Letters from the Grave

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A compelling love story within another story.

Submitted: May 22, 2017

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Submitted: May 22, 2017

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North Georgia - October 12, 2056

 

A pair of 16-year-old twin girls are roaming the old house that their father had brought them to see. It was the very house that their father had been born and raised in, and he had brought the girls along with him to visit it. The father’s plan had been to share the memories he’d made in the house of his childhood while visiting the actual place. The house would add tangibility to the stories of the father’s past, giving more dimension to the memories he would share with his girls. The house was full of old stuff. Some stuff the girls find cool and interesting, other stuff just looks gross. The twins find a box of letters. They browse through all of the letters in excitement. Every letter in the box’s contents was written by their Grandpa and addressed to be sent to their Grandma. There is only one letter that was from her to him that had never been mailed out. The girls decide to grab a couple of the letters to take with them. They want to show their Grandpa what they had found, and hoped to hear the story behind the letters. The girls are sure not to forget to take the unopened one as well. They stuff a few of the letters in their pockets just as they hear their father calling for them. They run from the room they are in all the way to the house’s front door. They exit the house and approach the car at a more reasonable pace. They get situated into their seats as they ask their father if they could pay a visit their Grandpa soon; they try to hide any suspicion in their voices. Their father chuckles a “yes” with a matter-of-fact tone. He continues his answer by explaining that Grandpa’s house is actually where they were headed to next because he has some things that he would like to show Grandpa.

 

They pull up to the large hospital-like building where their Grandpa lives with a bunch of other older people. From the inside of the car, the girls gaze through the windows. They gawk at the natural beauty that the seasonal change has brought on the area. The girls have always found that the wooded areas surrounding the building, becomes unquestionably breathtaking this time of year. They have often tried to find the appropriate word to describe the scenic beauty, currently surrounding them. They would use words such as mystical, magical, and several more like they’d heard in story books. They would always agree that any word they’d used so far lacked justice in the over-all description. This is a wonderland. Take away the building, and add a cozy little cottage and you have just found the setting to a fairytale. The cottage could have a tiny chimney that kept a modest trail of smoke continuously feeding into the air, bringing the seasonal scent of wood burning into the mystical woodland’s ambiance. The smells would be carried through the trees by the cool breeze rushing in ever-changing directions. The gusts of cool wind would carry back through the tops of the trees rustling the vibrant multicolored leaves. The oranges, yellows and reds shaking loose the browns. Some falling to the ground to rustle around and wilt away, some become one with the cool, rustling, wood-burnt breeze. Yes, some will hitch a ride with the patternless wind and aimlessly float amongst the seasonal refuge as everything slowly becomes colder.

 

The weather being as pleasant as it is, allows Grandpa to comfortably meet his three visitors in the courtyard flanking the building’s entrance. The twins run ahead of their father to greet Grandpa with huge hugs and smiles that seem to spread ear to ear. The girls whisper to him that they needed to talk to him about something. Grandpa nods secretly to acknowledge the girls. He looks up at his grown son, who now stands eye to eye in front of him, and shares an endearing father-son hug. Grandpa tells the girls’ father that the amount of firewood remaining next to the fireplace inside the building has depleted to almost nothing, and asks if he would do all the residents a favor and restock the firewood inside. Grandpa says that they’re just a bunch of old farts who wouldn’t be able to manage the use of a wheelbarrow. The girls laugh at Grandpa’s latter comment. The father smiles and tells his dad that it would be no problem. He sets his sites on the old rusted wheelbarrow resting out by the shed next to where the lawnmower is kept and begins the trek toward the shed. Grandpa and the girls shuffle their way inside. They plop down on an overstuffed antique couch and sit close to one another. Grandpa in the middle, and a twin girl on each side of him. Grandpa asks the girls what all the secrecy had been about. The girls begin pulling out the letters and handing them to their Grandpa. They ask him what they were about. The old man looks at the letters and his face fills with several different emotions- hurt, love, sorrow, grief and nostalgia. He takes a deep breath and places the stack of letters on his knee. He leans back into the couch and stretches his arms around the twins. He takes a deep breath and exhales.

 

“Girls, I’m going to tell you a story of a man who went to great lengths to be with the woman he loved. It’s not necessarily a happy-ending type of story, but maybe if you hear this story before I read these letters to you, you’ll understand.”

 

The girls’ eyes widen as their Grandpa proposes a love story. They squirm in their seats as they try to get comfortable on the cushions of the overstuffed couch. They look up at their Grandpa who seems to be staring through the wall on the other side of the room. What he’s gazing at isn’t around the wall at all, or even in this realm of time. A brief moment of silence passes as their Grandpa searches for the right words to use. A moment so deeply silent that it seems infinite to the two twin girls that are now ogling in anticipation at the old man that they love so dearly.

 

“Grandpa, are you ok?”

