How’s the weather? I heard you and grandpa went fishing the other day. Did you catch anything tasty? Mum said we could head down south and visit you in another month, right before school starts. Speaking of Mum, she said I needed to thank you for the sunflower dress you made me. She didn’t need to remind me, though; I am very happy you made it! It floats through the air like a cloud, and is just as soft, and the way it slips across my skin and nearly turns inside out when I twirl is brilliant! And it’s even yellow: My favorite color! I’m thrilled that you remembered. Did you know that my best friend’s birthday is coming up? I was hoping I could ask you to help me make her a bracelet, one of the corded ones you hung on the walls at the church down in Anton. The ones the parson tried to pay you for but you refused to accept any money for. You said “Goodness knows this grey place need a splash o’ happy color. I won’t let ya buy that happiness when it could, and should, be given freely.” I remember laughing at that, even though I didn’t understand what you meant. I think I understand now, and that’s why I try to be optimistic in any situation, the way you taught. Anyway, I want to make a matching pair of bracelets, so Melissa and I have a way to remember each other even if we have to travel separate paths for a while. She is such an amazing person and I want to hold her close for as long as I can. I admire her so much: the way she can rattle off retorts and intimidate even the rudest of meatheads. The same meatheads that I told you about last time; the bullies. They disappeared for a while, but just recently reappeared. Luckily, this time I have Melissa with me! So I’ll be okay.
See you in a few months,
How’s the weather? The sun was really bright yesterday, but today was cloudy, something it hasn’t been in a month. I started braiding the corded bracelets, just like you said. Thank you for telling me how! I can’t wait to give it to Melissa. Some girl at school today got upset that I didn’t have a phone. She couldn’t understand that there is a whole world outside of that tiny plastic screen. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know who Charles Dickens was! I asked around for someone to back me up, but no one in my class had even heard of him. Slaves, they are. Slaves to tiny rectangles and the secrets they spit into their heads. Luckily, while Melissa loves her phone, she doesn’t spend every waking moment on it. No one besides you and Melissa understands that there are countless other joys in life. No one else understands the beauty of the real world, rather than the virtual one. I hope I never become enslaved like them. I hope that when I am living by myself, in that little cottage by the sea, that I can still appreciate the sun warming my back, and gleaming across the endless ocean. I can’t wait to graduate my dream college, get a job that helps others, and move to that cottage by the sea. Speaking of cottages, Mum told me that you were looking at selling your summer home. Were you going to permanently move up north? I thought you loved the south though, and couldn’t bear to leave it for too long. Did something happen? Something happened here. Melissa had to protect me from the meatheads. They asked me for money to pay for lunch since they forgot theirs, and since you taught me to “Love thy enemy as you love thyself” I wanted to help them. But Melissa stopped me and told me that they actually had money and were just taking advantage of my kindness. It was like they thought being kind meant being weak! Thank goodness I had Melissa though.
Write back soon!
How’s the weather? It’s starting to get colder here, although it’s still too hot for coats. I’m sorry you got sick, that cough sounds like it’s gotta hurt something awful. Mum is debating not heading down to visit you after all, for fear of making you worse. I hope we still can though. If we do, I will make sure we wash our hands as frequently as possible and keep a fair distance from you, to protect you. But I still really want to see you. A year is far too long, and I miss you so much. The bracelet is coming along quite nicely. I almost have one of them finished. And just in time! Melissa has been up to her neck with trying to keep me safe from the Meatheads, and I hope the bracelet can show her how much I appreciate her and care for her. I went shopping yesterday and mum bought me a bunch of yellow clothing: sunny skirts, buttercup shirts, lemon headbands, and golden earrings. I wanted to get some stuff for Melissa, but her favorite color is black. Black is such an unhappy color, I couldn't bear to buy it for her. So she got pink instead. She seemed happy with her pink barrette, but she didn't want to wear it. She must think it's so nice it has to be kept safe at home.
Hope to see you soon!
How's the weather? Ours took a turn for the worse: huge storm rolled in last night and it's been pouring ever since. There was a big flood downtown and some kid got hit by lightning this morning. Fitting I guess. Mum told me you also took a turn for the worse. She said you can no longer move around and that you are far too weak for us to visit you. Hopefully you get better soon and we can head down there! Melissa also got sick. She was playing wither her brother when the rain started and now she's got a cold. She hasn't been able to hang out with me for a bit, so even though I finished her bracelet, I can't give it to her. I hope she gets better soon as well. The Meatheads are a lot bolder when she isn't around.
Get better soon!
