Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flash Fiction: LETTERS

[Most people that know me would say I have a romantic streak an inch wide, but that's not true: it's much wider than that. I'm also intrigued by letters, the almost-lost daily activity  (for many) of handwritten pieces of the heart and mind. I typed most of mine--lousy handwriting--but even so, several relatives and friends have told me that they saved my letters, cherishing them for years. I never agonized over writing one, essentially letting them fly, but so many of them touched the recipients more than I could imagine. I wish I'd known earlier.]


            The first letter sped across the intervening space, tucked within canvas, the very day after they'd met. Its response, perfumed ever so lightly with lavender, criss-crossed the county and arrived into eager hands. Words, tender and fragile as soap bubbles, were being shared.
            Letters then flew and rode and were carted like butterflies on a gentle breeze, filling the summer days with yearnings and sighs, with new memories, new hopes and new fears of being forgotten. Fall went from butterflies to equally-colorful leaves, letters now probing and confiding, seeking deeper into the illusion for the reality of souls matched in the heavens.
            The chills of winter blanketed the increasing ardor, wrapping it in the glow of its own contentment, incapable of dampening Love's flame. The eruption of Spring multiplied the letters, which then multiplied again into gilt-edged formal cards requesting a response s'il vous plait.
            For a while, the letters ceased, but a distant war and a call to honor made the letters fly, sail and truck to lands filled with the hateful violence of inhumanity. Fears and the frequent touches of despair, even thoughts of death and tear-stained lines weighed the letters with realities best left unmet. A bootie, pink-edged, made one letter bulge and two hearts squeeze with the dread possibility of hopes and lives dashed forever.
            But then letters, stiff, starched, serious soldierly letters said the time had come for the other letters to become unneeded and a flurry of letters, now tear-stained with joy, flew and raced to share the news, the plans, the changes and the future so bright and clear.
            No letters for a few years, until a step up the proverbial corporate ladder made the letters reappear, from points north, south, east and west, all radiating inward and outward from a tiny hamlet that to one person was a universe and to the other an anchor that demanded to be raised. Questions became demands and accusations, words going past each other without regard to each other, speaking to themselves, hearing nothing but their own angst. The letters dwindled to postcards with perfunctory details, then one day, they stopped.
            A few months later, one large letter, papers folded over carelessly, wrapping within them the words that signaled the end of any more letters, of any more words between these two. The papers, minus a few pages, were returned swiftly, slashingly, finally.
            Four months passed.
            A tiny letter, scrawled with crayon and kisses, made its journey. Held in trembling hands for an hour, receiving a drop of plumbed sadness before resting on a sleeping chest. Its response delighted tiny hands, and then every day, sometimes twice a day, crayon, pencil and even watercolor, like butterflies new to flight, wended their path across a landscape changed: the hamlet that felt like an anchor now seemed like a world, one that gave a soul purpose.
            A small letter reached out, not to tiny hands, but to a tiny hope that maybe, just maybe, a spark burned where once a fire kindled. For days...nothing. Then, from words, from many words, from what could have once been too many words, but were now not enough, the answer whispered like a wave...maybe.
            More words, many more words than were ever used, flowed from a heart torn by its own failings. Words of apology amidst lines of regret and sorrow, words that recognized that the shared had been so much more than the perceived, that what the heart had was so much more than what the eyes could have ever seen. The folly of blindness mixed with yearnings and sighs, with memories and hopes and fears of being forgotten, the passion of long ago barely restrained by the most powerful new hope.
            Its response, perfumed ever so lightly with lavender, criss-crossed the land and arrived to eager, tearful hands that, it now said, would never need to receive another letter again.

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