The address was to some classified location on the Mediterranean, nestled between Turkey and Bulgaria.
Alex didn’t even know the person’s name. She was just given a slip of paper with an address and was told to write a letter. It wasn’t something she was necessarily excited about — she had been advised that it would look good on her resume. College was a year away, and application deadlines were just on the horizon. So, when the school announced that they were setting up a pen-pal system with kids on military bases, Alex signed up.
And there she was, with a random address and a piece of blank paper sitting before her.
Her chair creaked as she sat back and sighed. Alex had been sitting at the desk for an hour without anything to say. She had never left the country before, her family was average; there was nothing interesting for her to write about.
A knock at the door brought her out of her contemplation.
“Come in!” she called. Kara entered, a small smile on her face.
“Hey, Alex. What are you up to?” Kara asked. She sat gently on the edge of Alex’s desk and looked at the blank page.
Kara had been her best friend for two years by then, and she was finally comfortable talking to Alex. Only three years before, they had adopted Kara. It was a difficult transition for both girls, and Alex’s less-than-welcoming nature didn’t help anything. Alex still felt guilty about it.
“I have to write a letter to my pen-pal, but I don’t know what to say,” Alex explained. “I’m pretty boring.” Kara scoffed at that.
“You aren’t! When I first moved in, all I wanted was to be like you. I wouldn’t be saying that if you were boring.”
“I still don’t know what to say,” Alex muttered.
“Just… tell them who you are. Where you’re from, what you want to do in college. Try it,” Kara insisted softly. Alex sighed and picked up her pen.
August 8, 2016
Hi. My name is Alex Danvers, and I guess that I’m your pen-pal. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m kind of making this up as I go. Uh, I’m a girl, by the way. My name might be misleading. Well, I live in Midvale, California, in the United States of America. I was born and raised here, and I haven’t really left. I go to Midvale High, which is a nice school. I have a few friends, but I spent a lot of my time focusing on my studies, so not much of a social life. Oh, and I have a sister. An adoptive sister, actually. Her name is Kara. She and her parents were in an accident three years ago, and Kara was the only one to make it out alive. We’re close now. I also have two parents, a dad and a mom. They’re both scientists. I want to be a scientist, too. I’m applying to schools in a few months. I want to go to Stanford, and I think I’ll get in.
I guess I should ask you some questions, too. What’s your name? Where are you from? Where are you now? You probably can’t tell me that, actually. Um, do you like where you live? How long have you lived there? Do you see any military action there? That’s probably rude, I’m sorry… Anyway, that’s all I can think of now. I hope to hear back from you soon.
It was another early morning on the base. Maggie was well-disciplined at this point; her father had been preparing her to join the military since she was little. So, she dragged herself out of bed, pulled out her clothes, and readied herself for school. By 6:30, she was downstairs and sitting at the table for breakfast. Her father was already gone, and her mother was sifting through the mail.
“Maggie, you have a letter,” her mother announced, pulling out a thin letter and handing it to her. It was hand addressed in a neat scrawl, but no name was on the return address. Brow furrowed, she carefully opened the flap of the letter. “Who is it from?”
“My pen-pal, apparently,” Maggie answered, catching the top line of the letter. “I signed up to write letters to a kid in the States.”
“Isn’t that nice of you?” her mother commented.
Maggie nodded and read the letter. She smiled and chuckled at the rambling parts, and laughed outright when her pen-pal, Alex, asked about seeing action. It was like she could picture the girl already — a little nerdy, a little awkward. A classic nerd, and definitely not someone Maggie was used to being friends with. At the same time, though, she was endeared, enough that she pulled out a piece of notebook paper and a pen and started writing.
August 15, 2016
Hey, it’s nice to meet (?) you. My name is Margaret Sawyer, but anyone who values their life calls me Maggie. Also, I was just joking with that location. Yeah, I can tell you where I am. I’m about one hundred miles outside of Istanbul, near the ocean. I don’t know why they censor the location, because it isn’t classified. And if it is and I don’t know, then you have just become a threat to National Security. Good luck with that.
I’m sorry about what happened to your sister and her family. I’m sure that was really hard on her. And your scientist parents sound really cool. Science is one of my favorite subjects, actually. I'm more interested in the science behind explosives, though.
To answer some of your questions, I am actually from Blue Springs, Nebraska. My dad had enlisted in the army, and he met my mother during his training days in New Mexico. She had just moved from Mexico, actually, and before he was deployed, they moved to my dad’s old town in Nebraska, got married, and had me. He was sent to a base in Germany, and he took my mother and me. Ever since, we’ve been traveling all over the world. I have been to about ten different countries so far, and I’m hoping to go to more.
I guess this place isn’t bad. There are some cool kids here, but it is still a military base, so fun is a little limited. It’s also a bit remote. When we were in Japan, the kids and I would all go out and explore some of the cities. We mostly just go to the beach here. And, no I don’t see military action, but I have once before.
My plan after “high school”, or our equivalent here, is to join the military like my dad. He’s been training me for as long as I can remember. It would be an honor for me to serve my country the way he does. Thankfully, he doesn’t go to combat very often, so I have him around to teach me to be a good soldier. Not every military kid can say that.
Well, I have to get to school now, but it was really nice getting your letter. I know you’re probably busy, but I’ll give you some questions to answer if you get a chance to write back. What is your school like? What classes are you taking? What do you crazy kids like to do for fun over in Midvale, California? What kind of scientist do you want to be? Have a nice week.
Thanks for writing,
Truthfully, Alex was surprised she got a response as quickly as she did. And, to be honest, she was elated. No one sent mail anymore, and she forgot just how great it felt to see her name on an envelope. Something just for her, that someone took the time to handwrite and everything.
She opened the letter and scanned it, immediately finding that she enjoyed the wit and personality that Maggie’s words conveyed. The writing was a little messy, but not annoyingly so. Alex appreciated that.
Alex had a lot of homework to do, but she couldn’t help getting out her paper and writing a response.
August 20, 2016
It was nice hearing from you again so soon. You probably have more going on there than I do, especially if you’re training to be in the military. I wish I was half as brave as you are. Also, if I’m going down as a threat to National Security, I’m taking you with me. I bet Istanbul is nice. Is the weather good? California is still hot, but it’s cooling down. We had a lot of wildfires this summer, and they always scare me. It’s sad, seeing such beauty scorched and burned away. It reminds me of how delicate nature is.
My school is nice. We have four hundred students, about one hundred in each grade. I’m taking a lot of science classes and electives. Biology is my favorite, then chemistry and astronomy. English and history are my least favorite subjects, but I think I’m a pretty good writer when I want to be. I am head of the biology club and about five other clubs that will probably make me sound like a dork. I promise, I’m not a dork, I just really like learning and being a leader.
As for fun, there isn’t much. Midvale is somewhat of a boring town. However, our lack of hotspots just increases the amount of parties kids have. I usually don’t go to those, because I’m busy with homework. My best friend Vickie dragged me to a party once, and it was sort of fun. She has promised to take me to more. I always object at first, but I can never say no to her. I don’t really know why. Parties aren’t even that fun. It’s just a bunch of kids getting drunk and hooking up. Not that I’m opposed to either of those, I guess, but it just doesn’t appeal to me that much.
And I just confessed all of that to you, who I don’t know at all and who probably now thinks I’m whiny and antisocial. I promise I’m not! Do you have parties on the base? Were there any good parties in Japan?
That’s all I have for now. I hope to hear from you soon.
August 29, 2016
Outside of Istanbul, Turkey
It’s totally okay that you confessed that to me. I promise I don’t think you’re a dork, or whiny and antisocial. Everything that you said makes sense. I have been to a few parties on other bases, and I have found that some of them are fun, but others are just grind-fests. I think that there is a party on the base this weekend, actually. I’ll keep you in mind when I go.