It's still storming here. Last night, a bolt of lightning nearly struck our house at 1:57am. Grandpa rang half an hour later. Mum called me into the living room and held the phone out to me, tears soaking through the tissue she shoved in her mouth like a gag. Her teeth were bared in a grimace of pain and her hands shook. She didn't look at me, just thrust the phone towards me and continued to sob. Grandpa told me your time of death was 1:58am. Thank you for saying goodbye. I'm sorry I didn't do the same for you. I'm sorry I couldn't visit you. I'm so sorry for everything. I'm sorry I got upset with you when you wanted me to go outside and be more active but all I wanted to do was sit there and read. I'm sorry I hated the way you left wet marks on my cheek when you kissed me goodnight. I'm sorry I wouldn't try any of your homemade meals if they weren't something I liked. I'm sorry I refused to learn to sew. And I'm sorry I didn't hug you more. I didn't let you know how much I loved you. Cause I did, you know. More than anything or anyone. And I'm sorry I never thanked you or told you how grateful I was for your love and support. As soon as Grandpa hung up, I went back to sleep. When I woke up this morning, I almost forgot you were already far away. I felt sad all day, like I was missing some part of me. When night fell again, I tracked a shooting star as it made scars in the blanket of lights.
I wonder which one is yours,
How's the weather up there? It's gotten chilly here. I haven't seen the sun in days. The sky is just an endless swath of clouds. I haven't been able to focus in school lately. I've been so tired. Melissa wanted to know what was wrong. But I didn't want to tell her you had gone. Then she would worry. I don't want her to worry. So I told her I was sick. She was worried. But not as much as she would have been if I had told her the truth. I'm sorry I lied to her. But I want to keep her happy. Just like you taught. But then Melissa told the rest of the class. And now they think I'm going to die myself. They started pandering to my every whim. Even the Meatheads are leaving me alone. It's odd. I should be happy I am finally safe. And I should be upset that I had to lie. But I don't feel anything of that. I must be too tired to feel emotions. I'm so tired. I just want to sleep. I wonder if Mum would let me take a day off of school just to rest. Probably not. But I'll ask anyway. Yeah. That sounds like it would be really nice.
I think I'll sleep now,
How's the weather? It snowed yesterday. Today everything is white outside. Inside everything is black, though. Black dresses worn by women with black veils covering black tresses. Black shirts and black skirts with black headbands and black caps. The drab grey walls are draped in black and your bracelets have been replaced by black cords. Even the starburst cross wears a black robe. But you wear white. And that's not right. You look so pale in the snowy dress, your hair framing a peaceful smile. Your cheeks are pasty and your skin is papery. They hung a picture of you, beaming, a rainbow blooming in the background. Even that feels too two-dimensional. They missed the way your eyebrows quirked up when you laughed. They forgot to show your crooked teeth that you hated so much you only showed when you were truly happy. Your laugh lines and crow's feet are hidden by white powdery makeup. And your cheeks have no rosy gleam. You look so strange without your denim jeans and floral blouses. I'm sorry I could not bear to lay my hand on your cheek to say goodbye.
I was afraid I would hurt you,
How's the weather? I'm still working on my bracelet. Haven't figured out when to give Melissa hers. She was worried when I showed up to school wearing pale blue and black. She even asked where all my yellow was. I wonder what she meant by that. A gift appeared on my desk today. My class thought that I was in the hospital when I was really visiting you. I haven't got the heart or energy to correct them. They gave me a necklace. A cross hung from the delicate silver chain, inscribed with a single word: Hope. It hangs heavy from my neck. Too heavy.
Perhaps my lie was a mistake,
How's the weather? My ears haven't stopped ringing since last Tuesday. Ringing with a mocking song. "Felicity, Felicity, trick'd us with her duplicity." Everyone at school sing that when they see me. Melissa was the one who told them. I asked to meet her outside of school. I intended to give her the bracelet. She arrived and when I handed her the cord, she started crying and asking if this was my way of saying goodbye. She asked if this was why I no longer wore yellow and dressed in pastels and dark colors instead. If I was going to leave her for good. I couldn't bear it, Grandma. I should have beared it, Grandma. She told everyone else. And now they demand some sort of recompensation for all the time they spent caring for me. They no longer care. And the Meatheads are back. Everytime I'm alone, that song burrows its way into my head, wrapping around whatever thought I was having and forcing me to listen, to suffer. To pay. For my lies. Lying is a sin. And sins cannot go unpunished. I spend my time braiding. Working row after row onto my bracelet. Just the way you taught me. I braid a few rows every time I feel overwhelmed or lost.
