Copyright 1992, 2000, 2011, 2012; MCS

(~ A.Y. 1388)

"Well, it's done: Jenna, I have the money." Dr. Andras Joshù said, as he walked down the stairs into his living room.

"No… no—you didn't!" His wife, Jenna, was stunned. This meant that it was all over. That everything was over…

There was a stern expression on Andras' face as he nodded.

"…You did?" Even though Jenna had forced away her denial away, her words still bespake her disbelief.

"Isn't there anything you can do, Andras?"

"Jenna," he sighed, "you know I can't."

"But you're just a village doctor; why do they thi—"

"—The Empire needs the services of people like me. Any doctor is better than none at all… and, we need the money."

Jenna started up a little combativeness of her own: "No! Andras, please, there must be another way… maybe if we—"

He interrupted her once again. "—If we what; run away? Live as criminals? Do you really want that for us, Jenna?" He knew she didn't mean it.

"But what about Izze and Halm—the children? And what about me? How we will live? Even with both of us working, we're barely making enough money to buy our food!"

"The food—everything—it will be paid for by the stipends, you know that."

"And if something goes wrong here—or over there; what then? Please, Andras—think of us—think of the children!" Jenna's desperation had reached a climax; the gentle contours of her face were steeped in slow, quietly dripping tears.

"Jenna… Jenna… Don't cry. You know I always think of you. I talked to the officials." Andras brushed the tears and bangs away from his wife's face as he spoke. He tried to sound as reassuring as possible.

"You… what?"

Andras managed to pull off a sliver of a smile: "I managed to convince them that I wouldn't be effective on one of those warships. I told them that, as a village doctor, I wasn't trained enough to handle the kinds of injuries sustained by our men at arms."

"Then why do you have to go?"

"I have been assigned as the medical officer of the sailing ship—the Champion. It's a supply ship; I won't be seeing much combat there, so you don't need to worry."

"A… a supply ship…?" Jenna talked as if she was looking out into some faraway expanse. She snapped back to the present, though—she looked her husband in the eye and asked him the question.

"How long?" she asked; that was all she needed to say.

Jenna's husband took a deep breath; Andras knew she wasn't going to like what she was about to hear: "… A year and a half, maybe more," he said. It was difficult to say that to his wife's face. Dr. Joshù had to work hard to keep his eyes from wandering off out of self-dejection.

The silence that followed stretched out time to a near standstill; only broke once the good doctor had summoned enough strength to embrace his wife—to kiss her, one last time. Jenna's lips were warm; Andras felt the chill of her moistened face touch against his. She trembled as he held her in his arms, and, after a moment, she resisted—pushing her husband back, but gently—ever so gently.

"Please… just go; before… before the children wake up…" Jenna was too overcome to say anything else.

Dr. Joshù the grabbed his coat from off the table and put it on—without buttoning it. Andras then picked up his supply-bag from off the floor, slinging the bag over his right shoulder as he opened the door. As he opened the door, the doctor turned around—he couldn't help it. For a time, husband and wife looked at each other once more—doing nothing, saying nothing. Cool morning air flowed through the doorway into the house, chilling both of them. Then the door closed, and he was gone.

Moving unsteadily, Jenna walked toward her rocking chair. Then she sat down, and wept.