It’s really hot here, and I don’t know how I feel about it. I hate the cold when it’s cold, and I hate the heat when it’s hot. I’m not very easy to please. It rains sometimes, and it gets muddy and gross, but I don’t mind that very much. The other girls do. Some of them are very girly. They get upset when their dresses get dirty or a raindrop messes with their hair. I feel a little bit like an outsider sometimes, for many reasons. Because my dad has been raising me to be tough, things like that don’t bother me. Don’t get me wrong, I love dresses, but they aren’t practical out here.
There is some cool nature out here. I think you would like it. Do you want me to send some pictures with the next letter? I like photography, so I have a lot of stills. They aren’t very good, but you can get the idea of the environment.
Since we’re confessing things we don’t like, namely parties, I’ll tell you a little bit about the nasty people here that make me feel like an outsider. First, most of the kids here are WASPs. I’m one of about three non-white kids, and the only one who is the daughter of an immigrant. This doesn’t make me too popular with some of the white kids. Even the adults treat me like I’m not here. And don’t get me started on the boys. All these white boys who think they run the place. I already wasn’t a fan of adolescent males, but the ones on this base are so entitled, you wouldn’t believe it. My ex-girlfriend was so lucky her mom got sent to Italy.
In conclusion: life for a non-white, non-straight girl from Blue Springs, Nebraska on this base isn’t too hot. Now you aren’t the only whiny one, so don’t be afraid to just rant about your day in the next letter. I’m all ears (or eyes, I guess).
Until next time,
Alex read the last paragraph in shock. Apparently, her pen-pal wasn’t straight. That was somewhat of a shock. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just… different. She started on her next letter, deciding to add a picture of herself for good measure.
September 4, 2016
I’m sorry those people on the base suck. I’m sure being surrounded by immature white boys is exhausting (I deal with them too, just not as much as you seem to). I’m actually having boy troubles of my own, which I’ll explain in a second. It must be hard, trying to date on the base. Especially if you aren’t straight. I know the military hasn’t been very… welcoming to LGBTQ people. Does that make you uncomfortable? You know what, it probably isn’t my place to ask that, sorry.
If you’re up to hear my boy troubles, here they are. Basically, my friend Vickie has decided that we’re going to date these two guys who are best friends. Really, she wants to date Jake — he’s captain of the football team — and he wants to date her, but his friend Ben insists that there is a “bro-code” stating that Jake can’t date unless Ben has a hot date. So, Ben’s hot date would be me. Not that I’m saying I’m hot, I mean, I guess I’m attractive, but there are girls much hotter than me at school.
Anyway, we went out last night and it was awful. Ben was such a jerk and he tried to make a move on me. I sort of freaked out and left. Apparently, he still really likes me, and he wants to go out again. Vickie keeps pleading me to go out with him, and I don’t know what to do. Things with him don’t feel… right. They don’t feel the way they should feel. They never have with any guy I’ve been with, actually. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think I have to give Ben a chance, though, for Vickie’s sake.
Please send me some of your pictures. I’d love to see them. Also, I’m sending you a picture of myself. Seeing who you’re talking to might make this a little more normal. Although, it already feels sort of normal. I mean, I have confessed things to you that I haven’t even told Vickie or my sister. Maybe telling you things is easier because I can’t see you. I’d love to have an idea of what you look like, though, if you’re comfortable with that.
I can’t wait to hear from you,
Maggie stared at the picture that Alex had sent her, and she was caught breathless. The girl had short, wavy brown hair that suited her features perfectly. Her arms were muscled and athletic-looking under her shirt, and her frame was thin and well-built. It was a far different sight from what she had pictured.
Arms circled her neck from behind, and a kiss was dropped to her head.
“What’s that?” Kate Kane asked from above Maggie. Maggie looked up at her girlfriend.
“Just a picture of my pen-pal.”
“She’s pretty. Where is she from?” Kate questioned, scrutinizing the photo.
“California,” Maggie answered, setting the picture down on the desk. For some reason, she wanted to get it away from Kate, didn’t want her insulting or scrutinizing Alex in some sort of jealous way.
“Well that’s exotic,” Kate joked, moving to sit on Maggie’s lap.
“Kate, I want to answer her,” Maggie whined. She tried to shove Kate off, to no avail. Kate just shifted to straddle Maggie on the chair, pulling Maggie closer and kissing her.
“Later,” Kate whispered, already tugging on Maggie’s shirt.
September 17, 2016
Outside of Istanbul, Turkey
To start, damn, Danvers, you’re pretty hot. I honestly pictured you as the super nerdy type. Not that I’m trying to stereotype you or anything, I’m well aware of how horrible stereotypes are, but I’m just… yeah. Do you play any sports over there? Sorry I didn’t ask that earlier. I forgot that schools had organized sports teams. We mostly just play rugby or soccer on the base, because that’s what the locals play in almost every place. I’ll send you a picture of myself, too. It’s going to be a crappy school picture, but you’ll get the idea.
It seems that you’re in a sticky situation with Vickie. If you think dating this Ben guy is the right thing, then maybe you should. Just remember to put yourself first. If he’s causing you some sort of emotional strain, then cut it off. No one else’s happiness is more important that yours. Oh, and if he tries to pressure you into things, tell him an army kid is going to come after him with a squadron of men. Then show him my picture. He’ll back off. ;)
It rained yesterday, and the sea got really choppy. I thought it was pretty, so I took a picture of it. I hope you like it. There are some other pictures from our visit to Istanbul and the Bulgarian countryside. I met some very interesting people there. There was a girl living on the street in Istanbul. She said that her father kicked her out because she was in love with a girl. It made me thank the stars that my parents were so accepting of me, especially when it went against their beliefs.
Speaking of, being gay on the base sucks, and there are still some older men and a few women who were big supporters of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It’s amazing that something that primitive and exclusive was in place only a few years ago. It makes me a little uncomfortable, but I know that enough people are changing with the times. Things won’t always be this hard.
Until next time,
Alex looked at the picture of Maggie for about the tenth time since she got it. Maggie was beautiful — long black hair, lightly tanned skin, and warm brown eyes. She looked small but strong. Definitely a force to be reckoned with.
She placed the picture on her bedside table, next to the picture of herself and Vickie. Ben had texted her twice, asking to come over. It was late, but not too late. Her parents wouldn’t mind if she went out. Hell, her parents were encouraging her to go out more. What was stopping her?
Nothing. That’s what was stopping her. Nothing physical. Just her fear of what was to come. And Alex — Alex didn’t let fear overtake her. Not anymore. Not since she started writing Maggie, a girl who wanted to risk her life every day fighting for Alex’s rights.
So, she put on her best casual clothes and grabbed her keys.
She went to Ben’s house.
It was a mistake. Alex knew it from the moment she stepped foot in his house. She was nervous, but nerves didn’t bother her.
It was predictable, from the moment she laid on his bed and he kissed her.
It was inevitable, when she thought it was what she wanted, when she didn’t stop him because, dammit, she was going to have normal feelings about boys for once in her life.
When she got home, all she wanted to do was curl up in her bed and cry because she hated it, hated it so much. She didn’t feel anything. What was wrong with her?
Instead of crying, she wrote to Maggie.
September 28, 2016
I think I made a mistake. A big, huge mistake. I, um, I did something… with Ben… that I thought I wanted. That I thought I would like. I was wrong. It wasn’t… bad. I don’t think it was. But I didn’t feel anything. It was uncomfortable and it didn’t feel right. What does this mean? What is wrong with me? Why don't I like being... intimate?
I’m going to break up with him. I don’t care how Vickie feels about it. She won’t understand, obviously. She’s been with a couple guys and she obviously enjoys it. She tells me she does, anyway. And before I thought that I was just too focused on school to like guys, but now I think it’s something else. Maybe I’m just not built for it.
Everything has to be perfect in my life, and right now I can’t get this one thing perfect. It’s a little painful, you know? Like, my grades are perfect, I’m the perfect sister, everything else is perfect, but I’m not attracted to guys. How can I be perfect then?
