Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Letter-Writing Works

As many of you know, I like to write too. ( I am hoping to get my works added to my website, but that is on the shelf for now) I am currently working on a manuscript and am toying around with ways to publish it. I have been putting some thought into releasing it chapter by chapter in my blog, but that presents some challenges. So, my thinking cap is still on. In the mean time though, I thought I would publish a short story I wrote about 2 years ago. ( My hope is that I have grown as a writer since then) I am also, as always, in search of freedom of expression and since I can not get outdoors to shoot photos just yet, this is the next logical step for me in my pursuit.

So, below is my short story. I don't think I have posted it as I have my poetry, but I do hope you find something to like in it. (Oh and it's prepared, lol)

The Letter

My Dearest Ana,
If you are reading this then my days on this earth are done. There were so many things that I never got the chance to say to you.  Damn my foolish pride! It always seemed to get in my way. I know that your place is with Duncan now.  He makes you happy and that has been more than evident. But I have always regretted that our love did not last Ana.  If I could have changed anything in my life sweetheart, it would have been that.

You came into my life when I needed you the most. You managed to bring beauty and laughter to my otherwise dull existence. For that my dear Ana, I will always be grateful. Quite simply, you brought a great general to his knees and then showed him exquisite passion and incredible love. I could not have asked for more.

My last thoughts were surely of you my beautiful Ana.  I often dream of an afternoon spent on the lawns of Grey Manor.  Your glorious auburn curls shining in the sun and the feel of your smooth alabaster skin against me…How you smiled every time I whispered your name…Rest assured that thought of this beautiful day carried me home. Always remember that I loved you Ana Macgregor and know that my life was truly beautiful because you were in it. Thank you for that gift.

Now dry your emerald eyes.  What’s done is done Ana. I have no doubt that we will be reunited one day and what a glorious day that will be! You lean on Duncan now. He is a good man and I know he will get you through this. Amanda is holding a key for you. It unlocks a box at the Bank of Zurich. You will find all of the papers for my estate there. Grey Manor is yours. It could never belong to anyone else. Never forget Ana, please never forget…

All my love-

That’s how it read. Sophie still could not believe how beautiful it was. The tears that weighed heavy on her lashes, finally set themselves free. This letter had touched her so. When she had retreated to the attic for some peace and quiet, Sophie never expected this. Today had been awful. Her family had laid its matriarch in the ground and with all the people that came to leave their respects, Sophie was sure that she was going to burst if she did not get some peace. Being particularly close to her Grandmother, this was the one place she felt that she could be near her.

The attic was a treasure trove when she was growing up. Grey Manor was a wonderful place to spend a childhood and Sophie had always considered herself lucky to have done so. Whenever Grandma was in town, she always made time to play with her. The attic was their play ground.  It was full of old trunks, furniture, paintings, clothing, jewelry everything a girl could want. There truly was nothing better than spending the afternoon playing dress-up and then letting Grandma take her to afternoon tea.  She always felt like such a lady on those days.

Sophie sat on the floor now in the middle of a group of trunks, the letter clutched in her hand. The sun was beginning to set and it sent streaks of light through the arched window. Particles of dust began to dance on them like some secret ballet that was for her eyes only. Her tears were starting to get the best of her. What it must have been like to share this love. In the midst of all of this, she found herself wondering who Eric was. Ana was her dear Grandmother and Duncan, her Grandfather, now sat downstairs brokenhearted over the loss of his love. Amanda was her Grandmother’s sister, her mother’s aunt.

‘So why have I never heard of Eric?’ she thought. ‘What had Grandma done when she learned her love was gone? More importantly, ‘Did Grandpa know about this?’  She mulled these thoughts over in her mind while she twirled a blond curl around her finger.

The attic door opened and her grandfather poked his head in. “Sophie?” he questioned.

“Ya Grandpa.” she said softly, trying to hide her tears.

The old man began to walk up the stairs and met her with a smile. Sitting down next to her on the floor, he took her hand.

“I thought I ‘d find you here honey.  Are you ok?”

“I should be asking you that Grandpa.  Have you eaten anything?”

Duncan patted her hand gently and smiled again. “I wish everyone would stop asking me that. I will eat when I want to eat. Now tell me, what have you found?” He questioned as he looked down at the letter still clutched in her hand.

