The following post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club: You or your character find a forgotten letter or card from someone important in your life--whether good or bad. What does it say? How does it affect you or your character? What is done with it?
* * *
He was following me.
I ran up the hill and behind the house that Jonathan had told me years and years ago never to go into. It was too dangerous, he told me. I could get hurt.
But the danger behind me was far, far greater.
I used the key I found in Jonathan’s dresser drawer.
I slipped inside. Locked the door behind me and leaned against it.
I held my breath. I heard footsteps; saw the beam of a flashlight cut across the window and discovered that I was in a kitchen.
The footsteps continued up the hill and into the woods.
I didn’t move.
* * *
The sunlight and the birds and the gentle sound of the wind caressing the trees woke me. I sat still, listening. He wouldn’t be out there now; he was too much of a pansy to sit in the woods all night. I stood, stretched. Looked around the old house.
There was the kitchen, of course. A dining room. A mudroom and a tiny half bathroom. All in good condition. Up the rickety stairs, I found one bedroom. Empty. A second bedroom. Also empty. A third bedroom. Furnished.
There was a single bed there. A shelf of books. Football trophies adorned a dresser. There was a light and an old telephone and dusty posters of football players. Who lived here?
I looked around and pulled a yearbook from the shelf. 1993. There was an envelope sticking out of the top. I slid it out. The envelope had my name written on it. It was sealed.
I tore it open. Pulled out a birthday card. Pink and flowers and a giant sixteen on the front. Inside, there was a folded piece of paper that crinkled too loudly as I opened it.
I know you’re sixteen and you think you’re all growed up now, but to me, you’re still a baby.
I like that.
I like that you know how to sit in the stillness of a day, to breathe in the quiet. I like that you can sit next to me in the diner while Jonathan delivers his chickens and his eggs and Annie brings in her pies—pumpkin and apple and peach.
I like that you do not judge me.
People ‘round here, they think that just because a man is quiet that he has nothing to say. People think that just because a man is mute, that he must be dumb as well.
You would not believe the things I hear setting on this stool all day long. People tell me everything because they think I’m too stupid to understand. They tell me all their secrets, Ellie, but they don’t know that I have the biggest secret of all.
Don’t listen when your momma tells you your father is dead, Ellie. Or when Jonathan says your daddy run off somewheres. Your father is here, Ellie Jackson.
Can’t you see him?
Shivers ran up my spine, the same shivers I felt the night before.
I tucked the letter back inside the yearbook. Put the yearbook back on the shelf. Let myself back out of the house and shut the door tightly behind me before locking it up again.
Jonathan was right: It was too dangerous here.
I could get hurt.