Late September
North Carolina


Mary stirred from her slumber on the bench, blurry-eyed, and not quite fully aware of her surroundings. A chilled wind nipped at her exposed skin and she sat up, feet crushing leaves that had fallen early, flooded by the memories of earlier in the evening.

"James?" she asked quietly, peering into the darkness, only to find no one there.

A low growl emanated from her throat and she whispered frantically at no one in particular, "Why are you doing this to me?"

As one would expect, no answer was heard in the still of the night. Mary checked her wristwatch and saw that it was well past ten o'clock and she would need to be home in about thirty minutes. Standing up, she heard more leaves crunching under her feet and took a brief minute to look at the ground, only to have a flash of white catch her eye.

Bending down, she picked up the white…envelope?

No, they were envelopes bound with a faded, weathered, yellow string. The same yellow string she had unstrung from the bench hours before. Confused and extremely confused, Mary turned the letters over to read whom they were addressed to using a nearby lamppost as a source of light.

Sergeant James Waters

Mary's heart jumped to her throat as she read every envelope, each addressed to James Waters with the return sender as Mary McGraw. At the bottom of the stack was a new envelope, untouched, and addressed to Mary. Forgetting the rest of the letters, she sat back on the bench, tearing open the envelope. A new smell enticed her senses, a clean, yet, not sterile like a hospital. It was a smell much akin to a laundry detergent and aftershave that made Mary smile. Unfolding the letter, carefully, she felt tears well in her eyes as she took in the familiar chicken scratch of James' writing.

My dearest Mary,

How are you my diner girl? Did you enjoy the little stunt I pulled with the Vietnamese soldier? I'll address that subject matter later, but first off I just want to tell you how I have missed your letters over this past year.

This past year has been far from dull, I must say, but has also been a tiring one. What better place to start than the beginning? Last December, the hospital I was stationed at in Hanoi was part of a vicious air raid that ended up killing most of the hospital staff and patients. The city sustained massive casualties as well. Luckily, by the grace of God and my friend, Lucy, we were able to make it out of the raid alive.

After the raid was over, we headed out of the hospital as soon as we could and traveled east towards Laos. We traveled for about a day and came across a small cottage, only to find its occupants shot dead. Lucy thought, as morbid as the thought may have been, that we'd have a better chance of gaining access to resources in other countries if we weren't wearing our army attire. Thus, how there came to be a Vietnamese man with my name.

We made it across the border into Laos relatively unscathed and continued into Thailand, headed south into Malaysia, and from there we caught a boat to Australia. We made it to Sydney before Lucy and I parted ways. It might be selfish of me and you may be mad at me for the rest of my life, but I decided that I was going to see a little bit of Australia and traveled to some different cities. Oh Mary, some of the stuff I've seen is spectacular and I doubt if I'll ever get to see it again.

I read your letters every chance I could and was at the point of memorization. For hours I would sit and just stare at your picture, memorizing every featuring, thinking of you, and wondering what you could possibly be doing right at that moment. You, and not just your letters, saved my life. Without you, I probably would have died back in December. You gave me something to look forward to and even though I went without correspondence for nearly nine months, my feelings for you continued to grow stronger, and Mary, I –

Mary turned the letter over, to find that both sides of the paper had been used. Thinking that the letter could not have possibly ended there, she reasoned that a second page of the letter had been left in the envelope and whined audibly when she found it wasn't in there.

She laughed in disbelief, "You what? What? Where is the rest of it?"

"Well," said another, deeper voice from behind her, "I wrote that in Australia, but I ran out of paper."

Dropping the letter in her hand because of fright, Mary spun around to see whom she had been waiting on for nine months. She stood rooted to her spot, believing him to be a mere ghost, a figment of her imagination, like the other instances.

James frowned because she had no indication of moving from her spot, looking like she'd seen a ghost, "Mary? Why are you just standing there?"

"Is it really you?" asked Mary, shakily. She clasped her hands together to keep them from trembling; not really helping the rest of her body that was shaking just as badly.

Smirking, James took a step towards her, detouring around the branch that separated them before he was standing right before her. He took her hands in his and dipped his face down to her eye level, "It's really me."

"Oh my, it really is you," breathed Mary, running her thumb over the rough skin of his hands. Tears began trailing out of her eyes and she began to shake, but not because of fear nor was she cold. No, this was because of anger.

A loud smack resounded throughout the abandoned park and James touched his tender cheek, confusion and hurt shown clearly on his face. Mary mirrored the hurt in her features, but housed anger.

"What was that for?" growled James, rubbing his cheek tenderly. He had waited for nine months to be smacked across the face?

