Inked in History-Letters between a wife and husband caught in the tides of change.

Submitted into Contest #212 in response to: Write a story in the form of a letter, or multiple letters back and forth.... view prompt


Adventure Historical Fiction Suspense

The First Letter.

Lyon France, July 15, 1989. 

Thaddeus, you're going to divorce me. I'm not on the train to Lyon. I'm in Barcelona. Now, before you call the lawyers and have the papers drawn up—I know I deserve it, and I swore the last time was the last time, but let me explain—I saw my father. I can feel you rolling your eyes, and I get it, but I know it was him this time. It was him!

was getting on the train to Lyon, and I was early at the Milan Porta Garibaldi terminal, so early that I had time to peruse the promenade. Not that it makes a difference, as you're undoubtedly fuming so hard right now that this letter is shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, but I was thinking of you and looking for a last-minute gift. Now, I will have to find two, one for missing your UN speech and another for missing your birthday. Sorry. It's unavoidable.

I won't be back in time, and I can't even think of you having to cancel dinner at Restaurant Paul Bocuse. I can hear you moaning, "But it's Bowww-Cooo-esss!" I will make it up to you. I don't know how or when, but I will. Don't cancel!  Take Henny or Muriel; they've worked so hard for you—treat them! Oh, hell, Thad! I feel so sick about disappointing you that I even permit you to take Bridgit (gag!) Yes, that was as hard to write as it was to say! She worships you, she's a goddess, she will look amazing, and Bocuse might even comp your entire bill if she dresses like I know she will! 

You would throw yourself off a cliff before you'd cheat on me, so trust isn't an issue. Go! Dine! Indulge! I will come back to you, but I don't know when. I have to follow that man. I must confront my father!" 

Now, the other shocking news. After seeing my father leave the ticket booth, he disappeared into the crowd before I spotted which train he was boarding. But, like all Italian officials—money talks. I bribed the ticket clerk to tell me which train my father was destined for.

It was for Barcelona. Naturally, I exchanged my ticket for boarding the one bound for Spain. I searched desperately, wildly, through the mass in the terminal, and then I found him—my father.

Only this time, I couldn't see his face on account of the crowd, but I heard his voice! I know it was him! I overheard him telling another passenger he was going to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls! And that's where I am now. Well almost. I've chartered a car and driver from Barcelona to Pamplona. I'm out of time and rushed this letter at the last minute, posting it in Barcelona. 

Since I don't know where I will be, I can't give a post address, and you'll be all over France on our (supposed to be) food tour! Write to Aunt Sophia, and I will stop in Milan and gather myself before coming to you in Paris or returning to New York. 

I beg for your faith and forgiveness.

Forever yours, 


July 29, 1989, Milan, Italy.

Cecilia. I'm worried about you. I received your letter dated July 15 and have been waiting to hear from you since. I pray this finds you in good health, mentally and physically. I haven't forgotten the last time you went on a cross-country chase after the phantom of your father only to find him to be a faint look-alike who turned out to be a chemical engineer from Maryland. You harassed that poor man, followed him home, demanding he provide witnessed proof of identity. 

How far will you chase this man? It is not a ladylike business to pursue strange men across foreign countries, insinuating you are their abandoned offspring. At the same time, you leave your husband unattended and try the last of his patience! Do you have no sense of self-preservation? What if this man lacks the empathy and temperament of that Maryland engineer? 

Come home, Cecilia. I've returned to Lyon. It's glorious. The food! My God, there's no place in the world like this! The bread, the farms, the things they can do with a pig! The people here find Americans rather disdainful but mostly ignore us—looking down their noses, but you can't get enough of this place! 

I did not take Bridgit to Bocuse. However, she did pine for it rather embarrassingly. I did as you suggested and took Henny. The descriptions of the dishes lost the poor woman, and I thought she was going to faint when the waiter presented the Bresse Chicken in a Pig's Bladder à la Mère Fillioux! You would have loved the Sea Bass en croùte; the choron hollandaise alone was a miracle of emulsion—a mounted butter sauce that would have ruined your diet for a month but worth every spoonful! I'm telling you, there's no place in the world like this for food! 

I have booked our stay until 15 August. Please come. For the love of God, let the ghost of your father pass and come live! I fear nothing good will come of this chase. And if it turns out to be him, then what? What will you do? Do you have the nerve to call the authorities? What proof would you have? Or, even worse, if you ascertain his identity as the absent father and still presently sought criminal, will you turn away? Will that make you an accomplice? 

Think, Cecilia! If not for yourself, then for us! We have a life, a good one. Come back to me so we can make it brilliant. 

I will be touring the winery's farms and trying desperately to invite myself to an ancient pig butchering and feasting tradition. Calling will be futile during daylight hours. If you can't come, then write.

Post to 20, quai Gailleton, 69002, Lyon. Room 92. 

August 15, Cecilia, we leave Paris for New York. The flight is at 7:45 p.m. 

Please be okay. Please come back to me. 


August 9, Geneva, Switzerland. 

Thaddeus! It's him. I have found my father! Of all the scenarios where I have imagined finding him, the Running of the Bulls was never one—and yet, that is precisely where it happened! Now, I am sure you are asking yourself, if this earth-shattering revelation occurred in Spain, then what in good graciousness am I doing in Switzerland? Well, let's go back to Pamplona! 

The place was a madhouse! The streets were packed; a throng of bodies singing, chanting, a rising wave of hysteria! I pushed my way to the walls near Calle Estafeta, desperate to spy my father; my only aid in identifying him was the hope he'd be wearing the same sued long coat and the silver Fedora with the black silk band.

