4:08 p.m.

The flowers arrive just before noon. Eight red roses, surrounded by a dozen white, garnished with fern leaves and baby's breath. Your hands shake when you tip the driver. So much so, in fact, that you nearly drop the vase carrying it to the dining table. As pregnancy progresses and you reach your third trimester, you become more and more inefficient and clumsy. But this time, it is more than loosening joints and an altered center of balance.

The roses dominate the room, vibrant and beautiful at the height of their symbolic glory. The accompanying card sits on top of the table, unopened. You can't bring yourself to read it, afraid that it will contain some cleverly worded note in his handwriting. Afraid that it won't. Could it be a joke? You want so badly to know what is inside. Is this to be Mulder's last message, delivered from the grave?

You have struggled to face the reality, but the reality is, there is no closure, as others have experienced when their missing had been returned and claimed. You didn't want to believe that he might not survive. You still don't. It wasn't supposed to end this way.

When the phone rings at last, it is both a dreaded and a welcomed interruption. Agent Doggett, against his own wishes, confirms what you need to know. The flowers were charged to Agent Mulder's personal credit card, the order placed nine months in advance, with the same florist he used to send flowers to his mother's grave in Raleigh.


Everything is colorless. White. The ground is covered in old, packed snow. Recent rain has left a slippery crust of ice over the top, which slows your progress as you make your way to the space, roses in hand and the card tucked away safely in your coat pocket. You still can't believe it as you stare at the name on the headstone, shiny and new. Your partner. Your friend. Your...

The roses stand out in extreme opposition to the smooth marble, their deep red and white blossoms a stark contrast to the cold stone marker. Tears pool and spill from the corners of your eyes before you can swipe them away with the back of a gloved finger. The baby chooses this time to move, struggling within you, against the too-tight quarters.

He will never know his father.

Plucking a single red rose from the vase, you brush the blossoming flower against your cheek. Remembering when he touched you there. The velvet petals are soft against your lips, and you know that for a brief time, the briefest of time, he was yours, and you were his. You slip your hand into your coat pocket, fingering the card's straight edge, assured that it remains in place. This may be his last message, but it is not his last contribution. Part you, part him, it is the greatest, most precious gift of all. You lay your hand over your swollen abdomen, trying to connect with the life inside. Your baby. His legacy.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Mulder," you whisper softly. You pause, as if he might whisper it back, or maybe send it whistling down the wind, but there is nothing but silence. Slowly, you and your rose make your way back through the frozen, dormant whiteness. Back to the world that awaits.

1994199519961997199819992000 • 2001