Mary clenched her fists to keep from smacking him again, "That was for scaring me half to death! You had me and your father worried sick! You selfish little ninny!

"I'm in Australia! Might as well have a grand old time while my girlfriend and dad worry themselves into a craze back at home!" mocked Mary, throwing her hands in the air for good measure, "Then I'll come home and she'll just fall into my arms and all will be well! Well, buddy, I have news for you." Mary poked a wide-eyed James in the chest, "That isn't going to happen!"

James bit the insides of his cheeks to keep from outright laughing at Mary, but he couldn't suppress the grin that leaked out. He pulled the fuming girl into his arms and smiled into her hair, "You know, you are beautiful when you're angry."

She struggled in his arms, half-heartedly of course, before she gave in to her desires of being held by James. Emotional tears streamed down her face and she clung to his shirt.

"Sh," said James, stroking her hair, and pulling her closer to his body. The smell of lavender that he had longed to smell for so long crept back into his senses and he breathed it in deep, hoping never to be without it. He hushed her again and she mumbled something into his shirt.

He put her at arms length and asked her, "What was that?"

"I said," sniffed Mary, wiping her eyes, and suddenly becoming nervous of what she was going to say, "Is it possible to fall in love with someone through writing letters?"

A red tinge crept on her cheeks, and James smiled, loving every moment. Finally, he nodded, "I did."

"Really?" squeaked Mary, wiping her nose unattractively, but giving James a watery smile nonetheless.

He nodded again, "What do you think the "I" was in the letter?"

She shrugged, "Oh I don't know. 'I love the scenery here'?"

"You naïve little girl," laughed James, pulling her into another embrace, "It was supposed to be 'I love you.'"

"Oh," said Mary, blushing, "I like that better than the scenery one."


"I didn't expect your mother to cry," said James, rubbing a hand through his hair as he and Mary stepped onto her porch about an hour later.

She giggled childishly, "She's an emotional piece of work. Of course, I suppose all mothers are supposed to be that way."

James chuckled with her for a minute or two before he grabbed her around the waist and tugged her towards him. Thoroughly surprised, Mary placed her hands on his chest, blushing at how close they were. Keeping one hand on her waist, James ran the other hand through her hair and rested it at the base of her head.

A million and three thoughts were racing through Mary's head at one, but all she could focus on were his eyes. They were no longer dark with anger and emotion; true, they held a certain amount of wisdom, but they were also brighter, filled with elation, joy, and, of course, desire. It was just like Mary had imagined their first kiss would be like. As their lips joined, Mary moved her hands from James chest and snaked them around his neck, drawing their bodies to where no space existed.

He broke the kissed and leaned his forehead against her, giving Mary a chance to catch her breath. Playing with her hair, James laughed quietly, "I've been wanting to do that for a while now."

"Well you better stop," whispered Mary, grinning toothily.

James smiled, inching closer to her face, "Why?"

"Because my father is watching through the window…"

James separated their distance considerably, glancing non-too discreetly at the window. Richard stood with his arms crossed giving the two of them a stern look. Mary giggled and waved cheekily whereas James swallowed thickly. Sure, he could stand bullets flying at him, but fathers were a different story.

"You better go and see your father," said Mary, keeping her eyes on her father, who, satisfied with their distance, walked back into the living room.

Nodding, James placed a quick kiss on her forehead, "I'll do that. Goodnight Mary."

"Goodnight," replied Mary, hugging her arms around herself and turning towards the house.
"Mary!" called James as she rested her hand on the rested her hand on the doorknob.

She turned to find James in front of her, placing a piece of paper in her hand. He winked at her and hurried down the sidewalk and was out of sight within seconds. Curious, Mary sat on the front step and opened the tiny folded piece of paper.

Do you remember that quote you put in the first note? "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve." It is true, you know, thanks to you.

This is my last letter, Mary McGraw; you know why.

P.S. This is the one that says: I love you.

A/N: Aw...this is the last chapter and I'm really sad. I didn't want to write it because I knew it'd be my last one. You guys have been great readers and great at pointing out my mistakes. All in all, I owe a lot to you guys!! Thank you for all the compliments and such you've given me.

As always thanks to you guys:

cheergurl12, i, funnechick, molly, Lady R, writingforeverbecauseitsmylife, Kohlomere, buttercup-love, Oooh.Look.A Cat, Beyond-the-Shadows, Original Screen Name, tornangelwings, Essevera, mk985

Okay, I'm also here to say that I'll be taking a LONG break from writing. College is starting in less than three weeks so I probably won't have as much time as much as I would love to. Who knows? I might surprise myself and post a new story.

Thanks again for being great readers!