 

The tiny voice brings their Grandpa back to reality. The old man looks down at his granddaughters with pain in his eyes.

 

“Of course, darling. Just looking for the right words to start off this story. I think I’m ready. Ok. It was October of 2017, The Great War was getting bad. They were drafting everyone, even the women. The only women who did not get drafted were mothers of small children or women who were currently bearing children. One woman, in particular, was the wife of an aspiring writer. He was drafted, she was not because she was five months pregnant with their first child. When the time came, the couple said their goodbyes and swore to write to each other every day.

 

The war at this point had taken its toll on the world, which seemed to be falling apart. It was every country for itself. For the first time, the U.S. had no allies in a war. Seeing this, the writer began to question whether he would return home at all. He was determined to return home to complete his writings which came second to his love and above all, meet his unborn child. Being a father was something that had brought him excitement since the day he found out he was to be a father. He was strong-willed and relentless in not allowing the war to take that opportunity from him.”

 

As their Grandpa takes a moment to breathe, the twins take the opportunity to chime in with a question.

 

“Oh no! Does the writer-man die Grandpa?” The girl sounds thoroughly concerned for the character in the story, her quaint voice musters excitement. Their Grandpa chuckles breathily at the girl’s question before continuing his story.

 

“You’ll just have to wait and see. Now where was I? Ok. Two months had gone by and the couple kept their promise, writing to each other every day. The woman’s letters are what kept the writer pushing on through the bleak and harsh Russian slums that he and his platoon were dumped. For two solid months, he’d trekked numerous miles of vast, barren, snow filled wastelands. He missed the reds and yellows of autumn he’d left back home. Now in a colorless land, and fighting to return to the life he missed dearly, the man longed for just a hint of autumn. There were a few close calls which could have been fatal and he’d even lost a few friends. Somehow he managed to survive another two months, at which time he received the letter from his wife telling of good news. She had given birth to a son.  The new father couldn’t help but feel powerless and despair on what should have been one of the happiest days of his life. The outcome of the war looked grim for the U.S. and the man had lost all hope. He didn’t see a light at the end of the dark tunnel he had found himself in, and was pretty sure he wouldn’t survive much longer. Word had come in that the Russians had plans to attack the camp and the man did not see them winning that fight. Their resources had been dwindling and other soldiers were getting sick. The writer sent his wife one last letter explaining what he feared would happen. Shortly after, his fears became reality and he was captured by the Russians to be kept as a prisoner of war.”

 

The girls gasp in genuine shock, startling their Grandpa’s unfaltering pace. Stopping in his thoughts, he turns to each of the girls and grins.

 

“I know, I know! Just keep listening, there’s more.” Grandpa’s voice begins to sound raspy as he replied. A nearby nurse notices the obvious strain in his voice and hands him a glass of water. After taking a couple gulps of water, he reaches out in front of him and places the cup on the coffee table in front of the couch. He leans back into the couch, takes a breath and continues.

 

“Ok so, the man’s wife receives her husband’s last letter and refused to accept that he had failed in battle. She continued to write him letters every day, as promised. Three days later, an officer rang her doorbell on a chilly afternoon. The man informed her that her husband was missing and was presumed dead. She remained stubborn and insisted her husband was still alive and would return home. Every day she wrote a letter to him in a journal, so when he returned home she could show him that she kept her promise.

 

Months went by as she continued her ritual of writing a letter a day to her missing husband. Months turned into a year, which became two. At this point, she’d filled several journals with her letters. Their son’s second birthday was two weeks away when they declared the war over in October of 2019. Surprisingly the U.S. made it out just fine and the soldiers were all finally returning home to their families. The woman cleaned the house and made sure to doll herself up every morning in case her husband returned. Seven days went by and her husband had not come home.

 

After all this time she remained steadfast in the fact that her husband would come home, never accepting any different. Then seemingly out of nowhere, her thoughts began to falter and she cried for her husband for the first time. One night she sobbed until the early morning hours; until her son woke up needing to be fed. She pulled herself together and even though she was tired, she began her motherly duties. She managed to write one last letter which was unlike the others. She put the letter in an envelope addressed to Heaven, then stowed it away in her desk. The next morning, she watched as her son played with his toys. She was filled with sorrow and heartbreak as she mourned the man she loved. Just when she felt like she was going to fall apart, the doorbell rang. Usually, she would sprint to answer the door in hopes that it was her husband, but today she took her time as she sluggishly drug herself towards the door. She opened the door and what she saw made her eyes pour tears of joy. Standing there on her doorstep was her husband.

 

That first day home was filled with excitement and joy as the writer reconnected with his wife and spent his first moments with his son. That night after putting their son to bed, the couple spent some alone time in their room. The writer was unpacking his backpack when his wife handed a short stack of journals which were full of letters she had written him, not including the last letter which she had addressed to Heaven. He gave her a puzzled look.