Calle Estafeta is where the beasts make their final turn before entering the Callejon and into the arena. The cheers of the crowd reverberated off the stone walls of buildings. Then, the crescendo of voices hushed so they could hear the clopping of hooves echoing from down the street. The knocking of the bulls stampeding atop the cobblestone avenue sparked an explosion of cheers, then a hand grasped me by the elbow, and a voice at my ear asked, "How did you find me?"

I turned and saw the fedora and looked into my father's eyes.

Stunned, I asked him, "You know who I am?"

"Of course, Cecilia. You're my daughter."

You can imagine how I was frozen with shock. I couldn't think of what to say. I felt weak-legged and on the verge of tears, but before I could utter another word, a wave of spectators rushed to the wall.

A very narrow, dark-skinned man who smelled of fish and onions slipped between my father and me. I saw the man pass a small, black pouch to my father, who, with a twist of the wrist, made it vanish inside his jacket. 

His grip on my arm tightened, "It's not safe here. We must leave. Come with me." I didn't know what was happening, but what was I supposed to do? After two decades of wondering and searching, I finally find my father, who tells me it's unsafe. It was a split-second decision—go or stay? For a moment, I hesitated. I won't lie and say I wasn't scared, Thad. I was. 

My father turned back, looked at me, and said, "Nothing you've been told is true. You can come with me now, and I'll explain everything on the train, or you can be satisfied at seeing me once more but never again."

"The train to where?" I asked him. 


Thad, sweetheart, husband, if you love me at all, beg you for patience, trust, and understanding. My father's story, which he delivered in barely more than a whisper during the train ride, is astounding, and even though I have no reason to believe a word of it—I do. I believe him. And because I do, I must heed his warning. I cannot share all the details; I can only say that my father did not commit treason! 

Now comes the big ask! Can you see it in your heart to support me? I'm in tears, fearing you'll respond with a curt no! And you'll be done with me once and for all, but I will not make it to Paris for the return flight to New York. I'm in this now, and I've got to see it through! I must, even if it costs me you. Twenty years, Thad. Twenty years, I've needed to know why my father walked away from us and disappeared, and damnit to hell if I'm not going to get those answers!

We will only be in Geneva for a short while to align his preparations. Then we will be in Poland on 17 August and Hungary two days later. 

Thaddeus, my love, my husband, my best friend, please think hard about what I mean to you and what this means to me. Then, and only then, write to me. I will be staying at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus in Budapest. Erzsébet tér 7-8., 1051, Budapest. 

I cannot divulge details, but I will tell you that if you want me and are willing to consider a different life, then be in Berlin by the first week of November. You will see what we have done. The world will see. 

I await your words with terrifying trepidation. 

Forever yours, 


August 14, Paris. 

Cecilia. Your letter did not bring me the comfort I had hoped. Do I believe and trust you? Yes, of course. Why would you lie to me, and you're not mentally unbalanced? But do I believe this story, his story? That's asking more of me than I can provide. Your father was a decorated veteran who moved into the intelligence community. He went rogue and took state secrets with him. Our government charged him with treason. Those facts are not to be taken lightly, and now you ask me to cast all of that aside and believe a version that seems fantastical? Not to mention gravely short of details! 

 I also do not care for the barely veiled ultimatum. In turn, I am forced to deliver one of my own. You will abandon this quest to recover the lost years with your father. His business is not yours, and your place is here with me—not the other way around. I will not traipse across the globe on a goose chase of maybes. You will stop this now, and you will come home to me. If you do that, we can forget that the man who left you and your family now threatens to ruin ours. 

I am not a bargaining chip in your father's spy games. I am your husband, goddamnit, and you will act accordingly! 

Your subsequent communication, letter, or phone better be to confirm your flight home. 

Your husband,


November 15, Berlin.

Dear Thaddeus,

I hope you are well. 

Unless you have shuttered behind walls, with curtains drawn and the television disconnected, you must know I have not lied to you. The Berlin Wall has fallen, and the collapse of communism and the USSR is next. 

It began in Hungary with the Pan-European Picnic and the removal of the border fence between Hungary and Austria. Then Poland, with Mazowiecki, the first non-communist elected in over 40 years.

In early October, the Hungarian government reorganized towards abandoning a communist government and restoring a multi-party democracy. Before the end of the month, elected President Szuros officially declared the country as the Hungarian Republic—exactly 33 years after the 1956 revolution. The first week of November saw the communist government abandon East Germany, and the people rejoiced. Two days later, a half-million people joined together, and the Wall fell. 

The Bulgarian communist government was the next domino, with Poland next and Czechoslovakia following, with demonstrations beginning within days of my writing this letter. 

These are things my father has been working toward over those 20 years. These are things I have committed to now. Freedom. The end of communism, the end of oppression and dictatorships.

Democracy is my purpose, and my father is my teacher. 

I could never have predicted this path or that I would be on it. I am sorry, Thad. I love you today as much as I ever have. But this is bigger than one person or two. There is more at stake. I am not the woman you married, not the anxious and broken little girl desperately searching for her father and answers—I have found both. 

The world is still a complicated and treacherous place with so much that we don't see. I am committed to sharing the light. 

You can send any documents or correspondence to the Geneva address. It will be collected and brought to me from time to time. As for returning to America, I will sometimes be required to do so in my new capacity, but we do not have time to pursue the exoneration of my father's accused guilt. There is too much work to do that is of much greater importance. 

Thaddeus, my beautiful husband, there will be no more letters or addresses. I will not stand in the way of your happiness or interfere with your future in any way. I wish you the best but only hoped that you would have come to Berlin. The world had to change. I am on the tide. 

If you change your mind, Thad, and want me, I will remain yours and give myself to no other, but not forever. You see the story now, and you will know where to go to find me. 

I desperately hope you do. 

All my love, 


August 25, 2023 20:05

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