Michelle looked down at the letter she was holding in her sweaty palms. Her heart was racing, and her mouth was slightly agape as she stared at the return address over and over again. No. It was impossible! Tears started streaming down her face. Tears of joy… and utter confusion. She turned and walked slowly to the living room, holding on to the letter for dear life.
She sat on the sofa next to her sister and best friend. Sandy and Michelle had moved in together a few years ago. They both wanted an apartment but couldn't afford one alone. Michelle told Sandy everything, especially about Gary. They were both sitting on the living room sofa when Michelle handed Sandy the letter. She looked at Sandy and said nothing. At the moment, Sandy was watching television and really didn't want to talk. Her little sister nudged her and handed her the tear stained letter. She very softly said, "Look." When Sandy saw the shocked look on her sister's face, she immediately turned the TV off.
"Hey, kid, you look like you've seen a ghost! What's this?" She looked at the letter and then she saw the name, and the return address.
"Oh, wow, what happened here? I thought that Gary…..
"So did I. But we were badly misinformed. Sandy, he's alive! He didn't die in the war after all!"
"C'mon, open it. Did you realize the date on this is a year old?"
Michelle looked at her sister with a puzzled look, and gazed at the post mark. More confused than ever, she gingerly slid her finger under the flap, and pulled out the contents. She wanted nothing to be torn inside. She held the letter as though it was on fire than silently began to read the mystery:
I've thought about you so many times over the past few years. I know we were kids when you left for Yuma; that never made me stop thinking about you. I was so hurt that you stopped writing to me. You wrote me three letters, and when I told you how I felt, you stopped. Why? I know we never said anything to each other, but I thought it was a silent understanding. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so silent. That's what my last letter said. Didn't you even read it?
I was drafted and was in the military for two years. I did my tour in Vietnam. I took a bullet in my chest and they didn't think I was going to make it. The bullet is gone, and I'm alive, but I still have a hole in my heart, the one you put there. When I thought I wasn't going to make it, you're the only thing I could think of. You don't know how many times I thought of you when I was alone. I know deep in my heart (even with the hole in it) that you still care for me. And though we were very young, I thought you cared for me too.
Before I say anything, and make a complete fool of myself, I have to know how you feel. My address and phone number are below.
Michelle was thoroughly baffled now. She had been told that he had been killed in the war; and was completely devastated by the news. The one thing that really confused her was that she had written him a letter so long ago. He was the one that never answered. They were still in high school. Neither one was quite sure how the other felt. So when he didn't answer her letter; she knew where she stood, and that her dreams with him one day; were just that, a dream. She had often cried about it, but finally dealt with reality and knew it would never be. Now all those dead feelings came flooding back like a waterfall.
Her sister startled her when she came back to the present.
"Well, what happened?"
"You wouldn't believe it. I don't quite remember how we got that awful news about Gary, but it wasn't true . He almost died, he was shot, but he's alive and well now." She didn't want to explain everything to Sandy, she would tell her anyway, so just handed her the tear streaked letter.
Michelle's mind wandered backwards to how innocently this had all begun. She and Gary were in their teens and very good friends. Nothing else, just pals. Currently they were working on a project together to save their neighborhood. They lived a small rural community of Maryland. It was so small, it was barely on the map. But to the people who lived there, it was paradise. They both thought of the wonderful walks in the woods, picking berries, and wading in a babbling brook. It was especially beautiful in the fall, watching the leaves turn slowly into a kaleidoscope of color, with the crunch of them below your feet, and the cool Autumn air. And now, a man had bought Abingdon, had planned to destroy the trees, and make Abingdon into a rich community of condominiums. Gary was livid, and formed a petition to save the woods. And although he knew it wouldn't help for now, he was still going to be the scientist he always wanted to be, but now he would become a botanist. He loved nature so much. A rich man is not going to be taken by a bunch of passionate teenagers, so of course, they lost that battle. Michelle was saddened by this, but thankfully never got to see the awful change. But the reason for it broke her heart.
Her father came out with the news that soon they would be going to Arizona. His job was moving there and he had to take his family out west. Michelle was devastated. She loved Maryland so much, and even though it would soon change beyond recognition, she hated saying good-bye to all her friends. She starting to have some strange feelings for Gary she had never felt before. She never had a boyfriend, and they were more like brother and sister……until recently. Oh well, it didn't matter now, there would be three thousand miles between them. They would write and they would still have their platonic friendship.
After they got to Yuma, the first thing Michelle did was write to both Karen and Gary. She wrote to some other friends too, but it was a 'one letter' wonder. But Karen (her best friend) and Gary continued to write. As she thought, she and Gary wrote simply platonic letters, and he told her the sad news about the woods being destroyed. They wrote for about three months and Gary's letters quit coming. Michelle knew that Gary was going to try to get into the best school he could for Botany. It would have to be a scholarship, as his mother was a widow and they didn't have a lot of money. Graduation would be the following year and he would have to try like crazy to keep his straight A average.