Sophie smiled at her grandfather. Reaching up, she gently tucked a strand of grey hair behind his ear.  “It’s a letter Grandpa.” As long as she could remember, her Grandfather had always had long hair.  It was one of the things that lent to his “old world” charm.  Grandpa was ever the gentleman.

“Is this the cause of your tears my Sophie?”

“Well, it is just so sad.  I am afraid to show it to you though.”

The old man tipped his head back and chuckled. The silver tie that held his grey hair in place shined in the waning twilight. “You have found ‘the letter’ I take it?”

Sophie’s eyes widened. “You know about this?”

Duncan reached over and gently took the letter from her hand. “We were all young once too Sophie.  Your Grandma was a beautiful woman.  She was so vibrant.” He looked off into the distance as if he could see her.

“Who was Eric?”

The old man met her gaze again with his warm brown eyes, “ I will tell you, but first, tell me where is your young man today?”

Sophie fixated on the letter. “Well Grandpa, I am starting to think that love is the stuff of fairy tales. Steven was suppose to be here today. Today of all days…when I need him the most, he is nowhere to be found!”

“I am sure he has a good reason Sophie.”

She exhaled slowly, “I am not so sure Grandpa.  I think that you and Grandma had it.  Mom and Dad have it.  But me?  Well, I just don’t think it is possible.  I am not sure I could ever love someone like this.”  She pointed to the letter again.

“You are young my sweet.  When it happens for you, and it will, I hope that it is as powerful as this was. As powerful as my love for your Grandmother.”

“Did she…” She hesitated, “Did she love you?”

“Yes, she did.  We shared a great love.  It makes today all the more difficult.  But I must tell you that I find great comfort in the fact that she is with Eric again.”

“You knew him too?”

“Yes, we all grew up together. It was obvious even when we were children that Ana and Eric were meant to be.”

“So what happened Grandpa?”
Duncan took a deep breath. It was plain to Sophie that for her grandfather, this was still very real. Silence filled the attic and she began to feel a pain of regret for even asking him about this.

“Grandpa, I’m sorry.  You don’t have to tell me anything.  It’s none of my business really.”

The old man reached over for her hand, clasping it tightly.  “No, its ok my Sophie.  As I said before, I am very glad that she is back with Eric.  What happened is a long story really.  It seemed like we were children one day and then grown ups the next. We all grew up in this region.  Our parents were all friends and so vacations were spent together.  Trips were taken. Parties were had. The three musketeers…that’s what they used to call us. Your grandmother was a beautiful child.  I should have known that her beauty then would lead to extraordinary splendor when we grew.”

“Sounds like a wonderful way to grow up Grandpa.”  Sophie whispered.

Duncan smiled thoughtfully, “Much like the way you grew up dear.  Only the houses were smaller then.”  he waved his hand in the air. “Nothing compares to Grey Manor.”

Sophie smiled as she felt a twinge of emotion. That one statement summed up her whole childhood.  Grey Manor was truly a magical place.  And Grandpa was right about one thing, the houses she had grown up in were bigger.

“So, you wish to know what happened.  Well, it is quite simple really.  As I said, even as children it was plain to see that Ana belonged to Eric.  I don’t say that lightly Sophie.  They truly were one when they were together.  They made a fantastic team.  When ever Eric did something bad, Ana was right there covering for him.  She even took a spanking or two for him. He in turn offered her love and loyalty.  No one ever picked on Ana.  If you did, you had to answer to him.  Sort of like a knight in shining armor I guess one might say. As teenagers they were always running off together.  Your Great-Grandmother was fit to be tied when they ran away to the cove for the weekend. Eric was always surprising Ana with adventure.”

“And you Grandpa?”

Duncan smiled, his eyes softening.  “You are so much like her you know.  She always had a question too.”

Sophie giggled as she clasped the old man’s hand.

“I offered her unyielding friendship and a shoulder to lean on when times got tough. Friends til the end you could say.”

“You loved her then.” Sophie whispered.

The old man paused and took a moment to reflect. When his brown eyes met hers again, she saw that they were glassy with unshed tears. “For as long as I can remember my dear, I have loved Ana Macgregor. I woke every morning with her on my mind and she was always the last thought I had before I fell asleep each night.”

