Author’s note: I just realized that I failed to do a post yesterday and I will be submitting 2 posts today.
The father unlocked the door to the apartment and the mother entered with hesitation. She forced herself not to cry as she looked around at the studio loft, left exactly the same as her daughter had left it. Newspapers were stacked neatly on the coffee table, a throw blanket was piled in a lumpy mound on the sofa, and a mug with a tea bag sitting in it on a worn cardboard coaster.
The father squeezed his wife’s shoulder and sighed heavily. It killed him to see this empty place without her there – opening the door and greeting them with her warm smile, running to get them some coffee, or telling them to just “Make this space your place” once they entered.
“We should start going through her things,” the father said as he looked around the room. “We only have a few days before the lease is up.”
The mom nodded as she began folding the throw blanket into a neat square and she took the mug to the kitchen to wash.
The father wandered into his daughter’s room and began taking down her corkboard of dreams, goals she had accomplished, and a small calendar of events. He chuckled lightly as he looked at her doodles on the dates of the calendar, like a panicking figure with a speech bubble screaming, “FINALS?! PLEASE BE JOKING!” or the birthday cake doodle on March 11 for her friend Abby. He placed the corkboard down on the carpeted floor and began to unplug all of the cords for her laptop, lamp, and surge protector. As he pulled the cord for the surge protector out from behind the desk, it got snagged on something and he made a face as he tried to pull it free. After a few more tries, he shook his head and decided to just pull the desk out and get the cord and whatever it was getting caught on free. He groaned as he pulled the desk toward him and he got up slowly. It was getting harder to keep bending down and getting up like he used to.
He freed the cord from behind the desk and furrowed his brows when he saw something sticking out of the back of the desk. He pulled the desk out more and rotated it to access the back. He walked around the desk and knelt down to see that the paper backing on the inexpensive desk, a hand-me-down from her older brother, was ripped and a corner of a box or maybe a binder was sticking out.
He tore off the rest of the backing, which had been tacked down with wall putty, oddly enough. He pulled on the corner and a large box flew out into his lap. He grunted when the full weight of the box hit him – it was heavy! The mother had finished cleaning up the kitchen when she heard all of the noise in the bedroom.
“Artie what’s going on?” she asked as she came into the bedroom. Her eyes widened as she zeroed in on the box in her husband’s lap. “What did you find?”
Artie stood up and heaved the box onto the bed. He yanked off the lid and saw that the box was filled with letters. Different names on different envelopes, some of them packed to the gills while others were not. On top of the letters was a single note folded neatly on top.
The mother reached in and unfolded the note. Artie went through the box and recognized most of the names: her old best friend from Texas, the loud hussy from her sophomore dorm days, the idiot poet who tried to woo her in 8th grade…
“Artie you need to read this,” the mother said. She handed off the note and watched as Artie read it.
If you found this secret stash of letters, then either you’re really nosy or maybe I’m dead. I guess all of this started when one of my Lit teachers talked about letter writing and how personal it used to be. It was when I was coming home from service one Sunday that I thought about writing these letters, these confessions, I guess you would call them, to some of the people I crossed paths with. It was a lot harder for me to say things to people in person, especially since it was really easy to screw things up and say the wrong thing.
So if I’m dead, please pass these letters out to everyone in this box. Don’t go opening or destroying someone’s letter before they get a chance to read it.
Good luck in life and remember that you can make any space your place!
“What should we do with them Artie?” the mother asked once he finished reading them. He closed the lid on the box and picked it up.
He began carrying it to the door and he called over his shoulder, “We should give these out at the service next week. It’s what our little girl wanted.”
Artie was never one for speeches but everyone on his side of the family made him get up and say a big speech about their beloved Tess. He had rehearsed it in the mirror and had made edits on his notes. The day came and he got through his spiel before presenting the box to the attendees on the podium.
“I was cleaning up Tess’ apartment and I found these letters hidden in her room,” Artie began. “They are addressed to many of her friends and family and she asked that they be handed out to the respective recipient. So would you please come up after the reception and find your letter?”