Before Michelle left Maryland, something was growing between her and Gary. They never expressed any real feelings for one another, but she thought that they were at least friends. She was angry and hurt. What she didn't know was that Gary had just written her a letter, not just any letter, but one professing his true feelings.
The letter had been accidentally dropped. Gary was very busy in the library one day when Karen passed him by. He was very busy, and also a little apprehensive about the letter he had just penned. He asked Karen to mail it for him; it would be a huge favor. She went to the mailbox on the corner, and dropped it in. At least she thought she did. It was a very windy Maryland day, and the letter had dropped on the ground.
When Gary never received an answer from Michelle, he too was hurt and devastated. He thought the same thing she did. He thought they were good friends. Or did his profession of love scare her off? That's what it must have been. He felt like such a fool! Why couldn't he have left well enough alone!
Because of one letter and the other one not being brave enough to say anything, six years of what could have been a very dear friendship turned into romance was wasted. Instead each thought the other didn't care. So they got on with their lives. They were getting older now and so had begun to date. But that special 'something' had never gone away, and all of their dates were empty and meaningless. Michelle started college and Gary got his draft notice. He went to Vietnam and all he could think of was Michelle. Even after five years. Five years during the teenage years is a lifetime. They had gone from a boy and a girl to a man and woman.
Than Michelle found out Gary had gotten his draft notice. Not much later, he was killed in Vietnam. She grieved for days. A love that never blossomed, the petals of love that could have been were now strewn across the ground, and would soon blow away. It wasn't meant to be….or so she thought.
Her mind came back to the present.
She couldn't believe what she had just read. Her emotions were churned up. She was confused, happy, angry, but mostly confused. What on earth was he talking about? She had never gotten a letter professing his love.
It might be fruitless, and she may be hurt more than ever, but the curiosity got the best of her. The address and phone number could be wrong now, but she had to try. She had ached for him for so long. There must be some reason she got that letter now. Call it fate.
She dialed the number, and when a voice answered, Michelle was frozen. She choked up and the voice at other ended, very annoyed, said,
"Who is this? I don't appreciate prank phone calls." In an almost inaudible whisper, she said,
"Gary?" She wasn't sure she had the right number as the voice was much deeper and more assertive.
"Michelle?" He was elated but then became angry. Why are you calling me now?"
I hear nothing from you in years, and NOW you call?" He then thought of what he was saying.
"Michelle how are you, I hope nothing is wrong..are you sick?:
"No, Gary, I'm not sick, but I just got a letter from you dated last year! I was a little curious what happened. The mail can't be that slow."
"Actually, it can. I've had a lot of buddies that didn't get mail until very late. I'm trying to remember what I wrote. Oh, yeah, this is hard. It's been a long time and you never answered me even in high school. It's been six years now, is there a chance anything is there?"
"Gary, YOU stopped writing me!" Then it finally hit her after all this time, the letter he sent her was lost in the mail. And neither one of them had the nerve to find out what happened. Stupid teenage pride.
"Oh my God, Michelle, you never got my letter? I poured my heart out in that letter and it took days to write. I didn't want to scare you off. And when you didn't write, that's exactly what I thought happened. So much time…wasted. When you didn't hear from me, why didn't you follow up?
"I may ask you the same question." Michelle said with a tartness in her voice.
"Oh, Michelle, let's not fight over something we both did. We have a chance now. Yes, it's true that so much time was lost, but it must be fate. I could never get you out of my mind. After so much time, I tried to move on, but couldn't. It's a lot to ask and I don't even know if you want to do it, but I have to see you again. You don't know the hell you put me through without even knowing it!
Michelle was very silent and touched after he said that. She became tongue-tied and tried to answer, but was taking too long.
"Michelle are you okay… or does this mean it really is over?"
"No Gary, I'm here, you just shocked with me with your last silly question. Of course, we
can get back together again! I've wanted it for so long! I have vacation time coming and I wanted to come back to Abingdon anyway, maybe see Karen and her new baby.
She got off the plane at the B&W airport. Looking all around the bustling airport, it seemed there were people from every country imaginable. But she didn't care about them. She only wanted to see one face. She looked everywhere, but couldn't find him. A man bumped into her, in fact almost knocked her over. She turned around and yelled, "Hey, Mister, watch what the heck you're…." She stopped in mid-sentence and looked up at the familiar beautiful blue eyes. But what a change! Could this man be Gary? No longer a short, overweight boy, he was now a towering, muscular man. His glasses were gone and he was handsome as ever.
She looked at him with her mouth slightly agape as he returned her gaze with a winning smile. He looked at the once tall, awkward girl who had blossomed into a very beautiful woman. Time was indeed a cruel master. The unbearable six years were finally over. After staring at each other for a few seconds, they grabbed each other in an ardent embrace. Words were not necessary. They walked out of the airport arm-in-arm. After six years of silence and pain, they were finally together. Or were they?
Mary E. Lacey