Haley’s in her room, and the door’s shut, so I’m not even going to try to talk to her. I guess I get why she’s being so difficult, what with Mom being gone, and school being a chore. But I still think she could try to be more agreeable.
Dinner is three hours away, and the last thing I want to do right now is study. I pull out my phone and text Catherine.
Going to the park. I’ll pick up a snack if you bring Allan. :)
Less than a minute later, by phone buzzes.
Sounds good. Allan says he’ll bring a snack, too.
On my way out, I lean up the stairs, making sure Haley can hear me.
“Haley, I’m going to the park. The rest of KFC will be there, so you can call any of us if you need something.” Our initials had a K and a C, so we made a bit of an acception and used Allan’s last name, Fairman, to finish it off. I think the nickname is awesome, despite being a bit confusing sometimes.
I wait for a response, but none comes. I roll my eyes and go upstairs, knocking on her door. She probably has her earbuds in, like she does all day every day.
“I’m going to the park with my friends. Call me if you need anything.”
I run back down the stairs and outside, hopping into my freezing car. If we had a garage, my car would be at least a little warmer, but all we have is a carport that we made. There’s not even a door going straight into the house from it. It’s enough to keep the snow off my car, but that’s all.
As soon as the car is on, the heater kicks on, and I back out of our driveway, driving away from our old red brick home. The sky is overcast, but the lane in front of me is clear and dry, which is better than most of what I’ve had to drive on this winter.
The whole drive to town, I ponder over the letter. It’s pretty straightforward in its topics of guilt and hurting, and it feels like the author knows these. But for some reason I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to it.
Of course there’s more to it, who would send their life story into the world like that? Sending a few questions about basic things like feelings, however, does make sense.
Speaking of questions... I wonder if “Another” would mind me replying. If I leave a letter in the same place, it should work. If the sender waits at the bus stop, that is. Maybe we could start a correspondence of sorts…
I’m getting ahead of myself. The first step is writing a letter. I can do that when I get home. The next would be to drop it off without anyone seeing, which means hanging back after the bus leaves. Simple. After that, I’ll wait.
The park is practically empty in the winter. We’ll have the whole playground to ourselves. Albeit a freezing playground.
Catherine and Allan are already here, tossing a football between them. Catherine has her blond hair tied up in a ponytail that bounces up and down when she moves. Allan turns when he sees me, cheeks and nose red from the chill. The ball flies toward him and he jumps to catch it, barely managing to keep it in his arms. Both of them run to me, and Catherine says, “This was a good idea!”
I smile, and I feel a sharp pain in my dry, cold lips and I smack a hand up to see if it’s bleeding. My finger comes away with a spot of blood. “Ow…”
“Why didn’t you bring gloves?”
I look up at Allan. Why is that his first question?
“I hate gloves,” I say without smiling, “They make my fingers clumsy. They’re evil.”
Catherine holds up her hands, displaying her neon-yellow fuzzy gloves. “Not if they’re yellow! Nothing yellow can be evil.”
“Catherine, I want you to consider that statement for a moment.” I can list several yellow things off the top of my head that I consider evil, starting with a variety of bugs. Catherine’s face falls, but I know her mood is still just as cheery.
“Anyway,” Allan interjects, “I brought some gummy worms.” He holds up a grocery bag with colorful packages inside. “What snack did you get?”
Oh. Right. Snacks.
Catherine bounces up and down, pointing a neon finger at me. “She forgot! I do that all the time! Now you guys can’t tease me for doing it! But seriously, how did you forget so quickly? It’s been like, twenty minutes.”
“I was thinking about something else.”
“What?” Allan looks at me expectantly. I open my mouth to tell them about the letter, but then I remember the last line. Well, it says not to share the letter with anyone, so maybe… is it sharing to talk about it? I’m not showing it to them, I’m just saying it exists. What could go wrong?
“There’s this letter I found.” It feels good to say it. I feel the rush of secrets shared. “Written anonymously. It just talks about basic stuff. Guilt, other feelings.”
My friends wait for more. Catherine looks especially intrigued.
“That’s all I’m gonna say. It’s not really a big deal.” I try to make my voice light, but a wave of… something… washes over me.
It takes a moment for me to realize that it’s guilt.
What if I wrote the letter, and the person who found it went and told their friends a few days later?
No, it’s fine, nobody will ever be hurt by this. Our bus stop is way too far for my friends to ever find a letter, and I’m the only one who’s ever read it. There’s nothing wrong with knowing that some person out there is feeling guilt, is there? Everyone knows those feelings.
It’s fine. I’ll just shut up about it from now on.
I smile again, painfully. “Let’s eat those gummies?”
Allan grins wickedly and holds the bag above his head. I jump up, reaching for the candy, but he’s taller than me. Allan’s actually like, really tall. Like, six feet. My finger catches on the plastic bag, tearing a hole in the material. Three small gummy packages fall to the ground. Catherine grabs all three and bolts, laughter trailing after her. Allan and I give chase, and I forget about my split lip as the pain is buried in smiles and laughs.
Eventually we catch up, and the gummies are devoured as we talk.
“So,” Catherine says breathlessly, “Is there anything else interesting about that letter you found?”
“Nah, it’s nothing.” I try to keep my smile, but the slightly sick feeling is back.
“Are you sure? You look worried.” She frowns. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah.” I grab a gummy worm and throw it at Allan. He panics, falling backwards into the snow, pretending to be dead. The gummy lands in the snow, forgotten.
After a silent dinner, Haley retreats to her room. I let her go. I’ve got a letter to write.
I don’t go to my room. It’s a mess, and I don’t want to clean it right now. Instead I pull a piece of college-ruled paper off our computerless computer desk and sit down at the kitchen table. I already know how to start it.
But what do I want to say? Breezing over the beginning of the original letter, I think I know.
You’re right about everyone having guilt. I don’t know anything about eyes or dark spots, but I know about restlessness. Not being able to sleep.
Now I’ve said my piece on guilt.
Hearts are delicate things, and I try to be careful when blaming anyone for the breaking of them. Often things out of our control are the things that hurt the most. Hearts need to break, that’s why they break so easily. I don’t know about hearts I’ve broken, (it might be pretentious to assume I haven’t, though.) but I hope I haven’t hurt anyone that badly.
I’m not sure if you were even looking for a response when you dropped the letter at the bus stop, but I figured if you didn't want one, you can just ignore this and tell me in the next letter. Assuming you want to write another one.
I think I understand you. I won’t show anyone your letter.
I can’t say I won’t tell anyone; I’ve already done that. I can’t even bring myself to promise not to in the future. But this is a safe promise. I can keep this.
I sign it “Someone” and fold it into thirds. I’ll drop it off after the bus leaves tomorrow.
Tapping the table with my letter, I sit back and wonder what “Another” will think of my response.
I wonder if it’s Julia who left the letter.
I wonder when Haley will start listening to me.
I wonder till I fall asleep.
Author Notes: Please rate this!