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10 years later
Langley, Virginia

I sat down on Ember's old front porch, sighing. Autumn was setting in and the trees were changing colors. Everything reminded me of her. Her hair the same color as the dark red leaves. Her eyes as green as the grass. The last logs of a dying fire. Embers.

It's been ten years since I lost the love of my life. After three weeks of searching where we had been held, she wasn't found and was declared dead. Eyal and Emily and James were killed in the raid of the compound in Arizona, where they had kept us and tortured us. That was the first time I saw what Ember's life was really like. She always told me to avoid being a spy as much as I could. But, I couldn't help myself when I applied to the CIA. I got a job there a month after. Then I trained at the Farm. Now, I'm an undercover operative with a new name and a new image. I'm still Joshua, but my name is legally supposed to be Robert Stone. It's an okay name. Ember could have picked better for me.

I sighed, reaching up to my neck to touch the silver wedding band on the silver chain. I haven't taken it off since Ember's funeral at the CIA. She was my teenage dream. My soul mate. Ariana got married to some guy a year ago, but all I could think about at the wedding was how Ember would have been in a white dress, being walked down the aisle by Addy instead of Garret. Everything reminded me of her. I couldn't stand watching her childhood home belong to anyone else, so I bought it from Addy when she moved and all her foster kids had grown up. Her room, still set up for a seventeen year old girl, remains the exact same way it has been since before she "died." Sometimes, when I think about her, I go in there and lie in her bed, pretending she's there with me. I cry a lot more now, despite who I am. I knew losing her would break me, but I never thought it would be this much.

Eventually, I grew cold and numb and went inside the big, quiet house. When Ember lived here, it was always busy with chatter. Everyone was always doing something. Now, it's quiet and, for the most part, empty. I tried to move on, I really did, but every time I tried to pick up a girl, I thought about Ember. I miss her so much it hurts to even think about it.

I started chopping up celery for my salad when I saw a shadow out in the backyard. Grabbing the knife I was using, I hesitantly stepped outside. It was cold and the sun was setting, but other than that, it was tranquil. The leaves rustled in the breeze. Suddenly, I heard a footstep on the cement patio besides me. Whirling around, I saw the trespasser...and couldn't believe my eyes. Standing right before me, alive, was the very girl who's been haunting my memory since ten years ago. Ember Rosemarie Rhinehart. The knife slipped out of my hand and clattered to the cement, a metallic sound ringing in the crisp autumn air.

"Hello, Joshua." she said in a soft voice.

I was speechless. Ember is alive. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. She stepped closer and closer until her face was an inch away from mine. She looked older. Wiser. Her eyes held more secrets than they did before. She smiled at me, and I knew she was really here.

"Ember." I breathed, gathering her into my arms and kissing her with a passion I've never used before.

She kissed me back, wrapping her legs around my torso as I pushed her up against the wall of the house. Her hair was back to dark auburn, silky and rich. Her lips fit to mine perfectly, As if they were shaped for eachother. She clung to me. I finally pulled away to breathe. I caught a glint of silver on her finger and realized what it was. Her wedding band. She kept it all this time. I inhaled her scent, so familiar and welcoming. I felt myself crying.

"Ember, you're alive. You're here." I said.

She chuckled. An icy breeze blew through as we went inside. Ignoring dinner, we did something I've wanted to do for so long. Her skin was soft, her hair silky. She had new scars. I kissed every one of them. My lost love had come back.


Joshua kissed me intensely, asking about every one of my new scars. I could never tell him those stories. Ever. I waited for ten years. When the CIA raided the compound, killing my main captors, I ran away. I've come in from the cold (quite literally, since it's autumn in Virginia) and couldn't wait to see the love of my life. The ring on my finger symbolizes his love for me. I could never forget about him and I was overly excited when I saw that he hadn't forgotten about me.

Afterwards, we curled up together on the couch under a blanket. I remembered everything about him, and he told me more. How he was now CIA (even though I'd told him not to). How he thought about me every day. How he always wished and prayed I would return. I traced a small circle on his chest, inhaling his familiar scent. He was older, stronger. Wiser.

And I knew, as we gradually fell asleep together, that my life was perfect. I wouldn't change a thing of it. If it hadn't been for the CIA, that fateful night by the pool so many years ago, I would have never met my true love. My life is complete.


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