Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the letter

"The Letter"

She was perched on the plush window seat cushion with its gaudy pattern of orange chrysanthemums. They were made uglier by the young woman sitting upon them. But it wasn’t the chrysanthemums’ fault, really. The girl could make a golden rose wilt with jealousy. Or so she had always been told.

Her wedding dress whispered when she stood, the setting sun behind her drawing an ethereal outline around her body. On the coffee table in front of her sat a worn piece of paper with frustrated script and scratching on it. She bent to pick up the paper and a pen with a sweaty hand.

“I take you Kent,” it read, “to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love…”

It sounded so stiff. So somber and meaningless. She had been told to write her own vows, but could write nothing moving or romantic.

But what did it matter what she said? It wouldn’t make the wedding illegitimate. She would still become Mrs. Kent Westmore, even if she said nothing. She knew this, because she has learned throughout her twenty years that silence does not exactly scream opposition for most people. If you say nothing, people will choose for you.

This match had made her parents so ecstatic. Especially her frail father who hadn’t smiled in years, until that day Kent came to the house. Very old-fashioned. That’s how the Westmores were; very serious about who got to marry into their family.

And Kent was so nice. So gentle, even-tempered, thoughtful. So couldn’t she channel her appreciation of his sweetness into her vows and make them more earnest? Perhaps…

She knew, of course, why they sounded insincere. Everyone else, however, would just think her an unpassionate girl. It would follow her forever. While she wore an apron in the kitchen, fixing dinner for her husband’s family, they would smile as she passed the bread, but secretly remember her cold, indifferent words. Her daughter would one day come to her for advice on love, and she would have to lie again about how Kent was always meant to be her husband, her partner in life, and her one true love…

And each night she would lie next to Kent in bed, and lie to him, too. Every kiss, every embrace, Kent will bury his face in your neck to smell that place above your collarbone and you will look away. Every time.

She flipped the paper over and began writing. “My dearest Kent. I tried to ignore how I feel, but I cannot teach myself to love someone, though I wish I could…”

The letter came quickly to her. No scribbles, no mistakes. It was earnest, respectful, the truest thing she’d written. But something felt wrong. She pictured Kent’s disheartened face as he read the letter, and the image clawed at her heart.

She flipped the paper over and read her vows. Flipped the paper again and read the letter.

Flip… flip… flip…

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