Artie carried the box down from the podium and he spilled the contents out onto a table nearby. The audience hesitantly started coming up one at a time and began sifting through the letters. Then one of Tess’ more obnoxious friends rolled his eyes and dashed up, shoved past other attendees and fished his letter out.
“It’s like the freakin’ Hunger Games,” the guy groused as he returned to his seat.
Artie bit his tongue and ignored the young man’s comment. He hated that kid, Marcus was his name, because he came off with an air of entitlement. But then again, his stupid parents had spoiled him rotten until he graduated college some years ago and what was he doing? Nothing but mooching off his parents and wining and dining with various women.
He watched as Abby opened her letter and she smiled, touching her hand to her chin as she read it. Marcus ripped the letter open, skimmed it, then twisted his face into a scowl before crumpling the letter and tossing it onto the seat nearby. Artie’s sister-in-law opened hers and began sobbing loudly. Knowing his little girl, she probably mentioned something to her about her frivolous spending habits and how she didn’t need to try to impress anyone.
He remembered one time where Tess had come home dressed to the nines in a clingy ensemble from Dolce and Gabbana with a flashy Dior coat on over it, courtesy of his sister-in-law. “Dad,” Tess said. “Can you or Mom say something to Aunt Rema about me spending time with her? I wanted to just have a cup of coffee with her and somehow it spiraled into ‘Let’s go to 5th Avenue and eat at this fancy restaurant. Oh Tessie dear, look at that darling Dior – that would be gorgeous on you honey! Let’s get that and oh is this the newest handbag line? Only the best for my Tessie. And how about a fabulous pair of heels – you can’t go wrong with Louboutins!’ I mean, really?”
He felt someone nudge his arm and he snapped out his trance to see it was his son Vincent. He had a letter in his hand and he hadn’t opened it.
“You gonna read what your sister wrote?” Artie asked.
Vincent shook his head no and stuffed the letter into his pocket. “I’m just not ready yet.” He clenched his hand into a fist and looked at the ground. “Dad, why did that asshole have to shoot Tess that night?”
Artie clapped a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I won’t understand why he did that, but somewhere in his mind it ma-“
“It makes no sense Dad!” Vincent hissed. “He had money and wherever his next high was. And Tess was just trying to help that stupid girl from her Finances class – what was her name? Danielle? I hate both of them. Hate them!”
Artie was about to say something but Vincent stormed off, his face flushed. The mother came up to him and sighed as she watched Vincent leave. “His temper again?” she guessed.
“Emily, give him some time,” Artie sighed. “One day he’ll feel calmer about this whole thing.”
Vincent poured himself a cup of coffee for the day and he retrieved the paper from his front door. He read the date and closed the door. It was his sister’s birthday. If she had been alive still, she would have been 20. He bit his lip and stared around his condo for something. He walked back to the kitchen and set down the newspaper and coffee mug before heading to his bedroom in search of her letter.
It had been two years since her passing. He felt bad that he left the funeral in a huff but he was angry for what had happened. He practically yelled at the jerk who shot her when he took the stand to guilt him. The jerk had slumped down in his seat and refused to meet his eyes. Coward.
Vincent fished out the letter and slit the top open with his finger. He hesitated for a moment and slowly pulled the contents out. His fingers trembled as he unfolded it and began to read it.
I guess if I was still 11, I’d write how much I hate you. It probably would be filled with reminders of how you put my favorite unicorn plush in the shredder when I was 5 and how you told my first crush that I would turn him into an ugly frog with a single kiss. But now that I’m 18, I guess, things haven’t been so terrible with you.
Yes I probably shouldn’t have screamed like a little brat when you told me to stay away from Josh but in the end, you were right. Oh and by the way, I gave him two black eyes and a bruise on his gut when he tried to make a move on me after our date. Well actually it was really me sneaking out after you said no and Dad said no, only to realize that it was a big mistake to even go. So go ahead and say it, you knew it.
I wish we could have spent more time together. I know you were busy with your banking job and I was starting to figure what I wanted out of life. But I kind of missed seeing you.
Please try to keep it together for Mom and Dad. It won’t be easy but I know that you’re kind of the rock in this family.
Don’t forget your stupid little sister with her dumb unicorn doll.