 

“I don’t break promises.” Was all she replied to the questioning look in his eyes. He scanned the first journal to figure out what exactly they were, and after a few minutes he smiled. He pulled a small box from his bag and handed it to her. “What’s this?” she asked with excitement. His only response was, “I don’t break promises either.” Still confused, she opened the box only to find that it was filled with, what looked like a bunch of ripped up paper and cardboard. When she took a closer look at the different sized snippets of paper she, noticed that each one had a letter to her written on it. The man looked up from the journal, and said-

 

“Paper was hard to come by, but every day I wrote you a letter on anything I could find.”

 

The woman’s eyes filled with tears of pure joy. They sat up all that night silently reading each other’s letters. The couple finished reading just as the morning’s first rays of sunlight brightened their room. This meant their son would soon wake up, and would immediately require attention. Realizing this, the writer started freshening up in hopes to go start job hunting.

 

“One more thing my love.” His wife said as she handed him the last letter she’d ever written him. He noticed it was addressed to Heaven indicating she wrote it during the few days she thought he had actually died. She wouldn’t let him open it and made him promise not to open it unless she was gone.

 

The couple had three children together; Mitchel, Acacia, and Jordan.” The old man paused to take a few sips of water and to catch his breath. As the old man sipped his water, one of the twins suddenly became excited and started shouting eagerly.

 

“Grandpa you’re the writer! My dad’s name is Mitchel, my aunt is Acacia, and my uncle is Jordan! The story is about you!”

 

The girl looked at her Grandpa with pride as her twin sister squealed in agreement with her. Grandpa set his cup back on the coffee table and chuckled.

 

“Yes that’s right girls, I’m the writer from the story. My wife, your Grandma, is the woman in the story and her name was Mandy. Sadly, Mandy lost her battle with cancer at the age of 51 on October 12, 2046. Losing her was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through. I couldn’t live in that old house after she passed away because it brought back too many memories that just made me miss her more. It reminded me of how autumn would paint the yard with beautiful red, yellow, and orange leaves, and how we would rake the leaves into piles and the kids would jump and play in them, sending leaves flying all over. Painting the yard once again. I moved here and left the house to your father. I guess it brings him sadness as well because he won’t move into it, but he couldn’t ever sell it either. “

 

Grandpa picks up the stack of letters that the girls had brought, and carefully browses through them. He stops on the letter before the one on the bottom of the stack. With the same carefulness, he pulls the letter from the rest and lays it in his lap. Grandpa then put the rest of the letters to the side and picked up the letter laying in his lap. He carefully opens the envelope and extracts the letter, unfolds it and clears his throat. He realizes his eyesight isn’t as good as it had been when the letter was written and reaches into his flannel shirt’s pocket contents- retrieving his reading glasses. Grandpa puts his glass on as he clears his throat again. He picks the letter back up and begins read it aloud to the girls.  

 

My dearest wife,

 

The fight does not look good. I fear the worst and I am writing this letter to tell you I love you and I won’t make it home to see my baby boy. I will never see your beautiful blue eyes again. I think what I miss the most about you is your smile, you hate it so much but when you smile, the whole room gets brighter. I’ll miss the way you look so determined when you’re sitting at your desk writing, so focused, so brilliant. I’ll miss hearing you tell me how much you loved my latest piece of writing. You were always my number one fan and I was yours. Never quit writing baby.

 

Do me one favor though. Publish my work for me. Make sure the world knows who I was. I love you more than you will ever know. Oh, in my desk there’s a shoebox full of writing, it’s for our son. I was planning on reading them to him but I won’t get that chance. Baby don’t let my death ruin what amazing progress you have made. Be the woman I always knew you were! Don’t let my failure in battle ruin your life.

 

I love you.

 

Love,

 

Levi

 

The old man’s eyes glistened with tears. He took a deep breath and pulled out the unopened envelope. It was addressed to him, but the address only said “Heaven”. He opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. Again, he read aloud:

 

 

 

Levi My Love,

 

I will never believe you are gone. I know you will come home and I can’t wait to see you. I’m sure you are quite confused right now as you read this letter. You see three weeks before you came home I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer on my spinal cord, and I was told I was a dead woman. I don’t know what age I did pass away at but I know you made it home. You were always so brave baby. I know you will be a great father and I know you will be ok without me. I love you more than anything on this planet and I hope you know that. I can’t write very much because Mitchel is awake but I love you. Never quit writing.

 

Love,

 

Mandy

 

The old man wept as he read the last few words of the short letter. He took a deep breath and looked at his granddaughters, “Thank you girls for bringing me these letters, please always do what you love, make sure you can look back on your life and not have any regrets. That’s the best advice I can possibly give you two.” He hugged the girls tightly. The girls’ father arrived and asked what was going on. The old man said nothing and walked back to his room where he would finally be at peace. He went to sleep and never woke up. He was buried next to his wife and they both were covered in the beautifully colored leaves of fall.


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