Flash Fiction 2013: The Letter
Flash Fiction Friday 099: The Letter by Jane Risdon 2013
A Blast from the past – this was first published on Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog:
I thought I’d share it again as I’ve been asked about it many times since.
Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the ninety-ninth piece in this series.
This week’s is a 450-worder by Jane Risdon.
This story will be podcasted in episode 32 (with three other stories) on Sunday 6th October.
Haunted by the neat sloping writing on the blue Basildon Bond paper which lay accusingly on her writing desk,
the old woman sat locked inside her thoughts.
She couldn’t bear to pick the letter up to read it again, but there was no need really.
The contents were not unexpected after-all.
She’d been waiting nearly forty years for something like this to happen.
And now it had.
Every knock at the door, every strange hand’s address on an envelope had filled her with such fear,
the like of which she could never share.
She had never told.
The only reason she had an answering machine on her phone was so that she could screen her calls.
Just in case.
Now, there on the desk along with all her bills and other correspondence, the letter lay,
the words terrorising her silently across the darkening room.
She didn’t ask herself how or why.
She knew the answers and had known this moment would come eventually, either in the form of a visit,
a phone call, or a letter.
Forty birthdays had come and gone, and with each passing one she had agitated in case this time it would be the one;
the day when she would have to face her past.
Long ago she had put away the photo, the little sepia image now faded with age and fingering.
There was nothing she could have done even if she had wanted to,
and she wasn’t even sure any longer if she had ever wanted to do anything.
At first it was not a matter of choice but necessity, but there had come a time,
many years later when she supposed she could have, possibly should have, tried.
Soon it would be over.
Of course she could ignore the letter but that might force a visit, in person, without warning.
She could pretend it had never arrived and feign ignorance if anyone queried its receipt.
Her stricken mind tried to battle with her emotions.
Part of her needed this to happen, craved it, and dreaded it, fought against it and longed for it.
Her tired faded eyes moved across the room to stare at the blue ghost beckoning her.
A date and a time had been suggested and if she didn’t respond the writer would understand,
after all it must be an awful shock after so many years, but hoped that she would consent to a meeting,
without strings of course.
Without strings, the old woman mused.
There were always strings, and there would always be strings.
She sighed heavily, tears brimming as she stood and made her way over to the letter.
She picked it up, reached for the telephone and dialled.
Morgen asked me what made me write this story, here is my reply:
For thirty odd years I’ve been researching and writing our family history.
I’ve made lots of contacts, discovering long-lost and distant relations along the way.
Out of the blue some years ago one of them – a distant cousin by marriage –
emailed me asking if a person who’d contacted him had any links to our family.
They did not, but the story he told me was fascinating and involved two women having babies at the same time,
in a mother and baby home.
They each became Godmother to the other’s child and then went their separate ways.
A letter arrived many years later from one of these children,
asking if there was anyone in his (the distant cousin’s) family tree who might be her mother.
She’d been adopted, and since the surname of her birth mother was similar to a distant relative of ours,
her request was forwarded to me to check my records too.
Sadly there wasn’t anyone matching her mother’s details.
The letter had an enclosure, another letter destined for this girl’s mother,
which she had asked be forwarded in the event she could be found.
I started to wonder what it must be like to receive such a letter, decades afterwards,
from someone kept secret from everyone else for so long.
What would that do to a family or someone alone?
Would they ever meet? What would that meeting be like?
So, I wrote The Letter.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Do let me know. Feedback is always valued and appreciated.