Sorry, I’m being a little selfish. I do surf in a lot of competitions. That’s my sport. We have a surfing team at school, too. Ah, what else? Do you have a girlfriend? I don’t mean to be forward, I’m just wondering. I’m sure you have all the girls chasing after you. You’re very pretty.
That’s all I have for now. I think I’m just going to go cry and eat ice cream to make myself feel better. I hope you have a nice week.
Thank you for listening,
October 7, 2016
Outside of Istanbul, Turkey
I’m so, so sorry that happened. Sometimes I wish I could send a hug in a letter. Maybe tell Kara to give you a hug for me. I hope that makes you feel better. What happened to you is a natural thing for some people. Not everyone has the same feelings, you know? You might not fully understand yourself just yet. Remember to keep an open mind in everything that you do, and I think you’ll be fine. Keep your head up. And if Ben gives you trouble, remember that I’m always ready with a bazooka and a squadron of army brats. Keep me updated on what’s going on with all of that.
And being perfect isn’t everything. If you’re perfect, then you have no room for improvement, and you’re stuck exactly where you are for the rest of your life. Also, perfect is subjective. Just keep that in mind while you’re going through this.
Surfing sounds really cool. I’ve seen a few people surfing here and there, but I myself have never tried it. Maybe one day you can teach me. Until then, though, I’ll just observe from the shore.
Yes, I do have a girlfriend here. Her name is Kate Kane, and she’s a fellow army brat. Her parents have been in the army for years, and she’s set to join the military in a few months like me. I’ll describe her a bit, I guess. She is tall, thin, she has red hair and fair skin. She’s a pretty cool girl.
I hope everything goes well for you. Send me more pictures, if you want. If you have any. Also, if you want to give me your phone number, we have satellite phones that I can make a call on. No promises that it’ll be frequent. And the calls are pretty short. But I’ll still be able to call you just in case. Only if you’re comfortable with that.
Hoping you’re happy,
October 20, 2016
I think I’m gay.
It’s sort of a big deal right now. It’s a big deal, because I kissed Vickie. I realized that I had loved Vickie for a while, ever since I met her. So I kissed her, and everything just made sense, you know? Like, it felt right and it was good and soft and nothing like any other kiss that I’ve had.
Well, Vickie is straight, completely straight.
She didn’t kiss me back. She freaked out, actually. She thought it was weird and didn’t want to be around me anymore. So, not only have I figured out I’m gay, but I have just lost my best friend.
Kara doesn’t know. I don’t know how I’m supposed to tell her. And my mom… This is all so complicated. Maybe I should just forget about it, move on. I’m not as brave as you are. I can’t do all of this.
I wrote my number on a paper and enclosed it in the letter so that you can keep it somewhere you won’t forget. You’re probably busy, so you don’t need to call right away. I’m sorry I’m dumping all these complications on you. Right now, you’re my closest friend, and you’re so far away. Life isn’t fair like that.
Waiting on your wisdom,
It was a stormy night in Midvale, California. Alex always found the rain so soothing. She wasn’t sure what time it was, just that it was dark and she was disoriented. Her phone woke her up, ringing sharply through the open space, and Alex jerked awake.
The caller was unidentified.
She answered the call, bringing the phone to her ear tentatively.
Static buzzed through the line, before a tinny voice sounded.
“Alex Danvers?” it asked, and Alex’s brow furrowed. The voice was high and smooth.
“Yeah. Who is this?” she questioned.
“It’s me, Maggie. Your pen-pal.”
“Maggie,” Alex breathed. “It’s really, really nice to hear your voice.”
“Yeah, it’s nice to hear yours, too. I’m sorry the quality is so bad,” Maggie said. Alex laughed. She didn’t care how bad the quality was. Just hearing the girl’s voice was nice. It was comforting in a way that Alex couldn’t explain. “Is everything okay over there? I just read your letter.”
“Oh. Yeah. Everything is… okay. Just complicated, you know? Vickie still won’t talk to me, and it feels weird. And there’s the complication of maybe being gay. Thats… that’s a new one for me,” Alex admitted with a sigh.
“Well, I can tell you right now that your feelings are real and valid. And you shouldn’t keep any of this locked away inside. I tried that, and it only made me feel worse. I’m here for you to help you figure it out. I promise.” Maggie’s voice was soft and sincere, and it brought tears to Alex’s eyes.
“What helped you when you first realized?” Alex asked.
“Coming out to my family really did help. I promise, it isn’t as scary as you think. Maybe just start small, like telling Kara. Then she can help you with your parents,” Maggie suggested.
“I think I can do that.”
“I know you can. I believe in you, Alex.”
“Can we, um, talk about something else? It’s just, this has been stressing me out for a week and I need something to take my mind off of it,” Alex admitted quietly.
“Sure. Want me to tell you about my week?”
“Well, someone decided that we would have a mini Olympic tournament. Now, I’m a fan of friendly competition. But pitting a bunch of stuck up, competitive army brats against one another isn’t the greatest idea. About five kids were sent to the makeshift hospital.”
“Did you win anything?” Alex asked, a bit of a laugh behind her words. She could just picture it — a bunch of teenagers on a base, running around and fighting each other.
“Of course, Danvers,” Maggie boasted. “I won the one-hundred meter dash and the swimming competition.”
“You must be skilled, Sawyer,” Alex commented. She could picture Maggie’s smirk.
“In more ways than one, if I do say so myself.”
“I’ll remember that.” Alex sighed and looked at the time. “Hey, I think I’m going to go. I really need some sleep.”
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry, I forgot it must be — it must be three in the morning there. I didn’t mean to keep you up,” Maggie said, her words rushing through the phone.
“No, no, it’s perfectly fine. You really helped me, Maggie.”
“Good, then. Well, I’ll let you sleep, and I’ll write you a letter when I get the chance,” Maggie promised.
“When can we talk on the phone again?” Alex asked, suddenly very reluctant to hang up.
“As soon as I can. Maybe next month? I’ll see if I can do better.”
“Don’t worry. I love getting letters from you,” Alex admitted quietly.
“I love getting letters from you, too.” Maggie’s voice was equally as quiet, almost bashful. It was endearing. “I’ll talk to you soon?”
“Yeah. Have a nice day, Maggie.”
“You too, Alex.”
November 2, 2016
Thanks again for calling me the other night. You don’t know how much it meant to me. It feels like my life has been turned completely upside down, and I don’t know how I can do this without you. It’s strange, finding myself feeling so close to you when you’re halfway across the world. I wonder if you feel the same way, too.
I told Kara and she was completely supportive of me. It’s funny, because she’s actually bisexual and she came out to me, too. Now she is very excited, because she’s watching all these television shows with lesbian and bisexual characters, and she has someone to share them with. Our next movie night we’re watching sapphic films together. It’s nice having someone at home understand me so well.
How are things going for you? Is everything okay with Kate? She’s a very lucky girl. When does your military training officially start? It must be exciting for you. I have to wait about a year to achieve my dreams. You don’t have to wait that long. What is the training process like? Sorry I’m asking so many questions, I’m just… interested.
I’m sending some college applications this week, so hopefully I’ll know soon. Maybe for my senior trip I’ll backpack through Europe, or visit India. I just feel like I need to explore somewhere new. Any suggestions?
Can’t wait to hear from you,
November 17, 2016
Outside of Istanbul, Turkey
I’m so glad everything is working out with you and Kara. I wish that I had someone in my family to share things like that with. Sometimes being an only child kind of sucks.
Kate and I actually broke up. Well, she broke up with me. We both have very… difficult personalities. She’s hard-headed, stubborn, and stuck up. I can be the same way sometimes. Two army brats can either get along or hate each other, and I guess we just didn’t mix. It is sort of difficult for me, because I have always thought of being with someone in the army. It makes sense, you know? We’d both understand each other and the struggles we’ve had to go through. But I don’t know if I’ll ever find someone special.