“Oh Grandpa.”

“But she loved Eric and that was ok with me.  I was just glad to be in her life.  So, time moved on.  We grew up. I went to medical school, your Grandma went to art school and Eric shocked us all by joining the military. He wanted to become an officer. Oh, Ana was furious! He was away for six weeks in the beginning and she was not allowed to see him or talk to him.  It was hard for her. That is when things started to shift in my favor.  While Eric was away, I was there for Ana. Now, do not misunderstand me Sophie, Eric was my best friend in the world.  I knew he loved your Grandmother and I tried to be mindful of that.  But spending that time with her was glorious.  She used to come up to Dover on the weekends to visit me.  We must have visited the pier a thousand times.  Whenever I could get away, I would drive down to her dorm.  I used to take her to the beach and just watch her paint. The sun would shine on her auburn curls…Ahh Sophie she was beautiful.”

“She always was Grandpa.”

Duncan reached out for a lose blond curl and tucked it lovingly behind her ear.  “You remind me of her my sweet.”

Sophie looked out the window, trying to hide her emotion from the old man. The evening  twilight had given way to a velvet sky lit with stars.  Her heart was truly breaking.  Not only had she lost her best friend, she was very concerned for her Grandfather.  ‘How would he make it through this?’ she wondered.

“After the first six weeks, Eric was off to the academy.  Ana was only allowed to see him once a month.  Again, it was hard on her and again, I was right there.  Whenever she needed to cry, or laugh or even when she needed a ride to visit Eric.  I was always there.  At Christmas Eric proposed.  Of course, Ana said yes. And of course, I was asked to be the best man. That was a lonely time for me.  But school kept me busy.  Then…I guess it was about three weeks before the wedding, the war broke out.  Eric was the first to be shipped out.  Ana was frantic. I took a leave from medical school and joined up myself.  My medical training kept me off the front lines.  I am not proud of that, but I saved as many lives as I could and that I am proud of.

Eric and I both sent letters home and in turn, she always wrote back to us. I found that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.  Her letters were the only thing that kept me sane.  A man can only see so much blood before he feels like screaming.”

“It must have been awful Grandpa. I can’t even imagine what you went through.  Grandma always spoke of how brave you were.”

The old man chuckled and looked off into the evening darkness again.  “Bravery, my dear had nothing to do with it. We just did what we had to do in the worst of situations.   Life is funny Sophie. It can bring you the most beautiful things you have ever seen and then the next day, show you the ugliest it has to offer.  But that is a story for another time. You wish to know what happened with your Grandmother and Eric….” He raised a shaking hand and waved it through the air.  “She simply got tired of waiting I suppose. Eric postponed their wedding three separate times and on the eve of the fourth, she ran away to Dover and called me.”

Sophie was shocked. Her Grandmother was always in control of her life. Running away did not seem like something she would have done, but then, she never knew about Eric. There was more to Ana Macgregor then she had known. “So that was it Grandpa? The two of you?”

“If only honey. We could have had so much more time together if it were that simple. No, she just needed my shoulder again. When she finally found the courage to go back home and face everyone, we said goodbye and I went back to medical school. Your grandmother threw herself into art school and graduated, before moving to the city. We didn’t speak for five years. Seems strange now, given the closeness between us.”

“Oh Grandpa….five years?” Sophie questioned as she rested her head on his shoulder.

“It all worked out for the best my dear. I had to go to the city for a conference and she literally bumped into me at a news stand I had stopped at to get my morning paper. I remember it like it was yesterday. The autumn sun was shining on us, she was draped in a lavender trench coat…..her hat had the most beautiful feathers in it. Then there were her eyes.  Those beautiful emerald eyes. We must have stared at each other for minutes before she threw her arms around me. It was then I knew, Ana Macgregor was my home. There would never be another woman that would ever hold my heart. As it would turn out, she felt the same way. We spent the most glorious night together…dinner, dancing, a walk under the stars and then said our goodbyes. But it was not for good.  I came to the city as often as I could and she traveled north when she could. The love that I had for her all those years only grew and when she told me that she loved me? Well, I keep that night right here,” he reached up and pointed to his heart. “I can replay it whenever I wish. A year later we were married and a year after that we had your father.”

