The words over at Three Word Wednesday are caustic, hunch and sacrifice.
The love letters began in the fall of 1975, when they both were 14 and thought they knew everything there was to know about young love.
He’d write her pages of material, done in a tight printed hand, since that summer he’d gotten the idea he wanted to be an architect and printed everything. He used college-lined paper, which he found exotic, and generally folded each note into 16ths, a tidy and convenient package for a girl to slip into the back pocket of her jeans.
She reciprocated with notes done on copier paper, mostly in colored inks, and dotted her i’s with hearts.
He smoothed his notes out and kept them in a manila file folder stolen from his mother’s office. Across the tab – he’d chosen one where the tab was centered – he printed CORRESPONDENCE and then hid the contents in a navy colored footlocker, along with his girlie magazines and BB pistol.
She kept hers folded, stuffed roughly by date received, in a cardboard shoebox.
The letters continued through high school and intermittently through college, since he was studying to be an engineer – still he printed everything like an architect but his signature – and she stayed home to help run the family business.
She thought the university had changed him somewhat, made him more pretentious that he really should have been. On a hunch, she wrote him a card, told him that her love would never die, and he responded with a single-page letter, typed coolly and somewhat caustic on his new word-processor. In it, he discussed the his New World View, the sacrifices he wasn’t prepared to make, given all that he needed to see and do. He said he loved her, too, but that all things change.
She responded, hurt and angry across handwritten words smeared with her tears. Her pain bled through the words, but in the end, she said she’d always love him no matter what.
The years progressed and he advanced his career in different cities, married twice. The marriages didn’t take, and he moved through the world looking for the next big thing.
She stayed home, of course, took over the business and dated sporadically. There had been one man she developed a strong like for, and wrote him about it. He sent a bouquet via Teleflorist, with a business-sized card he didn’t actually pen but dictated, wishing her the best. He was overseas at the time, overseeing a project with great purpose and potential.
Whole years went by without correspondence.
She slowly built her family’s business into a position of strength and became the Midwest hub of a great and growing empire. She remained friends with her suitor, but held out hope that one day, her love would come back to her.
She continued to send him cards throughout the years, never quite going as far as she once did, but signing off always with, “I Will Love You always” before signing her name.
He’d reached mid-life in crisis, having lost his job to those engineers both younger and less expensive and the slide continued through health problems that manifested into a serious case of depression. Medications were tried and failed.
She had switched her correspondence to email, and sent him encouraging electric bits of letters that encouraged him to be strong, that he was loved.
He crashed one weekend and in a haze of pills and booze, decided that his time had come to an end. He’d gotten out a yellow legal pad and tried to write a note that would explain all the hurt the pain. But instead, the words poured from him to her, 40 years of everything he’d swallowed in the name advancement. He wrote until he could not write any longer and drifted off into a sleep he hadn’t found in years.
When he awoke, he felt a calmness. He picked through the hand-scrawled pad, frightened by what he found. It was emotional, pure.
He sealed it in a large white envelope and mailed it to her.
She responded with a card that said simply, “Come Home.”
They sit on the porch of a great old house, laughing at the antics of the neighbor children and their new puppy. He slips a hand under hers, deposits into her palm a letter tightly folded into 16ths. In it, he tells her about his day, tells her how much he loves her.
She smiles and gets up, kisses him and slips inside to file this new note in the shoebox he keeps on the mantel.