My birthday is actually in two weeks, and once I turn 18, I can enlist. I’ll start training after New Years. Training is state-side, so I’ll be moving there next month. I am going to miss my family. That’s the worst part. I haven’t been away from either my mom or dad for longer than a week before.
Good luck with your applications! I’m sure every school will want you. Is Stanford still the goal? If you get in (which you will) then you can probably relax so much. I know some kids here are stressing over their applications, and they are very excited to be finished with them. As for your travel plans, I would say that visiting India would be amazing. You have the rest of your life to go to Europe, but if you have the chance to go to someplace exotic, you should take it. Maybe I can meet you there.
Hoping your applications go well,
November 30, 2016
I sent my applications, and I should hear back before Christmas. I’m praying every day that I get in to Stanford (and I’m not even religious). I know that my chances of getting accepted are pretty good, but I am still worried. What if they aren’t looking for someone like me? What if they think I’m too average?
I am so sorry about what happened with Kate. I don’t know why she would even break up with you. You’re just so nice and helpful, and you’re so pretty. It doesn’t make much sense. It’s her loss, anyway. And I promise that you’ll find the perfect person. It may take time. You may have to travel miles to find her. But you will find her. And, I know I don't seem like the best person to give relationship advice — because I just figured out that I’m gay and ruined a friendship by realizing I had a crush on my straight friend — but I am a hopeless romantic (just don’t tell Kara that).
By the time you get this, it will probably be close to your birthday, so I’ll just tell you now. Happy birthday! I put in a little card with this letter, and a few pictures of birthday-ish things. I’m lame, I know. Kara also added some confetti sprinkles, because she’s very decorative. She made me promise to send you a picture of the two of us, so I did that, too. And there’s a little gift shop souvenir from Midvale for you. It’s cheesy, I know, but it’s the best birthday gift I could come up with that could fit in this envelope.
Maggie smiled as she hung the pictures on her wall. First, the picture of a birthday cake that Alex printed out. Then, some balloons and party hats. Alex and Kara had taken a selfie with old birthday hats on, and Maggie put that on the wall, too. The little magnet that said ‘Greetings from Midvale, CA!’ was stuck to her desk on the metal part. In a few weeks, she would have to take it all down, but for a while she could gaze at it and feel a little closer to Alex.
“Is that your friend?” Maggie’s mother asked, silently stepping into the room.
“Uh, yeah,” Maggie answered, a bit distracted.
“She’s pretty,” Maggie’s mother commented.
“You like her, don’t you?”
Maggie whirled then, her eyes wide. Her mother had a soft smirk on her face.
“What? No!” Maggie insisted. “She lives halfway across the world. I’ve only spoken to her once. I don’t—”
“Okay, okay, mija,” her mother said, hands raised in surrender. “You know, you don’t have to enlist. We can send you to live with your aunt in Nebraska, you can finish high school, go to college. Your father will understand.”
“Mama, no. I want to do this for myself. You know that.”
Maggie’s mother stepped closer and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you sure about that?” her mother questioned.
Maggie hesitated. She thought she was sure. All her life she wanted to be in the army, just like her father. But then, she hadn’t known anything else.
She looked at the Midvale magnet on the wall.
It was eight o’clock this time when Alex’s phone rang. It was family game night, and they were in the middle of a heated round of Monopoly. Jeremiah was winning, Kara was losing, and Alex’s competitive side was out.
The ringtone broke Alex out of a glaring match with her father. An unidentified caller flashed on the screen, and Alex’s heart raced. She snatched the phone up and left the room quickly.
“Hey, Danvers. It’s Maggie.”
“I know,” Alex said with a smile. She felt her face heating up at Maggie’s chuckle.
“I got your letter with all the birthday stuff, so I just wanted to call you to say thanks. It meant a lot.”
“Of course. It was fun. Kara loves birthdays and stuff.” Alex paused for a moment. “And you deserved it.”
“Thank you,” Maggie said softly. Alex could almost hear the blush in her voice.
“So, are you getting ready to leave?”
“I am. Most of my stuff is packed up already, I’m just waiting until Christmas to finish. I’ll be out by the thirtieth.”
“Excited?” Alex asked.
“I am. It’s a little intimidating, but I think I’m ready.”
“I believe in you.” Maggie laughed a little at that.
“Oh, just to let you know, I won’t be able to write as much once I get there. I will send you a letter first thing, though, so you can get the address.”
“Great,” Alex said weakly. “I’d be lying if I said I won’t be disappointed. I love getting letters from you so frequently.”
“Me too,” Maggie admitted with a sigh. “But you’ll be busy with school and college and traveling. You’ll forget about me soon enough.”
“I’d never forget about you,” Alex interjected quickly. She couldn’t imagine a life without letters or phone calls from her friend.
“Alex, can I ask you something?”
“Do you think that two people who are miles away could be together? If they know and love each other, could they make it work?” Maggie’s voice was tentative, and Alex’s stomach fluttered.
“Uh, I think it would be hard, but it might work out. Why?”
“It’s just — well, I don’t know. I feel like I know you well, but not at all, and I want to get to know you and… I don’t know.”
“Maggie…” Alex whispered, her words failing her. She knew that every time the girl wrote or called, her heart jumped with affection. She looked at Maggie’s picture almost every day, wanting to be close to her friend. But feelings that were beyond platonic were insane. They hadn’t met, and probably never would.
“I have to go. Just… write me when you get accepted to Stanford. I’ll be waiting for your letter.”
“Maggie, wait,” Alex said, hoping the girl wouldn’t hang up quickly. She paused, hearing the line remain open. They just sat there, hundreds of miles apart, listening to each other’s breathing. For a moment, Alex felt like Maggie was next to her, their hearts beating together. “I know you.”
It was a promise without definition, a conviction that somehow they would be connected, linked, no matter what. That little admission of hope, of requited, complicated feelings traveled over continents and seas to settle in the flutter of Maggie’s heart. Alex could feel that.
Maggie held the envelope of the Alex’s latest letter. She was supposed to be getting on a bus that would take her to the Istanbul airport, but she couldn’t move. Her room was bare, her wall emptied of its pictures and memories. Even her sheets were in a box.
But Alex’s letter — that she still had. With shaking hands, she pulled it open, and laughed at the first line, written in all capitals.
December 20, 2016
I GOT IN! I WAS ACCEPTED INTO STANFORD!
I am so insanely excited! They sent me this crisp, perfect letter saying that they would love to have me as a student next year. So here I am, Stanford student class of 2021. My parents got me a bunch of Stanford merchandise for Christmas/Hanukkah (we celebrate both because my mom is Jewish), so now I have a bunch of sweatshirts and t-shirts and hats and things. Next I’ll have to start planning my room, and I have to pick a roommate, and I have to choose my classes…
I’m excited, if you couldn’t tell.
I hope you’re doing well. I’m sure that you’re leaving for training camp. I wish you the best of luck. You are going to be the greatest soldier the United States has ever seen. Things are probably going to get tough, but I believe in you, Maggie. You better write to me as much as you can. I want to hear from you. I care about you so much.
Take care of yourself,
January 10, 2017
I am so proud of you for getting accepted, though I’m not surprised. Stanford would have been crazy to reject you.
I’m here at the training base. It’s been a hell of a week. I feel like all of my limbs are going to fall off. My muscles are aching and my head feels like crap. But, hey, I’m going to be ripped by the end of this.
I’ve met a lot of cool people, mostly kids who enlisted at 18. There are a couple of queer kids, which is really nice for me. It’s a bit of a change, but a good one. We all talk about how shitty homophobes in the army are. There have been some nasty guys here, but we’ve put them in their place. Besides, they aren’t good soldiers, anyway.
This is probably the last letter I’m going to be able to write for a while. We get downtime certain days, but I’m usually so tired that all I do is sleep. I’ll write the next break I get, I promise.
