by Becky S.
Dec. 24th, 1989
"'K. Helsing.'" Sophie, who had just brought in the mail, full
of Christmas cards, paused in front of Uncle Gustav's desk and read
the most interesting envelope aloud to him. Although the paper was
obviously only holiday stationery--it was bright red--it felt almost
silken to her touch. Their address had been written on it with broad,
untidy strokes in heavy black ink, but the return address said only 'chez
Lucard' beneath the mysterious name. "Uncle Gustav, who is
'K. Helsing'? He sent you a--"
Gustav, who had been studying a file, snapped his head up and snatched the envelope from her hands. "Give me that."
"--Christmas card," Sophie finished uncertainly, as he held the envelope out at some distance to read it, then took off his glasses and brought it close to inspect it again. The girl watched this behavior in puzzlement. "What's wrong? It's only a Christmas card, Uncle Gustav." After a moment in which he didn't even look at her, she added, "...Isn't it?"
He nodded slowly, still staring at the card. "Yes. Yes, Sophie, it's only a Christmas card." He turned it over, looking at the seal in green wax which held it closed. It was a rook. She'd seen it when she first picked up the envelope.
"Well, is it a surprise? Weren't you expecting it?"
"Yes, Sophie." He sighed and leaned his head on his hand, covering his eyes. "Yes, I was expecting it."
There was a long silence. Gustav did not stir, seemingly lost in his thoughts. Sophie began to grow worried. She had only been staying with Gustav for eight months, but, still, she had never seen him look so tired, so defeated. And because of a Christmas card? She didn't understand. Finally, she touched his shoulder and asked softly, "Uncle Gustav, is something the matter?"
He straightened up with a determined look on his face. "No," he said firmly, and opened a drawer of the desk, dropping the card into it, then closing it carefully.
"You're not going to read it?"
"No, Sophie." He looked up at her, smiled, and patted her hand. "I don't need to. I already know what it says."
It was true. He did. It had said the same thing for the past twelve years.
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