They sat across the kitchen table, probing the dense silence between them. She clutched a mug of tea. He rested his hands palms-down on the table.
“This is my last night,” she said.
“I know,” he replied. “I am painfully aware of that.”
She sighed. “You say you want me to stay. You say I belong here. But you have to show me.”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes. Instead he studied, for the thousandth time, the knuckles and veins of his hands. “Show you?”
“Show me why I should stay. Give me ten good reasons why I belong here with you.”
He looked at her squarely now. “You want a list?”
“I want proof. I’m leaving at seven in the morning to catch my plane. Give me ten good reasons why I belong here, or I’m gone.”
An empty mug, her chair askew, and then the creak and click of her bedroom door.
After a blank half hour, he set to work. He chewed a pen and scribbled on his paper, writing and crossing out, doodling and dreaming. Nothing. Nothing she would accept as a reason.
He began poems and sketches, wrote names and places, dreamed up flow-charts and ransom notes. He swore and he wept, but nothing came to him. Nothing would turn her around and bring her back.
Hours later, he woke. His face was flattened on the notepad on the table. He wobbled out of the kitchen and stood outside her door. What could possibly persuade this woman to realign her compass, redraw her maps and turn south again?
He sat on the floor and waited. At seven o’clock, her door opened and she stood above him. “Time’s up. Anything to tell me?”
He spread his hands. “I’m sorry.”
Later, as the front door closed, he took up his pen again. On the front of an envelope he wrote her London address. On the back he wrote his name. And inside he slipped a piece of paper, on which he had written ten words: “You smiled when you saw this letter was from me.”