It's gotten nearly as tall as I am.
How's the weather? Winter's here for sure. It's gotten rather cold. The Meatheads struck again. They stole my jacket and poured snow down my shirt. I had to run home. But I had no energy to run. So I walked. By the time I reached my front door, I was completely numb. Mum saw me and rushed to wrap me in a quilt. She shoved hot cocoa into my hands and lit the fireplace. I wasn't that cold. But she was determined to keep me warm. I stared into that flickering fire, remembering the only other time I'd been confined to warming up by the hearth. Ironically, that was also due to the meatheads. But that time it had been you who had found me tied to a lamp post, rain pounding my head to the ground. It had been you who appeared, yellow umbrella in hand, to rescue me from the storm. To cut me loose. And to carry me back home. But you're not here anymore. And neither is Melissa.
I'm utterly alone.
How's the weather? It's getting foggy here. I can no longer see the end of my street. And it's cold. So cold. I can see my breath every time I exhale. I had a dream last night. It was vivid enough that I thought it was real. In it I am sitting in a dark alleyway, my way blocked by the Meatheads.
"It's okay. We aren't going to hurt you." The Meatheads hold out their hands, palms turned towards the sky. "See? Our hands are empty. We can help you. We can bring Melissa back. We can let you see your grandmother again. Just come a little closer and we can show you."
Lies. They lie.
I whimper and press deeper into the shadows. My chest aches. I can't figure out why.
They don't want to help me. They want to hurt me. Yes. They want to hurt me. Just as they hurt Melissa.
It's their fault she left. They turned her against me.
Why would they help me then? They kicked me when I was down and stole the one thing keeping me going. So why would they change now?
A hand grabs the chain around my neck and pulls me forward.
I will not go. I will not be hurt again.
I twist around, and the chain tightens. The hand grasping it yelps and let's go. But it tightens around my neck.
Pain erupts from where the thin chain bites my skin, clawing at the flesh, cutting off my air supply.
I gasp for breath.
But none comes.
My hands fly to my throat, scrabbling at the chain. But they cannot release it.
Then you appear.
I can see you.
You came back. I stretch out my hand to touch you. But I cannot reach, and my fingers grasp empty air.
You came back. For me.
It's been so long. I nearly forgot your face. But it's coming back. Just like you.
You are coming forward. Closer. Your hand. It's blurry. You are carrying something.
But I cough and wheeze and cannot see.
My legs turn to liquid and I collapse.
Your silvered hair shimmers as you kneel down in front of me.
Water warps my vision as black encroaches on your visage.
You reach out and lay your hand on my cheek, gently wiping away the tears flooding down it.
"Th—" I choke. "—ank you." Each breath I steal is squeezed shorter than the last.
I lean into your touch. My head grows too heavy to hold.
My eyelids sag. I cannot keep them open more than a tiny slit.
But through that tiny slit, I glimpse your other hand coming up.
Your hand. I can see it now. A knife. And a yellow bracelet. Like the one I was making. Except this one was finished. Mine will never be.
My eyes snap open and I fall backward. But I cannot will my leaden legs to lift me and run.
I cannot convince my arms to fend you off.
And so you come closer. The knife descends towards my throat.
I wheeze out a thin laugh.
What a fool.
You’re freeing me. Saving me.
You could never hurt me.
I bare my neck as best as I can.
My eyes close and I wait for the pressure to disappear.
A moment passes. Then another. Then a slimy liquid drains down my throat, filling my lungs with thick sludge rather than air.
I gag, but the chain wraps even tighter.
My eyes drag themselves open. I can't see a thing.
My chest grows sickeningly slick and sticky.
I cannot ask aloud, but my heart begs to know.
The ground drops out from beneath me.
I am falling.
Wind shreds my flesh, rends my body in two.
Why did you leave me too?
"Because you are a liar, my dear. Lying is a sin. Sins cannot go unpunished."
Then I wake up. And I am alone in the dark. Secure in my frozen blankets. You are still gone.
But at least you don't hate me.
How’s the weather? Night fell a few hours ago. Everything is so peaceful now. Quiet. Calm. I don’t want the day to come. When the day comes, it brings chaos. Expectations. Disappointments. Pain. But day always comes. There is only one place where dawn will never break. The place where you are. Maybe… Maybe I could join you there. I could be free. The bracelet is now twice as tall as me. My fingers tremble as I tie it into a particular knot. I’m sorry Grandma, I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it. Maybe… Maybe we can start a new one together?
I’ll see you soon,