Chapter 32 - "I know it's not a date, it was a slip of the tongue."

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The apartment lay completely quiet around Carter the next day. Faint bits of noise from outside could be heard, but none of it effected the silence. Evening had taken command of the sky, although night was slowly edging in. Carter stood before the mirror, her unfocused eyes barely registering her hands as they pulled her hair back. Once finished she didn't bother making sure it looked good, just simply walked back to her room.

On her nightstand her phone buzzed. She glanced at it and read the text from Donovan, confirming where they were meeting. She sent off a quick reply and pocketed it. The quiet seemed to take a more solid hold on the apartment as she continued to get ready. Grabbing her jacket, she walked into the hallway. She glanced at her father's room. The door was open and everything inside was still. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn't notice that the framed picture, that had sat on his desk for the last six years, was gone.

Carter pulled her bag over her head and opened the front door. The sky above her was putting on a color show as she stepped out. The air was cool but not to a finger numbing degree. Hints of dinners, taking place though out the neighborhood, wafted around her. As she pulled the door closed and locked it, car headlights lit up the staircase and the front of the apartment. The driver side door opened and her father stepped out. He wore his black suit and everything about him was its normal military neat self. Before he could climb the stairs, Carter moved down them, alerting him to her presence.

At the bottom of the staircase they observed each other, trying to read thoughts that were expertly hidden behind flawless masks of impassivity. Her father looked down at her bag and back up at her.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

Carter vaguely pointed towards the street. "Maddy and Link are going on a date tonight and I'm keeping Donovan company as we tail them."

A flicker of a frown flashed on his on face. "It's a school night."

"I finished my homework."

He nodded. "What time will you be home?"

"Eleven at the latest."

He nodded again. "Maggie said you didn't stop by the deli today."

"I didn't. Had homework to get done. How was PT?"

Her father pulled back his thoughts from his expression, the look mirrored in Carter's.

"Fine." 

The silence from the apartment seemed to travel down the stairs and slowly wrap around them. Carter shifted and moved away from the staircase.

"I have to go," she said. "I have a bus to catch."

She sidestepped him and headed towards the alley. She had just passed the trunk of the car when he father's voice pulled her back.

"Carter," he said.

She turned around, her response an expectant look.

"Stay safe," he said.

She gave him a nod and moved to leave but paused once more as he spoke.

"I love you, Sarge."

She looked into his face. A face she knew better than her own. A face she trusted. A face that held something from her that she couldn't read or understand. She stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets.

"Yeah, same," she said.

She turned away and walked into the alleyway. Behind her, her father watched until her shadow was out of sight. With a weary sigh, he headed up to the apartment and the silence that was waiting for him.

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