I really miss my parents, but that will get easier with time. And I miss you. Which is weird, because we’ve only really written to each other but… I miss your voice. Again, weird. I’m sorry. I don’t want to make things complicated. I think I’m failing at that, though.
Until next time,
January 15, 2017
I’m sorry you’re in so much pain, but it will pay off in the end. If anything, it will prepare you for being in battle, and if that means you’ll be safe, then it’s good. Anyway, I sent you a package with this letter that has a few things to help. There’s some aloe, some IcyHot patches, and Advil. Also, I put in one of my Stanford sweatshirts. Now you can represent my school wherever you go :).
Having a bunch of queer kids there must be nice. Sort of like a GSA. We have one at school, and it’s the best place. Kara and I go to meetings, and we sort of just talk about things and support one another. I have a big group of friends here at school now. I haven’t seen Vickie much since I kissed her. I don’t even think I care.
School is much easier now that I know I’m going to Stanford. I’m not stressing as much. My grades are still good, but I have time to relax. Kara is freaking out because junior year is hard and she’s not good with stress. I’m trying to keep her calm, too.
I’m spending a lot of time surfing now, and it reminds me of you. You should learn how to surf, if you ever have the chance. I would teach you if I could. I sent some pictures of the beach and my surfboard. Also some pictures of me surfing. The surf team is going to states, and I’m captain, so I have to practice a lot.
I miss you, too. It’s hard to explain, but I do understand everything you’re feeling, because I’m feeling it, too. I wish I could call you every day even though I know that I can’t. Write to me as soon as you can, please.
Maggie lifted the Stanford sweatshirt out of the box and pulled it over her head. It was a little loose on her small frame, but it was comfortable. It smelled of cinnamon and home, and she could picture Alex wearing it. She smiled.
The pictures of the beach were beautiful and calming. They went up on the small wall behind her bunk, next to her old pictures from the base. Then there were the pictures of Alex on the beach — bikini clad, hair wet and wild, light abs and defined muscles on display. Maggie swallowed dryly. Those went on the wall, too.
“Is that your girlfriend?” Heather Mills, her bunkmate and best friend, asked. She was loud, boisterous, and bisexual and proud, and she let everyone know it. “She’s hot.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Maggie scoffed, though her voice was a little sad, “just someone special.”
February 1, 2017
Thanks so much for the package. I wear the sweatshirt all the time now. The base is pretty cold at night. And the pictures were gorgeous (especially the ones of you). My bunkmate is forcing me to tell you that she’s pretty interested in you. Just for your consideration.
I’m writing a quick letter to you now before I go to sleep. We took a trip last week to Texas, where we did training on the beach. It was absolutely exhausting. My friends and I took a picture there, so I put a copy in this letter. It’s cute, I think.
I have to sleep now. I’ll talk to you when I can,
Alex’s mouth fell open at the photo of Maggie. The girl was looking thinner than her other picture, but stronger, more defined. Her arms were muscled, and her abs were, too. She was standing with a group of younger people, all shirtless and looking like they had just come out of the ocean. They were laughing. Alex smiled along with them.
Kara knocked on the doorframe before entering, and Alex quickly put the picture in her desk drawer.
“New letter from Maggie?” Kara questioned knowingly.
“Uh, yeah— yes,” Alex answered, stammering a bit. She was more flustered than she had realized.
“Are you going to send her something for Valentine’s Day?”
Alex’s eyes widened and she scoffed, shaking her head.
“Maggie isn’t my girlfriend. Why would I do that?”
Kara moved into the room and sat on the bed next to Alex. She turned herself fully towards her older sister and leveled her with a knowing gaze.
“Alex, you are in love with Maggie,” Kara began. She continued on even as Alex opened her mouth to protest. “All you talk about is Maggie, all you want to do anytime something big happens is tell Maggie. I know you reread her letters and look at her pictures. You wouldn’t have sent her your favorite Stanford sweatshirt if you didn’t love her.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“How? You love Maggie, Maggie obviously has feelings for you; it doesn’t get much more simple than that,” Kara insisted.
“Because she’s in the army!” Alex finally cracked. She threw her arms up in the air, feeling the frustration bubble to the surface. “Because I’ve never seen her in person. Because when we started talking, she lived hundreds of miles away and now she’s in the army. I won’t ever get to meet her because she’s training, and then she’ll be shipped to some base or sent into combat. My feelings for her don’t matter, because it isn’t practical, Kara. I’m going to college and I’m getting a degree and I’m going to be a scientist, and Maggie is going to be fighting for her country far away from me.”
Tears slid out of her eyes, and she was suddenly deflated. Kara wrapped strong arms around her to hold her up. Together, they fell back on the bed as Alex shook with sobs.
“You should send her something,” Kara said quietly. Alex just nodded into her shoulder.
“I just like her so much, Kara,” she whispered.
“I know, Alex. I know.”
February 12, 2017
Happy Valentine’s Day! I sent you a few things, just some pictures of hearts and flowers and things. There are also some dried flower petals that look sort of pretty. You’ll get this after Valentine’s Day, but that’s okay. It’s the thought that counts, right?
I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about you on Valentine’s Day this year. You’re in a part of my heart, Maggie Sawyer, no matter where you are. As long as you know that, I’ll be happy. I hope that this letter puts a smile on your face, because your smile is so beautiful, Maggie. You are beautiful.
I love you. I know it isn’t practical or realistic and it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I love you, and I hope you feel the same way.
Tears welled up in Maggie’s eyes as she read Alex’s letter. Her heart ached, because there Alex was, confessing feelings. Feelings that were real and complicated. Feelings that Maggie shared.
But it wasn’t as simple as that. It wasn’t as simple as loving Alex. Things were never going to be simple for them. It hurt Maggie to think of what Alex’s feelings for her could do. Alex was about to go to college. She was supposed to have crazy experiences, she was supposed to date people and find out who she wanted to be. Her feelings for Maggie would ruin all of that.
Maggie didn’t want to ruin Alex’s chances. Her heart, though, her heart was selfish, and it was full of feelings for Alex that she couldn’t quite let go.
She spent a day fighting herself in her own head. To let Alex go was to betray her own heart, but to keep her was to ruin the girl’s chances of ever being happy.
So she finally picked up her pen and wrote.
February 28, 2017
It was very nice getting your Valentine’s letter. All of the hearts a flowers were very sweet. It did put a smile on my face.
I’m sorry to say that I cannot return your feelings. Exchanging letters with you has been the highlight of the past few months, and I can say that you are my best friend in the entire world. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have feelings for you, but things between us are very complicated. I’m sure you know that.
Please don’t take this the wrong way. You deserve so much more than what I can give you. You’re about to go to college, and you have many experiences waiting for you there. Don’t let me hold you back from that.
In a few months, I’m shipping out. They’re sending us to Syria, to try and keep the peace there. I don’t know what is in store for me, but know that I’ll always be thinking of you.
Alex didn’t cry. She didn’t scream or shout or burn everything that Maggie had ever sent her.
She didn’t react. And that was what scared her, and Kara, most.
Alex threw herself into life. She took the surf team to states and won it for them. She won science scholarships and contests. Her research on developing stem cells for medical uses earned her enough money to plan her solo trip to India. Then, she threw her energy into that.
Graduation was a nostalgic affair. She took pictures with her friends and Kara, went to parties and got drunk. A week after, she left for her trip with only a large suitcase, money, and her phone.
The first few days were hard with the time change, but she saw amazing sights. People and animals roamed the city streets while sky scrapers towered above. Colorful laundry hung between flat-roofed houses. The buildings were colorful and bright, the sun was hot, and the streets were bustling.
She stayed in good hotels that were cheap enough. She saw the tourist sights while also blending into the everyday culture. Each city brought new adventures for her. A trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra, a whole day spent in a little temple in Jaipur, and an elephant ride in Udaipur. Delhi was crowded and the air was thick, but she still found enjoyment there. She tried new foods and drank good tea.
Alex wanted to detail every moment of it in a letter to Maggie.
