In the drive through the night, Isadora felt like a stranger to these people. To Liam and Emma she might as well have been, but she had nothing to say to Lena. She did not know what it meant to lose a husband or a father. She sat there in the jeep, wanting very much to speak comfort, but could not find words. Liam drove them down the coast just outside of Boston; Lena pressed her head against the window sobbing while Emma failed to fight her own furious tears. Liam held himself together well, but Isadora could tell he wanted nothing more than to break down. Liam drove on because he had to. For that, Isadora admired him.
Their escape from Boston had gone as smoothly as it could have. They managed to avoid any firefights with Steelewood troops and the secret exit from Boston was still undefended. They went through the tunnel and found their Jeep Liberty waiting for them. Per standard procedure, the Holdsworth bailed from Boston at the first sign of trouble and managed to evade Steelewood's ships. The Mitchells and Isadora were going to meet up with the Holdsworth just north of Boston on the coast.
“This should be far enough,” Liam said flatly as he stopped the jeep. He turned off the engine and sat there silently for a moment as he thought things through. Isadora knew what he was doing. Liam was counting in his head. He allowed his fear and anguish to take over for five seconds, then he would push it all aside. Isadora sometimes practiced the same technique. Once finished, Liam said, “I'll radio the ship and throw out a flare.”
Isadora followed Liam out of the jeep. She watched as he radioed to his home ship, gave them coordinates, and then lit a flare. He threw it to the ground and then sat down against one of the jeep's tires. She sat beside him and asked, “Are you alright?” Stupid question.
“No,” Liam replied quickly. “Not in the slightest. My dad's dead. And years of work is totally wasted. And I don't know what to do.”
Isadora said nothing. She figured it best to let him speak his peace on his own time.
Finally, he said, “I mean, Emma will tough her way through it, but when she gets pissed, she gets stupid. Then mom is so sensitive, she's more broken than anyone. She isn't in any shape to be making any sorts of calls. So, who does that leave? Me. Everything's on me right now. I'm doing everything I can to keep my head in the game, but- but I can't.” He did everything he could to keep from crying. “They're counting on me, I know they are. I don't want them to be though.”
“You're strong, Liam,” Isadora said. “Years ago, the last time I saw your father, he always spoke very highly of you. He said you were the smart one, the rational one. You must have been about ten at the time, but even then, your father knew who you are. I see that in you today. You're collected, reasonable, reliable... you know what you need to do and you're doing it. Don't think you can't do it, Liam. You can.”
He looked at her and saw the sincerity in her eyes. Isadora meant every word of what she said. When Liam saw that, he lost it. He broke down into a sob and put his head on Isadora's shoulder. She expected him to cry, but did not forsee him touching her. She put her hand on his the back of his head and gently moved down to his shoulder. She squeezed tightly, letting him know she was there for him. She whispered, “I'm so sorry, Liam. I truly am.”
The sun slowly crept up at the horizon's lip. Isadora looked out into the distance and saw the silhouette of an approaching ship. “Liam, look. It's here.”
Liam pulled himself together, looked up, and sighed in relief, “Thank God.”
After a brief ride on Paul, they arrived at the rear loading bay of the Holdsworth. Lena was first to disembark. Rather than address any of the crew standing around waiting for news, she made fast for the door. Emma soon followed her, but in quite so great of a rush. Unlike her mother, Emma didn't really give a rat's ass if people stared at her. And they did. They all wondered what happened. As Liam slowly stepped off, he realized that it fell on him to break the news. The only other person who knew was Isadora and of course she could not do it.
João Santos was first to speak up, “Liam! Wh- what happened? Where is Capitão Mitchell?”
Liam hung his head, sighed, and said, “He- he didn't- he didn't make it.”
Lena broke into her bedroom and collapsed onto the bed, her head spinning. She lay there face down on the mattress trying to get a hold of herself. She had come into the bedroom for a reason, but she couldn't remember. It was not just to sob or to be alone, no, there was something she needed to do. But what?!
