Clément Fournier clutched his small valise to his chest and walked down the gangway from the aeroplane. Though exhausted from the long flight from Paris, his nerves kept his heart beating quickly.
For the hundredth time, he patted the breast pocket of his suit jacket. Captain Joseph Davis’ letter. Written on his deathbed.
Outside the airport, Clément waved over a taxicab.
“Come on, we don’t got all day,” the driver said. “Where to?”
Clément pulled the tattered enveloped from his coat and, reaching over the seat, showed the driver. “S’il vous plait, to go here. Please,” he answered.
The city bustled, beautiful, not like his broken country, ruined by German bombs. After a long drive, at a block of small row houses, the driver pointed to number 210 Hill Street. “This is it, sir.”
The cab was gone a long time before Clément found the courage to knock.
When the door opened, a beautiful woman who resembled the Captain so clearly, smiled. “Yes?”
Clément fumbled for the English words. Forgetting all his rehearsed explanations, he simple held out the envelop. The woman let out a sob at the sight of it. Finally, she composed herself and invited him in.
Over tea, he told her how he’d cared for her brother, wounded in a night drop over Sainte-Mère-Église. He was very brave. He spoke of his beloved sister. Before his final day, he wrote and sealed the letter and asked Clément to find a way to have it delivered.
When the gentleman handed over Joe’s letter, Dorothy’s breath caught. The handwriting, an echo of Joe. The Frenchman looked away as she read, giving her privacy. “My dearest sister,” he began. Joe expressed his love for her, and asked for forgiveness for not coming back. After many heartfelt, intimate last words, Joe explained that though the enemy had destroyed all the man owned, they hadn’t taken his decency. If he actually arrived, trust him, give him a chance. He’d risked his own life to save Joe. He knew he was a good man.
When Joe’s final words faded, Dorothy looked up. The gentleman watched her now with gentle eyes. “You are all right?” he asked. “The letter, it is good for you?”
She held back the tears, and nodded with a smile. “Thank you,” she said, barely above a whisper. They spoke for hours, Clément sharing all he could find words for about Joe in his last days. Dorothy told Clément about Joe as a boy. And then their stories grew to be of themselves too. Clément told he had come to stay in America, that a new life was welcomed. Dorothy told how her mother had passed soon after news of Joe’s death. She was alone now. She tried a few words of French, the language she’d studied in school.
When the afternoon was spent, Dorothy shyly invited Clément to stay for dinner.
Clément said, in the best English he could, “I am happy to accept.”
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