Saturday, July 5, 2014

Short Story: The Unopened Letter

Table in the Foyer

"What do you do when the only one who can make you stop crying is the one who is making you cry?" --Anonymous

The Unopened Letter
by CJ Heck

The letter came on Monday, over a week ago. Maggie had been absently wading through the morning's harvest of mail, as usual, on her lunch hour.

Predictably, it reaped the usual bills, flyers, and grocery store ads.  Suddenly she spotted the familiar masculine scrawl. Maggie was stunned.

After years of checking the mail, here was (just maybe) a pearl among the cow pies.

She marveled at how the letter felt as she held it in her hand and then wiped at a tear that was threatening a slow getaway down her cheek.

The letter sat on the cherry table in the foyer for nearly a week, mutely resting between the potted ivy and car keys, marking time, waiting for her.

It remained unopened, of course, but Maggie didn't need to open it. She already knew what it said. She just couldn't make herself open it and read the words. She knew they were angry -- that was a given.  She also knew they were probably written to demand, in yet one more way, her whole future and one more chance.  Frankly, she was flat out of last chances.

Maggie tried so many times to tell Jonathan he needed help. Abuse was abuse. It didn't matter whether it was emotional, physical, psychological, sexual or verbal (he had been proficient in all of them), he had hurt her and it had been unnecessary.

She had loved him, but she also loved herself and valued her safety even more -- and now this letter. Well, it's too late, she argued. By moving away, she was finally free and that's the way it's going to stay, she thought -- and now this damned letter! Then again, what if he wrote to tell me he got help and therapy?

Maggie walked through the foyer a thousand times and stared at the letter. She even picked it up and held it close to her heart once, as if her heart could tell by sheer divination that the words didn't say what she knew they did.

She thought, maybe if don't read it, the words will somehow change and say what I need to hear, but then, Jonathan was never into apologies, or admissions of wrongdoing, or forgiveness either, for that matter. "Damn it to hell and back, what a sorrowful waste of a stamp!" Maggie shouted into the empty foyer, creating an eerie echo.

For a solid week, even Maggie's nights were plagued by the letter -- open it, don't open it, open it, don't open it.

By the following Wednesday, Maggie had had enough. She marched angrily into the foyer and grabbed the offensive letter. She folded it in half, then quartered it, and finally, she stuffed it roughly into the back pocket of her blue jeans.

Ha! There! Now it would be safe from misbehaving hands and with it out of sight, her mind wouldn't be tempted to breach its ceremonial rule and grant her permission to touch, or want to open it.

Within a few hours, Maggie found herself in a quandary. She was unable to ignore the letter, or throw it away. She wasn't sure how long she walked around with it in her back pocket. She only knew it began to burn her heart, blister her mind, and then it slowly started to scorch her self-control.

But it wasn't until she saw her jeans in the washer, twisting and turning in the soapy water, letter and all, that she was even aware of what she'd done -- unconsciously cleansing and purging the past.

It really was the only way ... maybe now, she would find some peace at last.

[from the book, "Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul", by CJ Heck]

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck


Anonymous said...

A great story and a wonderful ending. The emotion is all there and the anguish of decision and then to wash the jeans..."I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair."
Brilliant. --Joan Comly

the little princess said...

this was beautiful!! and i like the simili at the end!

Carmela said...

A poignant testament to the bliss of ignorance.

CJ Heck said...

Thank you so much for reading and for taking time to comment, Joan, little princess, and Carmela.

Best wishes to you!

Anonymous said...

A perfect story with a wonderful double ending. It would be a page turner if there were more pages. Well done. --Veronica Knox

CJ Heck said...

What a nice thing to say. Thank you, Veronica.