Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 14, 2010

The Letter

New Boston, NH. Winter 2009.

When winter passes, I’ll fix up the barn. I’ll add in a cozy alcove, just pillows and books. And I’ll paint the walls pale yellow and gold with green curling vines and red flowers.

It will be my space.

I shiver in the thin jacket that was all I could find in the hall closet. Mom wasn’t prepared for winter. In fact, she wasn’t prepared for anything. I’ll ask for some money to buy a new coat when she gets home.

If she gets home.

It’s a nagging voice, whining in my mind exactly like Yarrow does when he needs to go out. He probably needs to go out now, and I’ll freeze if I stand out here in this stupid jacket any longer.

I begin walking briskly back to the house. I can’t remember why I left. To get some fresh air? To watch the river flow under the bridge? Maybe I just couldn’t stand smelling the musty walls and hearing the hiss of the radiators trying their hardest to warm the old house. Maybe I couldn’t stand waiting for Mom.

“I’ve got to take care a of a few things, Dani.” She’d said. “There’s a lasagna in the fridge and a case of Ginger Ale.”

I finished the Ginger Ale this morning, but didn’t touch the lasagna. I’d been eating frozen waffles and stale cereal instead. Mom never cooks anything, and I have a feeling she made that lasagna as a kind of an apology for something she hadn’t done yet. Something she’s doing now. Mainly, leaving me here alone.

I reach the front door and Yarrow nearly runs me over when I pull it open. He’s yipping and jumping like someone lit his butt on fire.

“Hey, little guy, no worries. I’m home.”

At least someone misses me.

The nagging voice. I push it away, and close the door, watching Yarrow stick his nose in the usual places: below the mailbox, in the middle of the snow-covered garden, and at the base of the maple tree.

The house isn’t much warmer than outside. I leave the jacket on and huddle by one of the radiators. Now, the hiss-whoosh isn’t as annoying. It seems to be talking to me, saying “Thisss wasshh” or “Fisshh horsse.” It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s comforting. I finally feel my fingers and toes coming back to life.

We were never this cold in Florida, where we used to live. We didn’t need winter coats or boots, and that’s why we don’t have any now. The worst part is, I know this whole thing is my fault. I never should have showed Mom the letter. I should have burned it, or eaten it, or something.

The letter didn’t have a return address. I thought it might be from Dad, who hasn’t shown up since my thirteenth birthday almost two years ago. He’s called a few times, always with some lame excuse. A random greeting card a few days too late for Christmas would be just his style.

So I opened it, and an address fell out. The one on the mailbox where Yarrow is now peeing. The inside of the card said only, “Please. I need you.”

Of course I was freaked out, but Mom just nodded and started putting things in boxes.

“Who is it?” I asked, then yelled.

But she wouldn’t tell me. And I still don’t know. The house was empty when we arrived, and Mom’s been gone for four days now.

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Responses

  1. Okay, this one has me hooked. I’ve read it twice now, and want to know “the rest of the story”!

  2. She’ll not be easily forgot. Beautifully done!

  3. Love the photo! Love the image you create with your words. Well done!!
    Betsy


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