The Last Letter
The storm charged toward the shore and Elizabeth knew it wouldn’t be long. Time could not be wasted. Still, she sat on the porch in the same place it all started. Elizabeth grew up here, she married here, gave birth to two beautiful kids here. She used to sit right here and nurse her babies while the ocean waves tumbled along the beach. This place was home. More memories flooded her mind as she practiced the signature, with her husband’s pen, one more time on the scratchpad.
“Oh, this pen,” Elizabeth said under her breath as the ink fought its way onto the page.
It was his favorite pen, purchased on a family vacation to South Africa years ago. She bought it for him from an African woman at a market on the side of the road along the garden route from Durban to Cape Town. Handcrafted from Eucalyptus, one end was carved into a rhino’s head with a small Malachite stone for an eye. What a wonderful trip. Eighteen days exploring South Africa. The four of them.
She could hardly believe it had been so long ago. So much had happened since then. And all that was left from that trip was the pen. She lifted it from the paper and studied it. Its green eye stared back at her as it had often at her husband. He used the pen every day to write love letters to Elizabeth. It was the only time he wrote with it. He said it was special.
“The ink that flows from this pen writes not by my hand, but by my heart,” her husband used to tell her.
Every morning Elizabeth would find a handwritten note next to her favorite coffee mug, next to the fresh pot of coffee he brewed for her each morning.
Elizabeth sighed. She kept every note in the table drawer by her favorite spot on the porch. There were 4,380 of them. One for each day of the last twelve years. All different, personal, and for her eyes only. The last one was from yesterday.
“My dearest Elizabeth. The years have been good to us. Two amazing kids, laughter, tears, ups and downs with mostly ups spanning almost two and a half decades. I remember our first date, our first kiss, our wedding day, making love hidden among the dunes of Shackleford banks. We’ve had a good run.
Things are different now. We used to wake up each morning in a knot under the covers. Now, we hardly sleep in the same room. What I am saying is, we’ve changed. I’ll always love you and my heart has eternally reserved a place for you, but two months ago I met someone else. I’m writing to you this last letter to let you know, I’m leaving.
Please understand this is not your fault. It is mine. I’ve grown apart from you. I don’t know why, I wish I could change it, but I’ve lost hope and it wouldn’t be fair to you for me to stay. You and the kids will be taken care of, and I’ll continue to provide the means to stay in this house. I know how much you love the porch and your rocking chair. Please, forgive me and understand I need to do this for me.
Elizabeth read it again. And again. She read all of them in the last 24 hours. Each time studying the way he looped the “G” like a “6” or how he capitalized the letter “A” with a triangle instead of an upside-down V with a line. She began smiling. The pen moved around on the page making a skinny and tall “C” with a sloping line back to the middle.
“Perfect” she muttered.
It had taken her hundreds of tries but it was identical. Elizabeth took the paper from her lap and began to write.
When she finished, Elizabeth folded the paper and placed it in the envelope, just like he did. All she had to do now was wait. Tomorrow they would find Graham’s poems, prose, and anniversary notes. They would find 4,379 letters and one final note beneath the lifeless body of Graham Freeman.
“My dearest Elizabeth, I love you and the kids, but I have betrayed you and the guilt has eaten my heart like a cancer. I cannot go on. Please forgive me as I attempt one more letter and try to ease the pain that will no doubt come with this admission.
I wish I could take back the things I’ve done behind closed doors and hushed rooms. I am sorry but it can’t be undone. I hope you will speak well of me to the kids and spare them the burden. You were my life and my love. I’ve failed you. Goodbye.