03 – On the Meaning Behind Mementos

Continued from Breaking the (Good) News.

“What do you have in that thing? A dead body?” Grissom asked as the two young men struggled to lug in Sara’s footlocker.

“Funny,” she replied with a humorless laugh. “Very funny. Besides weren’t you the one who said that a person could never have too many books?”

It looked as if Luis and Bernie might have been more than willing to challenge the veracity of that statement — if they had stuck around long enough. But they vanished even before Sara could attempt to make introductions. Grissom reasoned that they were probably afraid that she might find something else for them to move.

“By the way,” she said, flipping the lid open. “There is no way a bunch of almost complete strangers get to call you Gil when I had to wait seven years for that privilege.”

“Yes, dear,” came Grissom’s dutiful reply, focused as he was at peering over her shoulder.

Her trunk was just as neat as he expected it to be. It consisted of two compartments: the smaller one for clothes, while the larger held everything else, which in her case, appeared to consist mostly of books. A small jar of desiccant was jammed into one corner in order to take care of the ever-present damp that seemed to cling to everything.

“We do a lot of reading around here,” Sara supplied as he began to run his fingers along the spines of the mostly ragged paperbacks which had obviously seen better days.

“Like that is anything new,” he quipped and tired of squinting at the titles, pulled out his reading glasses and settled them on the end of his nose — an act that always made it difficult for Sara not to smile at the sight.

“ Beggars can’t be choosers?” he queried after a few minutes.

“It’s not that bad,” Sara countered evenly. “And if I remember correctly, you did once also tell me that I should read something other than crime books. Besides, I thought you were a fan of the classics.”

Grissom made no reply to this. He was far too busy studying one of the few hardcovers in her collection. It looked even more aged than the rest, but in slightly better condition; and while the title embossed in gilt letters was unfamiliar, the author was not. He gently wiggled the volume free.

Sara hadn’t realized what he was doing until it was too late and an envelope had already fluttered free from the pages. While she hurriedly bent to pick it up, Grissom was faster.

“Gil –” she began, not quite sure how to even begin to explain as he turned the envelope over to reveal her name and the partial address scribbled in his own handwriting on the reverse.

“Melville?” he questioned after a moment.

It wasn’t the query she was expecting, but she answered it anyway. “It’s not Shakespeare, but it made me think of you.”

His lips twitched slightly at this.

“I wasn’t snooping,” Sara suddenly insisted. “I swear. I mean The Complete Works of Shakespeare is a pretty obvious place for you.”

He didn’t say anything for a while, intent as he was on examining the letter. It was more worn than he remembered; the back flap more loose, as if it had been frequently opened and then shut again.

“Are you upset?” she asked, not quite sure how to read either his quiet or his expression.

His soft “No” wasn’t very illuminating, but when he handed the letter back to her, there was something more in his “It was always yours,” something beyond just tenderness.

Which was when Sara finally understood. Understood why he had so uncharacteristically left the book on her side of the bed.  Why the envelope had more than peeked out of the pages.

“You meant for me to find it,” she said, her voice slightly breathless at the realization.

Grissom for his part only grinned in that enigmatic way of his that she knew all too well — the one that would neither expressly confirm or deny and yet spoke volumes.

Sara shook her head and sighed. Running her thumb over the letter she said, “It’s beautiful. Why didn’t you send it?”

He seemed to be considering his response before saying, “Do you remember the inscription?”

“In the Shakespeare book?” Sara nodded.

“While I took your advice, it didn’t feel right. Sending it, I mean. I meant it. The letter. Meant all of it. But I – I guess I wished the words hadn’t had to be borrowed. That they had been mine — just mine alone.

“At the same time, I realized that it wouldn’t be all that long before I would see you again and figured that perhaps some things were just better said in person.

“Then things were different when I got back. Different in a good way,” he hurriedly qualified. “And there was so much I wanted to tell you. Only I never seemed to find the time or place. Or the courage.”

He took a deep breath before continuing. “Sara, I wish I knew why I always seem to have such a hard time expressing my feelings to you. I didn’t know then. I still don’t. And there is still so much I want to tell you.”

“You’re forgetting something,” Sara said softly. He waited patiently for her to go on. “The first part of that inscription — ‘When words are scarce –’”

“‘They are seldom spent in vain,’” he finished with a knowing half-smile and a nod.

He gently eased open the cover of The Encantadas so Sara could replace the letter, only to find the space already occupied.

“I wondered where that got to,” he said, extracting the single photograph. The last time he remembered seeing it was on his fridge, but that had been months ago now – just before she had left. He should have realized what had become of it.

Grissom had always been fond of that particular photo. It was of just the two of them, taken not long after they had first met at the Forensic Academy Conference more than a decade ago. While he still had a hard time imagining he had ever looked that young, Sara, Sara had been so vibrant, so radiant then.

But so much had changed since, for better and for worse.

He supposed they were both a little like that photograph with its dog-eared corners and frayed edges. Some of the luster had faded with time, the colors almost yellowed. And the picture bore, too, the creases of a snapshot much handled with fondness.