One day, as she sat on the cool marble of the Jain temple in Ranakpur, she did just that.
July 1, 2017
Ranakpur, Rajasthan, India
Right now, I am sitting in the most beautiful place in all the world. There is a grand temple in Ranakpur, with many domes carved out of marble. The stone is old. It’s like I can feel God running through its veins. There is a tree near the center of it, growing strong in the sun. I am sitting on the outer edge, near one of the crevices that can only be described as a window. The place is filled with sound and yet it is so quiet and peaceful.
It has been months since I have written to you, but every day I think of you. I wonder if you think of me, too. You still are my best friend. As I sit here, I now understand why you said what you did. For so long, I was hurt, but now I am not. I hope you can forgive me for ever being angry with you.
By now, you must have shipped out. I read somewhere that if I send this to your old base, they will deliver it to you in Syria, so that’s what I’m going to do. It’s funny. You’re probably very close to me. Closer than you’ve ever been before.
I’m staying in India until the end of the month. Then I have to go home and move into my dorm at school. My roommate is named Lena Luthor. She’s an engineering major. I haven’t met her, but she seems nice. I’m very excited to go to school.
I hope you’re okay. I miss writing to you. Please write back, to my home address, if you get the chance.
July 31, 2017
I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying India. It sounds very beautiful. I’ll have to visit one day.
You have nothing to be sorry for, and I have nothing to forgive. You did nothing wrong. You deserved to be angry. I only did what I thought was best for you. Trust me, Alex. I can’t imagine a life without you in it in some way.
We have been traveling around Syria, helping people in need. There has been some conflict, but nothing we haven’t been able to handle. I have met some very interesting people here. The locals can be very sweet and grateful, or they can be distrusting. The children love us, though.
I hope everything goes well at school. You’re going to have such a fun time there, I promise.
Keep me updated,
September 15, 2017
I have moved in and started school. My roommate Lena is really, really nice. She’s gay, too, so she and I have gone to GSA meetings together. It’s nice having her. We go to parties and help each other out with girls. She actually introduced me to this one girl, Sara Lance. We’ve been on a few dates, and she’s really nice. She tends bar at this cool place in Palo Alto, so Lena and I go there a lot.
Kara is basically in love with Lena. They met when we moved in, and Kara hasn’t stopped talking about her ever since. Kara’s 18 now (her birthday was in August — she’s so old and grown up!) so I keep telling her to go for it, but she’s too shy. I can tell Lena likes her, too. When Kara and I Skype, Lena always gets on the line. One day I’ll have to give Lena Kara’s phone number, or they’re just going to be children and dance around their feelings.
Classes are a lot easier than they were in high school, and I’m happy about that. It makes things a bit less stressful. The science department here is so extensive. I think I’m going to try and get my bioengineering degree in two years and then go into premed. It will be hard, but I can do it.
Hopefully you’re doing well in Syria, if that’s where you still are. Every time I see something about Syria in the news, I worry. I wish you could write to me more often. I miss the way we used to be. Maybe I ruined everything. I’m sorry.
Write back soon,
January 11, 2018
I just got your letter. There were some serious things going down in Syria, and my team got misplaced for a while. Then, we had to take care of some villages that were under attack. We found ourselves under fire, so we ended up having to engage a group of attackers. Keeping the peace is very difficult when no one wants to be peaceful.
Anyway, we had to evacuate and it took us a while to get to Turkey. They forwarded all our mail to the base in Istanbul. Things are crazy here. There are so many international troops out here. They’re very fascinating. And Istanbul is as pretty as I remember it.
I’ve seen some crazy things. Those kids in Syria, they’re suffering. I worry about them every day.
I’m so glad that things are going well at school. Your roommate sounds really great. Tell Kara that I think she should go for it. And this Sara girl better treat you right, or she’ll have me to answer to.
I’ll write to you as often as I can, Alex. I promise. I’m always thinking about you.
January 30, 2018
I’m so glad to hear you’re okay. I was very worried about you. I can’t even imagine the things that you’ve witnessed over there. Just know that you’re so brave, and I still believe in you.
Things are going well with Sara. We’re thinking of getting an apartment with Lena next year. She’s very sweet, smart, and respectful, so no need to worry (she’s a martial artist anyway, so she’d put up a fair fight against you). Lena and Kara are dating, finally. It’s a little complicated, because Kara is still in high school, but she visits us every other weekend. It’s very cute. I’ve never seen Kara this happy. She got into Stanford, too, so she might join us next year. She also got into Columbia, so she’s torn. I think she’ll end up at Stanford, though.
My professors are very helpful with my study path. I think I’ll be able to get my degrees in the time that I want. I’m finally planning my life out now. I want to become a doctor and do more stem cell and cancer research. I’ll probably stay in California, but it depends on where the career takes me. It’d be nice to go back to India and do work there.
I hope to hear from you soon, and I really hope you’re okay.
Maggie wasn’t too proud to admit that it hurt. It hurt to hear about Alex, happy with another girl. But that was what she had wanted for Alex, wasn’t it? That was why she ended what they could have had.
They were being sent back to Syria, and communicating with Alex would be hard. She figured that she should give Alex space, anyway. Things were going well. She didn’t want to hold her back.
Maggie hooked her thumbs through the worn holes of her Stanford sweatshirt. It was a little faded and tattered on the ends, but she made sure to take it everywhere with her.
It was all she had left of home.
“Hey, babe, are you ready to go?”
Alex looked up from her packing to find Sara at her dorm room door. She was beautiful as always, blonde hair waved perfectly and blue dress highlighting her eyes. They were driving back to Midvale for Kara’s graduation. Lena and Sara were spending the summer there, and the four of them were moving into an apartment the next year.
“Yeah, I’m almost done,” Alex answered, zipping her duffle and standing up.
“We have to leave now, or we won’t make the ceremony,” Sara said. She picked up the duffle, the last of Alex’s belongings, and started out the door. Alex followed, and soon they were outside in the Stanford parking lot.
“I’m going to miss this.” Alex sighed, looking around. Stanford had become her new home, and she wasn’t sure how being away from it was going to feel.
Sara threw the duffle into the back of Lena’s Porsche and wrapped her arms around Alex’s waist.
“I am, too. But, we’re going to have the whole summer together to spend at the beach, with no school, just you and me…” Sara’s eyes got glassy as she planned their many adventures in her head.
“You’re cute,” Alex said, kissing Sara lightly. Lena started the car and honked at them before leaning out the driver’s window. Her long black hair was perfectly straight, black dress showing a good amount of cleavage, and gorgeous eyes hidden behind aviators.
“Let’s go! You can kiss and shit later!” Lena called, and Alex and Sara laughed before getting in.
The ride back to Midvale wasn’t long, but Alex dreaded her arrival the whole way. Her most recent (and best) memories there were ones of Maggie, and she wasn’t sure how long she could keep those feelings and memories bottled up before they would explode.
October 25, 2018
Once again, I am in Turkey. My team stumbled upon a field of mines, and we lost a few people. I wasn’t injured, thankfully, but I was one of the only ones left. I’m here until I’m put with another team and sent back in. The situation isn’t getting much better. The Syrian government is still bombing civilians, and rebel forces are growing. Our job isn’t clear, but we’re trying to help the rebels. That means we’re on the defensive.
I heard that my dad was sent to Pakistan, where some conflicts have been stirring on the Indian border. I don’t think it’s anything too serious, thankfully. We’re a little out of touch in Syria. Getting to Istanbul is always a relief, though. I’ll be here for at least a month, so you can send me a letter and I’ll get it.
I still have some of the pictures you sent me a few years ago. I have the first one you sent, the picture of you and Kara, and the picture of you on the beach. They put a smile on my face while I’m out here.
