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 and gave birth to two beautiful kids here. She nursed her babies here while the ocean waves tumbled along the beach. This 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 digressed as the ink fought its way onto the page.

It was her husband's favorite pen, purchased on an eighteen-day family vacation to South Africa years ago. She bought it for him from a market on the side of the road along the garden route from Durban to Cape Town. The merchant handcrafted it from Eucalyptus. One end was carved into a rhino’s head. Its Malachite eye watched her with suspicion as it had her husband.

She could hardly believe it was so long ago. So much has happened. All that was left from that trip was this pen. She lifted it from the paper, reminded of the love letters he wrote to Elizabeth. It was the only time he used it. He said it was special.

“This pen writes not by my hand, but by my heart,” her husband used to tell her.

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—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. She sighed.

 “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. I wouldn't have changed a thing.
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. My heart has eternally reserved a place for you, but two months ago, I met someone else. I’m writing 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.
Love always,

Elizabeth read it again. And again. She read all of the letters 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. Satisfied with her critique, she smiled. The pen moved around the page, making a skinny and tall “C” with a sloping line back to the middle.

“Perfect,” she muttered.

It took 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 precisely as he did. All she had to do now was wait.

Tomorrow they would find Graham’s poems, prose, and anniversary notes. They would find the 4,379 letters in the shoe box above the dresses in her closet. And they would find one final note beneath the lifeless body of Graham Freeman.

 “My dearest Elizabeth, I love you and the kids, but I have betrayed you. The guilt has eaten my heart like cancer. I cannot go on. Please forgive me as I attempt one more letter and try to ease the pain that will undoubtedly come with this admission.
I wish I could take back the things I’ve done behind closed doors and in hushed rooms. I am sorry, but it can’t be undone. I hope you will speak well of me to the kids. You were my life and my love. I’ve failed you. Goodbye.
Love always,

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