“That I will confess to taking,” Sara admitted with a measure of contrition. “I meant to make a copy and return it. I know it was selfish of me to just take it with out asking or telling you. But I guess I wanted something…”

“Happy?” Grissom supplied.

Sara nodded.

And something that still spoke of possibilities, she thought. Of the sort of possibilities not tempered by time and life and all its attendant chaos. Yes, she had wanted to hold onto that – to a bit of hope – and not just be left with that horribly hollow feeling her leaving had left her with.

“Yes,” she admitted. “Something happy to hold onto.”

He reached over and covered her hand with his. She peered down at them for a moment before saying, “I had forgotten all about that photo until I saw it on your fridge. You know I would never have pegged you for a sentimentalist, Gil.”

“It was the smile,” he said simply.

“What was?”

“The reason I kept it. Why it was on the fridge. Your smile. I missed it.”

At this, Sara couldn’t help but smile in reply.

“What I don’t remember,” she began, “is how on earth we ended up in Golden Gate Park in the first place.”

“Well, there were all those questions of yours,” Grissom replied, a hint of a tease in his voice. When her expression intimated that he was being incorrigible, he added with a touch more seriousness, “I think we just started talking and walking and I just followed you lead as I assumed you knew where we were going since you were the one who lived here at the time.”

“Goes to show what the illustrious Dr. Gil Grissom really knew,” Sara chuckled. “I never saw much more than the inside of the lab in those days.”

“And that changed how when you came to Vegas?” he asked.

She shot him a dirty look, which he promptly chose to ignore. So instead she asked him, “Why did you have your camera with you that day anyway? You’ve never struck me as the kind of person who likes to shoot a lot of cheesy this is where I went on my trip sort of photos.”

“It was strictly for business,” he replied. “Director Covallo wanted me to get some shots at the conference while I was there and I just happened to have it with me when I was with you.”

“It made you look like a tourist.”

“You didn’t seem to have any problems with tourists,” Grissom countered. “That young Japanese couple was really appreciative when you offered to stop and take their picture for them.”

Sara nodded. “So appreciative they insisted that they do the same for us.”

“Yeah.”

“And the guy kept saying, ‘Closer, closer.’”

“I think he thought we were –” Grissom’s voice trailed off slightly.

“Probably,” she agreed. “You did put your hand on my shoulder for the picture though.”

“You didn’t seem to mind.”

“Neither did you.”

“No.”

“And you kept the photo.”

Grissom nodded. “While risking playing into a stereotype, Japanese tourists do know how to take good pictures.”

Sara laughed. “But that wasn’t why you kept it.”

“Like I said, it was the smile.”

He was about to return the picture to the book, when Sara motioned that he should take it back.

“Keep it,” he insisted. “I don’t need it anymore.

“I have you.”

To which she grinned.

“See?” he said as if she had just proven his point.

Sara only beamed all the more before she leaned in and kissed him. It wasn’t a particularly long or heady sort of kiss. Instead it was rather light, gentle, almost breathy, but it was the first kiss she had initiated since he had arrived. It was that fact which gave it a sweetness and a pleasure all of its own.

When they pulled away, Grissom said, still smiling, “Perhaps I should think about getting a lock for my trunk.” When Sara pursed her lips, he added with a laugh, “As you do seem to have made a habit of appropriating things.”

However, the truth was that he was pleased, pleased that she had kept his letter, that she valued the photograph enough to take it. What he didn’t know was the extent to which she really had treasured them. For treasured them she had, just as she had cherished the thought and hope of someday seeing him again.

She wanted to tell him this. But perhaps there were some times when words were overrated. So instead she gave his hand one last squeeze and told him that she had something for him, before she began to rummage beneath a stack of neatly folded shirts until she withdrew a battered tea tin that like her books, had also obviously seen better days.

“We aren’t allowed to keep anything we find out in the field as it all has to be processed and catalogued,” she explained. “But anything that stumbles into camp is fair game. I know you prefer butterflies, but I thought these might interest you.”

Grissom’s eyes went wide as she opened the tin. Expertly pinned inside was a neat row of beetles each more spectacular than the last. Their colors seemed too vibrant, too brilliant to be real. The first one, barely as long as his thumb was wide was a glistening green, punctuated by watermelon-like stripes and a sunburst of red and black in the center. Beside it rested one even smaller. Its lacquered reddish brown hues had a wood-grained pattern to them. A beetle twice the size of either of the previous ones was a single shade of ruddy crimson while the fourth and final specimen was not only notable for its size, but for the shiny iridescence of its carapace whose brilliant emerald gradually gave way to bands of rainbow hues.

The collection was nothing short of breathtaking.

Sara was elated to see the wonder settle over Grissom’s features, glad to see that he was having a hard time containing his delight and also finding the words to express it. He gaped at her opened mouthed several times before he slowly closed the lid.

Once he was finally able to find his voice again, he said, “You do know that you can’t export specimens through the mail without a license?”

“Yeah.”

And in that moment he understood. Understood that he had not been the only one entertaining hopes of them seeing each other again.

There was nothing restrained about the kiss he gave her in reply.

Continued in Nightlife.

*******

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jenstogner
    Jun 23, 2009 @ 08:59:53

    I love how you captured their parity even when apart!

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