I was very happy to get your letter when I arrived. I’m sorry I’m replying so long after you sent it. It’s great that Kara and Lena are together now. Your sister is growing up so fast! By now, she’s a freshman in college. Did she go to Stanford or Columbia? I’ve been dying to know. And Sara — is she still okay? I think she would be a formidable opponent for me. But, I am a soldier, so I think that I would win.
Your ambitions are amazing and I believe that you can achieve all that you want to. In the way that you have always believed in me, I believe in you, Alex. You can do great things. I know you can.
That’s all for now,
November 8, 2018
I was so worried about you all this time. It was such a relief to get your letter. Please try to be careful out there. I know that’s hard, but please. I’m glad to hear that you weren’t hurt. I’m sorry about your team. It must have been really terrifying out there. Were you scared? I’m sure you were, but you are brave, so I know that you could handle it. Both you and your dad are in my thoughts.
I’m glad my old pictures make you smile. I’m not sure if I look the same or different. Probably just older and more stressed. I am close to finishing my bioengineering degree, and I have begun premed. I have a long road ahead of me. Basically all my time now is spent studying, though I’m figuring out how to manage it. Kara has been really helpful through it all.
Yes, Kara did choose Stanford. She is still with Lena, and they are sickeningly cute. We live in an apartment together just outside of campus, so I’m stuck with them for at least twelve hours every day. Sara and I broke up, but don’t worry, we’re still friends. We just both knew that we weren’t right for each other. She lives in the apartment, too. We help each other out with girls. It’s kind of funny, actually. Sara is one of my best friends, and I’m so happy that that’s all we are.
Hope to hear from you soon,
November 16, 2018
This is the last letter I write to you before I am sent back to Syria. I am headed to the city with the most conflict. Tensions are high and they need someone to get the women and children out of the city.
I’m not going to lie. I am scared.
I see all these people return from the fray battered and bloodied. Some don’t survive. I don’t know what is waiting for me, but I know that it isn’t good. I’m doing my best, though, I really am. It’s hard not to be terrified.
There are a lot of things in life that I regret. I regret not having a normal life, I regret not hugging my mother enough, I regret not trying different foods. I regret not following my heart. That is my biggest regret. I chose to be selfless and to give up the one person whose feelings really mattered to me. I gave up you, for reasons that may or may not have been good, and that changed the course of both of our lives. I cannot say if it was for better or for worse.
What I can say is this: you are the most important person in my life, Alex Danvers. From the first letter you sent me, to the second I heard your voice, you were going to be the only person that mattered. You helped me more than you know. All these years that I have been training or fighting, your hope has driven me to get where I am. I cannot articulate how much you truly mean to me. If I never write to you again, I just want you to know that I love you; I loved you when I was still young, and I love you now.
I want you to be the greatest doctor there is. I want you to go to India and perform surgery there. I want you to find love and have the perfect life you’ve always dreamed of. You deserve the world, Alex. Go out and take it.
In two days I will be on my way to Syria. By the time you get this letter, I will be on the front lines, following my orders. Just know that you are always in my heart.
She set the letter down on her bed and cried. Maggie was somewhere in Syria, fighting, dying, and Alex could do nothing.
The girl she loved was halfway across the world and Alex might never hear from her again.
All of the feelings that she had hidden away, trapped tightly in a jar inside her mind, broke free and consumed Alex in a moment. Her body was stiff with fear and she wracked with sobs. She had spent so long hating Maggie, then trying to forget how much she felt for the girl. It didn’t make sense. Alex was a scientist, was going to be a doctor. She was smart, meticulous, practical. Yet she was hopelessly in love with a girl whom she had never met, a girl she had been writing letters to since she was seventeen.
Nothing about it was realistic or practical. Maybe that was just how it was supposed to be.
She wasn’t sure how long she really cried. It might have been hours. But when she stopped, her throat was raw and her eyes were puffy. She couldn't bring herself to care.
A knock on her door startled her, and she cleared her throat before calling out weakly for the person to enter. It was Kara, a cup of tea in her hand and a worried look on her face.
“Alex, you should come see this.”
It was dark outside the apartment windows. Lena was huddled on the sofa, brow furrowed behind her large black glasses. Sara was on the floor underneath a blanket, staring at the television screen. Kara handed Alex the cup of tea before taking the remote and turning up the volume.
“Massive explosions in Aleppo, Syria have decimated the city. An estimated thirteen-thousand people are dead or injured, including two hundred American soldiers who were trying to evacuate the city…”
Alex tuned the rest out. She was only aware of warm liquid splashing on her toes and a sick feeling in her stomach. The three girls stared at her in concern, their looks nauseating. She wobbled, stepping forward onto broken glass that she barely felt.
She stumbled down the hall and to the bathroom, images of destruction and rubble flashing through her mind.
Alex fell to the floor in front of the toilet and threw up.
Tears dripped from her eyes and blood ran from the bottoms of her feet.
Kara was in front of her, saying something that she couldn’t hear.
She blacked out and saw warm brown eyes and a dimpled smile.
Maggie. Maggie. Maggie.
It was Christmas Day at the Danvers house. The traditions were the same, as they had been for Alex’s entire life: gifts at six in the morning, breakfast around the fire, movies in pajamas, some naps, then a nice dinner. Kara always loved the celebrations, and Alex did too. But this year, she had barely left her room.
Sara and Kara had tried to get her out of bed, but she had refused. It was a wonder that she had aced all of her finals. Ever since the fateful night in November, she had drank too much and slept too much. Kara, Lena, and Sara were doing their best to hold her together, get her up for class. They made her eat and brushed her hair and hugged her when she cried.
It was the hardest on Kara. Alex had always been the one to take care of Kara, especially right after her parents died. Seeing Alex so broken was such a painful experience for her. So, Sara took it upon herself to try and take on the Alex responsibilities, sparing Kara the pain of watching her sister throw everything away.
Alex lived in a haze.
She couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. The days melted together and swirled around in her beer bottles. Her schoolwork was forgotten in favor of drinking and reading Maggie’s old letters. She completely shut down — stopped thinking, stopped talking.
“Alex, honey, come on. Dinner is almost ready. You need to get up,” Eliza insisted. Seeing her daughter in such pain made her want to cry. “Kara said you showered. She picked out a nice dress for you.”
Alex didn’t respond, just stared out the window. It was a stormy night in Midvale. Alex imagined that the thunder was a bomb, crumbling buildings and tearing apart her heart.
“Alex, I’ll help you get dressed,” Kara offered, stepping into the room. She was wearing her casual red dress, the one that Lena liked, and the necklace Lena gave her for Christmas. “Here.” Kara brought a nice black dress out of the closet and set it on the bed next to Alex. She pulled her sister up and took off her clothes, pulling the dress over her head. Alex just let Kara finish, never meeting her eyes. “You look beautiful.”
The dress fit well, but Alex was still too thin for Kara’s liking. As much as they had gotten her to eat, it wasn’t enough. Kara dashed to the bathroom and came back with some make up.
“You look wonderful, Alexandra,” Eliza said. Alex looked at her but didn’t say anything.
Kara finished her make up and smiled at the result. Alex couldn’t stand to look in the mirror, so she just followed her mother out and to the dining room. Lena and Sara were already there, setting the table. Jeremiah was still in the kitchen.
“Alex, sit next to me,” Sara called softly, and she pointed to the spot where Alex was to sit. Alex nodded and did as she was asked. The others finished setting the table, and before long all the food was out. Sara sat next to Alex, glass of white wine in hand. Alex reached for an open bottle of red, but Lena snatched it away quickly.
“Alex,” she warned, a glare in her green eyes. Of the three girls, Lena was the most stern, because she knew exactly how stubborn Alex could be.
Everyone sat at the table, and Kara stood for a toast.
“I am so happy to have all of you in my life. This is our second Christmas together as a whole family, and I have loved every minute of it. Jeremiah and Eliza, I will forever be grateful to have you as my adoptive parents. Sara, you have been so much of a sister to me and I can’t thank you enough. Lena, I love you so much and I’m glad that you’ve become family, too. And Alex,” Kara continued, looking to her sister, “I know things have been really tough for you lately, and I just want you to know that I’m always, always here for you the way you were for me. I love you.”
