100. A Wise Man Once Said

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Linda turned the letter over in her hands, as she made her way down the dark hallway.

Her bare feet padded over a maroon carpet that ran the length of the hall. It was fringed with gold tassels at the edges. One had flipped over and was splayed out in front of her right foot. Linda gave a swift kick, flipping it back into place as she passed by.

At the end of the hall, Linda pressed on a heavy mahogany door. It gave a staggering creak as it slowly swung forward.

As she peeked into the dimly lit room, Linda could see Frank sitting in the corner at his desk.

Her husband was wearing a frown so deep that it creased his entire face. Frank looked up and took a swig of scotch from a cocktail glass. On the desk, a large bottle of the golden liquor was nearly empty.

"Frank?" Linda said. She entered the den, her feet touching down on the cool planks of the cherry wood flooring. She shut the door behind her, listening for the sharp click as the door met the jamb.

Frank sighed and set down the glass, and it was almost half empty.

Linda put one hand on her hip and came over to Frank's desk.

"You're still drinking, Frank? You had two glasses with supper. And from the looks of it, a few more since then."

Frank nodded slowly, his nose as red as a drunk's on Liberty Avenue.

"Yep," he muttered. "I suppose I did."

"Honey, what's wrong?" Linda asked.

Bending her knees slightly, Linda took Frank's chin with her fingertips and tilted his face up until he had no choice but to look her in the eyes. They were swollen and bloodshot.

Was that from the scotch or from the burden he was holding onto inside?

Frank pulled away, averting his eyes and releasing another heavy sigh.

"Frank, you need to tell me what's going on," Linda insisted. "I'm your wife. If you can't talk through your worries with me, then who can you talk to? You hardly ate anything at supper, and you haven't spoken more than a few words since you got home. You didn't even notice this?"

Linda held out the letter she'd been fiddling with. "I left it right on the counter for you. It's from Peter."

Frank reached out and took the piece of paper. "Have you read it yet?" he asked dully.

Linda shook her head. "No, I wanted to read it together with you. I was going to tell you that it came during supper, but then you seemed so withdrawn. I was waiting for you to open up and tell me what was bothering you." She paused and gave a shrug. "But here we are, and you still haven't told me what's wrong. Why don't we read Peter's letter and then maybe we can talk about what's bothering you?"

Frank gave another sigh. "Sure," he said. "That's probably a good idea."

Linda took the mahogany guest chair and set it down next to where Frank sat.

Frank unfolded the letter and began to read.

Dear Mother and Father,

Before I tell you anything else about what has happened in the past week, I first want to start by saying that I am fine. I am in a military hospital right now, but I am in no imminent danger of dying. I felt that I had to say that before I started to tell the rest ...

Linda gasped, clapping a hand over her mouth. Even though Peter had said that he was fine, her heart had already sped up so quickly that she was feeling hot and vaguely dizzy. For Peter to preface his letter in such a way, something truly terrible must have happened. Linda prayed that Peter wasn't minimizing his wounds. She gritted her teeth and begged God to help him recover completely and soon. Linda could see that Frank was also shaken by those words. His face had turned a shade lighter. When he started to read again, there was an audible tremor in his voice.

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