t just show up and act like everything’s normal.”
“I’ve been gone for three years,” he sat down next to me.
“But you’ve been dead for two,” I turned to face him and set the notebook down.
The humor that danced in his green eyes vanished in an instant.
“June 19, 1948,” I smiled sadly as my mind went back to that horrible day. Memories of the letter, his funeral, and me leaving right after flooded my mind.
Bastien sat silently beside me, and his brow wrinkled as he tried to remember that day.
“They said you died in an ambush,” tears threatened to fall but I continued, “and they called your parents maybe a day or two after with the news.”
“When I found out,” I choked on the words, “I was writing you a letter. I never sent it.”
“I went to your funeral,” I kept going as a single tear fell. “I read your obituary, I watched them lower your body in to the ground.”
“Although,” I chuckled darkly and looked at him, “I guess it wasn’t your body.”