“Merry Christmas!” Lena exclaimed, raising her glass.
“Merry Christmas!” everyone but Alex repeated. They all drank, then began digging into the food. Alex didn’t move, but Sara was careful to add a good amount of everything to Alex’s plate. Alex refused to touch her food.
They were all eating when a knock at the front door sounded. Eliza looked up in confusion and glanced around. Her eyes landed on Alex’s untouched plate and she sighed.
“Alex, if you aren’t going to eat, would you mind getting the door?” Eliza asked. Alex shrugged before standing from the table. Everyone eyed her with concern before she left.
The dining room was out of sight of the front door, but close enough that Alex could hear her family murmuring behind her. She sighed before reaching out and yanking the door open, letting a blast of chilled air inside the door.
Standing on the porch was a small, tired frame covered in camouflage, with rich brown eyes and a soft, dimpled smile.
Alex gasped, her heart beating for the first time in a month. Those eyes belonged to a ghost, that smile long gone, lost in the rubble of a faraway country.
Without a word, Maggie surged forward and pressed her lips to Alex’s. That was all the spark that Alex needed, and suddenly she was filled with life again. They stumbled back, and Maggie’s strong arms steadied them before they crashed onto the floor. There was something about the softness of Maggie’s lips, the way her arms circled Alex’s waist, that made Alex's knees weak.
Maggie’s tears mixed with Alex’s and ran into their kiss, turning it from sweet to salty. Alex’s hands ran over a toned body, making sure that it was real, that Maggie was real and in front of her. Maggie pulled back, gasping for air, and her brown eyes met Alex’s.
“You’re so much more beautiful in person, Danvers.” Maggie’s gaze was reverent as she scanned Alex, finding the person that she had known and loved, but had not known and not loved.
“H-how? You were in… I though you had…” Alex trailed off. Her words failed her then, and she cried more, small sobs shaking through her.
“I’m okay. I made it out. I’ll explain that later,” Maggie said. She ran her hands through Alex’s hair as the girl cried. “I’m so sorry. I’m here, Alex. I’m so sorry.”
“Oh my God,” Kara gasped from behind them. “Oh my God! You’re Maggie!” Maggie laughed and pulled away to greet Kara, but Alex’s firm hand held her in place. She wouldn’t let her go any further. Maggie just kissed Alex’s cheek and extended her right hand.
“Yeah, I’m Maggie Sawyer. You must be Kara. It’s nice to finally meet you.” The two shook hands, and Alex pressed further into Maggie’s side. Kara pulled the two of them into the living room and closed the front door, shutting out the rain. “You’ve grown up so much since the last picture I got of you.” She settled down onto the sofa as Kara did the same. Alex settled next to Maggie, though Maggie pulled her half on top of her.
“What’s going on?” Eliza called. By then, the rest of the family had gotten up and were moving into the living room to see what was going on.
“Maggie’s here!” Kara called. Sara and Lena emerged, followed by Eliza and Jeremiah. Maggie gently moved Alex to the sofa and squeezed her hand.
“I have to get up, now, but I’m not going anywhere,” she whispered to Alex before standing. “Mr. and Mrs. Danvers, it’s nice to meet you.” She shook hands with the adults, teary smiles on their faces.
“Thank you for your service, Maggie,” Jeremiah said.
“It’s good to see you in one piece,” Eliza added from beside her husband.
Next, the two girls stepped up to greet Maggie.
“So you’re the infamous Maggie,” Sara drawled, a bit menacingly. “Sara Lance.”
“Ah, you’re Sara. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“And I, you,” Sara said. Her blue eyes were hard but fiery. Maggie was a little intimidated at that.
“Lena Luthor,” the dark-haired girl greeted, extending her hand.
“Kara’s girlfriend.” Lena smiled and nodded. “I’m sorry to turn up unannounced, but I just got back to the States and this was the first place I could think to go.”
“What happened?” Alex asked quietly. It was the first her family had heard her speak in weeks. Maggie grimaced.
“You all should probably sit down.”
So they did. Maggie returned to Alex’s embrace, detailing her horrific story. She was just outside the blast area when the bombs went off. She managed to save one hundred or so children, but she was knocked out by the falling rubble before she could help more. She was found with a concussion and a bad back injury. In Istanbul, they discovered that she had limited movement in her legs, bordering on paralysis. The surgeons did everything they could to save her legs. Thankfully, after a month of physical therapy, she was able to walk, but she had to be discharged from the army.
“They asked where they could send me, so I said California, and here I am,” Maggie finished. Alex’s grip on her hand was tight and her head was on her shoulder.
“Well, you can stay with us for as long as you want,” Eliza offered. “After all that, I’m sure you need some good food and rest.”
“That would be amazing. Thank you so much,” Maggie said, eyes watery.
“It’s the least we can do,” Jeremiah insisted. He stood from his chair. “Now, let’s finish dinner. Maggie, we’ll get you something to eat.”
For the first time in a month, Alex was able to eat. She was able to talk, to smile. She kept her hand laced with Maggie’s for the rest of the night.
The door shut behind Alex. Everyone else had gone to bed. Maggie was staying in Alex’s room for the night, until Eliza could make her up a bed in the living room. Alex whirled on Maggie and pressed her against the door, lips crashing into Maggie’s. Maggie’s hands were firm on her hips. Too soon, Alex pulled away, eyes soft.
“You kissed me.”
“You said you loved me.”
“You— you broke my heart for my own good, then you went to war after telling me you loved me, and I thought you died, and now you’re here,” Alex said, voice rising. She pressed away from the door and away from Maggie, running hands through her hair. “You’re here and you’re real and you’re kissing me.”
Maggie stared at Alex, lips swollen and parted, eyes wide and vulnerable and so, so tired.
“Is that okay?” Maggie asked softly.
Alex stared at Maggie, hands shaking and eyes hard, her walls up.
Maggie kissed Alex, and Alex kissed Maggie. Their clothes were off before either realized, Alex’s smooth skin running against Maggie’s scarred flesh. Her stitches were still fresh, so Alex was gentle, pressing light kisses to the threads on the small of Maggie’s back. Maggie squirmed where she stood, naked and bare before this girl that she had known for years but had only just met.
“You’re here,” Alex whispered as she kissed down Maggie’s chest.
“I am,” Maggie answered as she threaded her hands in Alex’s hair. She let Alex touch her, love her, feel her everywhere. She wasn’t sure if Alex needed it, or if she needed it, but they both wanted it so terribly.
It was slow and soft at first, then hard and needy, until Alex collapsed on top of Maggie. Maggie kissed her arms and hands and shoulders, her ribs and hips, until Alex was trembling with feeling.
“I love you,” Alex said, voice loud in a quiet room. Her forehead was pressed to Maggie’s, her fingers tracing a deep scar on her side. Maggie breathed in the scent of home, and love, and Alex.
“I love you,” Maggie whispered back. She pulled out of their embrace, hearing Alex whimper at the loss. “Shh, I’ll be right back.” Maggie walked over to her duffle bag, the army green standing out in the dark. She unzipped the bag and reached for the first item, knowing exactly what it was. She pulled the sweatshirt over her head and slipped back into bed, returning to Alex’s arms.
“What is that?” Alex asked softly. She pulled away to look at it, seeing the faded letters and tattered red. “Is that my Stanford sweatshirt?”
“It is,” Maggie answered, a tired smile on her face.
“You kept it?” Alex gasped. She ran her hands over all the little holes in the worn fabric, her heart swelling.
“I wore it almost every night,” Maggie admitted. “I can’t sleep without it.” Alex kissed her then, long and soft, fingers reaching under the hem of the sweatshirt.
“I love you,” she whispered. “I love you, I love you, I love you. My soldier.”
“Your soldier,” Maggie repeated with a nod of her head.