This is an outtake from the book I’ve been trying to write.
The day had been long. Susan was tired of this day, where people stared and whispered and mocked. She was exhausted by all the careful planning she had done, and angered when it had fallen through. Now she wanted peace and comfort.
Susan stared at the note in careful concentration. There was no salutation or address.
I can’t tell you how much you mean to me. I won’t try. You are the best thing I had, and nothing can ever change that.
Be back soon!
I love you.
She had long ago memorized every word of every sentence on the paper. No differentiation of tone or hidden meaning of phrase was to be discovered. Today, she simply stared at the strokes of the pen in the letter ‘I’, and ‘l’, and ‘e’. The ‘v’ and ‘u’ were nothing special. But it was the ‘y’ that always captivated her—she could see him clearly in her mind, writing out “I love you” on the flimsy page. The curve of the letter was stained with excess ink. He had stopped. She could feel it.
Susan closed her eyes, and thought of his hands pausing over then-smooth paper.
He was thinking about how he didn’t have to do this. He didn’t have to write this letter. He could go back and scribble it all out. He could burn it in the fire. He could throw it in the trash, and return to his room, kiss his wife and child goodnight, and sleep it all away.
Still, he paused.
He looked down and saw the black ink pooling on the paper, and he finished the ‘y’. The ‘-ou’ accompanied it.
It didn’t matter what the words were or what they meant. She had ceased to care. All that mattered was the jet-black ink stain in the middle of the ‘y’ on that crinkly old paper. This was proof that her father loved her. Maybe still loved her. She didn’t know if he was alive or not, and told herself it was irrelevant.
Some nights though, Susan would open that little drawer in her desk and stare at the paper. Around here, paper was rare. It was fitting that her father should put to pen his last thoughts. Not many did━when someone escaped, you knew why. And you knew where.
Susan rubbed her fingers across the edges and placed the sentiment in the drawer with a soft swoosh. If her mother found it, she would not be happy.