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Subject: Chapter 235 - Part 1

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Date Posted: Monday, April 10, 07:04:42am
In reply to: Katherine Gilbert 's message, "Dreams in the Dark (chapters 221--?)" on Monday, February 13, 07:24:07am

Dreams in the Dark (235/?)
by Katherine Gilbert

It was a festive time, for most, one of the weeks leading up to Christmas. The wreaths and decorated trees were up, the dime and department store windows filled with lights and wondrous displays, the lines of children long, as they waited to greet Santa and tell him all of their wishes. In America's greatest cities, everything seemed like a celebration just waiting to happen. But for Michael and Nikita, there was little in the way of joy.

They were in New York, finally, had all the festive decorations and holiday fervor surrounding them, humming quietly under the surface of a metropolis at work. But the only real happiness for them was in the fact that they were at last on stable ground, no rails--for a little while--moving along beneath them. Nikita could breath, could move under her own power. Now, if only that meant that her lingering illness would pass away, there would be some blessing for them both.

It was to the woman's horror, however, to discover that the morning sickness continued--if not as severe as before, still an unsettling threat. It really didn't seem fair. They had made it through not only the long journey but also a several-hour stopover in Chicago, which had been filled to capacity with radio interviews and press. Her husband had nearly had to hold her up, as they had boarded the *Twentieth Century Limited*, waving to the photographers as happily as she could manage, despite her shaky legs and desperately-pale skin. She was only glad that the photos would be in black-and-white, wouldn't show her current deficiencies in such great detail. Maybe that would make the two of them appear relatively normal now.

Still, this vague blessing--and the fact that they had survived this last leg of the journey somewhat intact--wasn't enough for either she or her husband. While the more intense part of her illness had thankfully ceased, once she was finally on solid ground, its unending threat still lingered; she gazed up to Michael lovingly, wishing their world were easier. But this was not, by far, the worst part of their day.

This fact ached in them, even if there was no point in fighting it--the inevitable finally coming to pass. It had apparently been sometime during their days on the rails that Madeline had leaked the story, Michael's supposed desire to fight being broadcast to the world; he came over to his beloved one, kissing her head tenderly, willing her his strength, before pacing nervously away once more. And it was the impact of this story they would now have to face in full.

They were already doing their best, were preparing themselves for yet another interview, biding their time before it came; it wasn't easy, their thoughts enormous, pressing. She sighed with them, her head dropping. But they had had to face much worse threats, many times before.

This truth wasn't the comfort it could have been, both their minds circling--the last few days difficult, at best. It had been bad enough to come off the train in Chicago to find so many reporters waiting, flashbulbs at the ready, when all either of them wanted was to get Nikita some much-needed air. Still, to discover the story the men were after was far worse; her head shook. If only either of them had gotten used to it yet.

This wasn't likely to happen, their pain over his enforced desertion lingering. And to have Hedda's column nearly slapped in their faces by Zalman--who clearly hadn't been apprized of this upcoming change--had only made it that much worse.

It was difficult to forget the woman's words now, every one of them haunting--seared into their brains--as they had spent the hours before their next train going through their furious paces with reporters hungry for a story. It was her usual style--all insinuation, little comfort. But there was no reason for any sort of prey to expect tenderness from a devouring beast. It read:

Hello, my dear readers! There are so many tidbits I want to tell you today I hardly know where to begin. Still, this one outshines them all. If only it were less odd.

This piece is about our favorite pair of newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Samuelle. There have been a lot of rumors flying lately, but they were so strange Hedda simply couldn't bring herself to share them with you. Still, now it's official. Brace yourselves, my dears. Just three months after their wedding, and a month and a half since the announcement of their coming bundle of joy, it's come to Hedda's ears that the great Samuelle might not be around to see the birth of his future son or daughter. That's right, my sweet readers--he's going to join the army!

Now, this is certainly strange enough news--*much* odder, I think you'll agree, for its timing--but there's more, I'm afraid. It won't be our glorious boys he'll be with but the British--or even the Canadians; the details are unclear. Premier has explained that he wants to support the current war effort on the continent, wishing to protect his, and his wife's, original homelands. Or, at least, that's what they say.

Now, I think you'll agree, this is all rather strange. And, while Hedda appreciates and respects any man's right to defend himself and his family, I *do* have a message for Mr. Samuelle: Michael, my dear, you're an American now. It's not some other country you should be worried with but your own. If our government has seen fit not to enter this current little fracas the world seems to be involved in, that should be enough for you. Let the world deal with the world's problems; *we'll* deal with *our own*. And, if Mr. Roosevelt should see fit at some point to involve us with everyone else's minor squabbles, we'll need you and every other red-blooded American male ready to fight for *us*! That's what it means to be an American.

But this is only part of what I want to say just now. The other is far more serious. Michael, you're a father now, not a bachelor. You'll soon have a little Samuelle to look after, as well as your dear wife. If you see fit to run off on them this early . . . well, Hedda hardly knows what to say. Perhaps it would have been better, if you had just stayed unwed.

These were the less-than-supportive words which had plagued them for days and miles. All the way to New York, through hours of sickness and worry, they had rung over and over again in their heads; Nikita's eyes closed, tired from the weight of it all. There seemed no passage away from any of it anymore.

This fact was made no better, either, by what they were about to do. Soon, they would have to go on the air live, would be giving what was supposed to be a cheery, pre-Christmas message--but it was clear, from all that had gone before, that it would be anything but. They would be grilled about Michael's reasons for leaving, open to every intimation about his desire to be rid of his wife and forthcoming child. The sigh went on. And then they would again have to defend a choice they had never made at all.

It was clear that there was no way out for them, this publicity tour quickly turning into a torture test by Madeline. Still, it was probably overly-optimistic to have hoped for anything else. The woman knew nothing except how to give pain; their eyes met, gazes pleading for strength. This was only another example of her nefarious skills.

They were caught in that gaze, wishing for anything to help them through, thankful only for the solitude--Andrew in some other room, doing a private interview. He had promised to support them, to say whatever he could to aid their cause--but it was unclear how effective this might be. Given that only the Broadway-savvy yet knew his name, there was no telling how many people would even be listening.

Still, they were in New York City now, the fact potentially aiding them. This new twist was certainly doing its best to undermine the importance of Andrew's introduction--but that was only of minor concern to the couple now; they looked up, as the door opened, an old ally coming to their aid. Perhaps this was all they could count on--because, Hedda had made it clear, few people in the outside world were going to be on their side just now.

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Chapter 235 - Part 2 (end of chapter 235)KatherineG.Monday, April 10, 07:06:59am

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