And then it hit her. She crawled off the bed and threw open the closet. She fumbled through a few loose sweaters until she found a rusted metal box. It was dented and clearly had not aged well. She pulled it out of the closet and set it gently on the bed. Kneeling before it, gently she opened the box. The first thing she found was a folded letter with the words, “Read me first” written on it.
She opened the letter and this was written upon it,
Since you're reading this, then I'm dead. To be honest, I don't even know what to say. I'm sorry. The worst has happened. I know your probably sitting in our bedroom right now bawling your eyes out and I wish so much I could be there to consoul you. I can't though. I'm gone. And I am so so sorry.
Knowing you, your probably wondering what to do. Your confused, your angry, your sad, and I don't know what else. I can't imagine what must be going on in your head right now. You need direction. Your looking in this box because you know that I would never leave you without direction, without somewhere to go. Well and your looking in the box because I told you to. :)
Lena, I don't know what's happened. I don't know how I died or what mess I left you in, but I know you feel like you can't go on. Yes, you can. Read that again.
Yes, you can.
Your distresed right now and you and me both know you don't think straight when your distresed. I know you want to give up right now. You can't do that though. You have to go on. Go on for me. The Holdsworth is your ship right now. The crew is counting on you and they're looking to you. And, trust me, their looking in the right place. Lena, you have got this. But if it really is too much, then I want you to give the ship to Liam. Liam can do it. He's a strong kid and he thinks like I do. Its up to you though. I'd rather you be in charge, but at least ask Liam for advice.
Again, it's up to you. I've always trusted you and I've always loved you.
As for my final wishes, I want my body cast into the sea just like any other crew member. Put me in my suit. I want the same funeral I've given every member of my crew. I'm not better than they are. And play one of your hymns. You and Emma both. Play one of the ones I hear you play. I love it.
Lena, do you remember how we met? Of course you do. I remember what you said to me. You said in very clear words, “I'm all you need.” I don't remember much else of what you said, but that's what sticks out because its true. You didn't mean it that way and I didn't take it that way. Truth is, neither of us knew just how much those words meant. I won't forget them. Ever. It's true. In my life, all I ever needed was you. And I know you need me. I am so sorry I can't be there for you. There just aren't words I know that can tell you how sorry I am.
There aren't words that can tell you how much I love you. I do. I love you more than you can ever know. You made my life worth it. Thank you so much for that.
I love you so much,
Lena held the letter against her chest and sobbed. “Oh, Hank,” she cried. When she finished her moment, she looked into the box. Inside, she found some old trinkets such as his old Army dog tags, a photograph of Hank and Lena standing outside the Holdsworth during their early days, a toy of Air Force One that Lena had given him years ago as a gag gift, and an old hymnal. She closed the box.
“Lena?” a familiar English voice asked from the doorway. Lena looked up to see Isadora. “May I come in?”
“Yeah,” Lena answered as she wiped away her tears and sniffed. Isadora sat down the bed. Lena pulled herself up and sat beside her.
Isadora searched for words, but there was nothing she could say. Instead, she chose to sit and mourn with her dear friend.
Lena, in a break from sobbing, wiped her eyes and asked, “When Paul died... how did you do it? How'd you deal with it? How'd you move on?”
Isadora thought it through before answering, “I dealt with it in the only way I knew how and it was not a good way. You shouldn't deal with things like I do.”
“How?” Lena insisted.
“Lena, I killed” Isadora said bluntly. “Do you remember St. Petersburg when I disappeared? I spent all my time trying to get Ernie Hale to come to me and then I killed him. It was all I knew to do and it was wrong. It did not bring Paul back and it will never. It did nothing to ease the pain.”
“I don't- I don't wanna kill, I-" she took a breath. "Did anything? Ease the pain, I mean.”
“Time,” Isadora said. “Time can heal everything. I still miss Paul, but it's a scar, not a wound. It takes time, but it gets better.”