Sophie curled up next to him tighter, feeling as though her heart would overflow with emotion. “That’s wonderful grandpa. You two were always so much in love.”

He patted her hand and smiled. “That we were Sophie.”

“And Eric? How did he take it?”

“Well, that may surprise you my dear. He was at our wedding and gave the grandest toast out of anyone. Gave us Grey Manor for a month so we could honeymoon. He was there the night your father was born.  He was always right there. Then this letter came.  He was killed on a campaign in the east somewhere. Ana was devastated as was I. Eric had been our friend forever it seemed. I am still not sure that your grandmother ever really got over his death. She used to spend hours sitting on the bench in front of his stone…..just talking to him.  I never asked her what happened between them during those lonely five years, but I know that she never stopped loving him.” He paused and lay a kiss on her hair. “And that is that my dear. Now you know.”

Sophie raised her head and began to wipe her tears away. “She was a wonderful lady.” she said softly.

“That she was Sophie. She was also the most devious person I have ever met. I am afraid that she hid your birthday gift honey and I cant find it. She never told me anything….knew I could not keep a secret when it came to you.”

Sophie reached for his hand, clasping it tightly. “Don’t worry about that Grandpa. My birthday means nothing right now.”

“Nonsense honey. The day you were born was not nothing. The world rejoiced on that day. I promise that I will keep looking. It has to be around here somewhere. Now tell me, will you be all right? I had better get back down stairs. Your father is probably frantic.”

“I will be fine Grandpa. Just give me a few minutes and I will be down myself.”  She leaned in and kissed his check before watching the beloved old man head down the stairs again, leaving her in the dim light of the attic.

Sitting there with her tears, she realized that she missed Steven desperately. She felt it then. She loved him the way that Eric loved her grandmother.  How could he leave her alone on a day like today? If the love was that strong, he would never have done that.  Thinking back to the letter, Sophie began to run parallels from it to her and Steven.

 Fresh tears clouded her eyes again as she stood up and began to put the things back into the trunk that she had unpacked. This had been a strangely beautiful yet heart wrenching day and she was weary. Sophie just wanted it to be over with. It was then, she heard someone clear their throat and she swore she felt her grandmothers hand on her shoulder, as it had so many times before. Just for a brief moment it rested there, giving Sophie a reassuring squeeze and then it was gone as she lifted her head.

He stood there in the dim light of the staircase, gently wringing his hands. His blond hair was pulled back tightly and emotion rested in the deep depths of his blue eyes.

“Steven.” The word came out as a whisper, almost as if it was torn from her lips.

He began to climb the rest of the steps and onto the attic floor. “Your Grandfather told me I might find you here.” His warm English accent caressed her ears like velvet.
“I….When….” Sophie found that she couldn’t complete a thought.
“I just told Wentworth and the partners that you needed me and that if they saw fit, they could replace me. I got on the first plane I could and now here I stand.”  Steven was hoping for some sort of reassurance from her. He knew that she was livid with him, and rightly so. Sophie had given him so much and all she asked was that he be here with her on this day.

Sophie felt herself smile through her tears. “And? Are you in need of a job?”
His smile matched hers. “Yes. But all I can think of right now is you my darling. I am sorry Sophie. I know you needed me today. I promise you that from this moment on, I will always be there when you need me and even when you don’t. Can you ever forgive me?”

Sophie was moving before the thought had come to her. Crossing the attic floor to him, she jumped into his open arms and held him tightly. It was all ok now. It would always be ok as long as he was there to hold her.  And in the split second, she realized that this was ‘that’ kind of love. She had not known it until now. This was the best birthday gift she could have ever gotten and she knew that her beloved grandmother had shown her the way.

Pulling away from Steven’s warm embrace Sophie turned briefly, looking towards the windows. She could see her grandmother standing there next to a man in uniform and they were both smiling. Ana and Eric, together again. Then with a blink they were gone.  Steven’s strong arms pulled her back into an embrace. Sophie accepted it wholeheartedly feeling as though Grey Manor had opened its arms as well. Sharing with the two of them, all the generations of  love that had come before them. Sophie and Steven’s love story would be written here as well and one day, their grandchildren would know of it. Perhaps finding a letter tucked in a trunk. Perhaps finding the letter that started it all.

AO/AP 2011

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