[ the postmark is from the day after, sent via the Pearson International post office. The elegant scrawl across the back reads: ]

                          0920’19 141520 20080120 03151204


     A flash of color tucked in among various stale pieces of paper. Credit card statement, ‘important life-changing document enclosed!!’, literature on the latest political endeavor. Mail she likely won’t open, or if she does it’s for the ritual of it alone. But it’s the card that catches her attention and she slides it to the front of the pile, squinting while she unlocks the door to her apartment, nudges it open with a shoulder.

     The corners are bent slightly, ink smeared along the bottom where the sequence number had been printed off-center. Maria runs a thumb along the softened edge, sets the mail on the kitchen table she doesn’t really use and goes about the rest of her evening routine while pointedly avoiding it. It’s an easy code, the simplest of ciphers ( that much is obvious, but she doesn’t really have the heart to figure it out just yet ).

     It’s later, when she’s sitting on the floor between the couch and the coffee table chewing her lip, CNN headlines scrolling across the muted television screen and that damn card is still in the back of her mind. She stands, slinks back into the kitchen with a pencil she’s taken from a drawer. Scrawling in the margins and making quick work of it, Hill lets the pencil drop, satisfied, before she returns to her laptop, the barest hint of a smile evident in the purse of her mouth.

                         ‘ Here too. ’


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