The story of Alice Grey’s confessions begins three months ago. Three very fleeting months, it seemed, since she’d been sitting in that waiting room. A waiting room that was non-descript apart from the strong smell of broken hearts and dreams. She could pinpoint the moment they’d told her the news; she still had the frayed jumper sleeve to prove it had really happened.
Yeah, right. As if she’d be able to forget the moment they told her she would die. She’d been a normal girl with a normal intelligence; clever enough to be considered clever, but not enough to get the top grades. It wasn’t as if she’d done anything to deserve it, hard she? She’d been normal, until a not-so-normal twist in her tale.
She wasn’t in that waiting room anymore; she wasn’t even grieving for the life she could have lived. Right now she just needed something to do other than tear open pink enveloped with hastily written get well soon messages in a variety of different colours.
Five days to live and she was stuck here reading cards from people who either didn’t know, didn’t care, or a combination of the both. Great, just great.
And then, she had an idea. It might not be that great, but it refused to be dismissed like most. Eventually, she gave in and began to think about it. It was some way for people to remember her; even if they remembered her hatefully, at least she would be remembered.
Writing letters doesn’t appeal to most; but in that moment, Alice Grey decided to do exactly that. It really was quite easy. Pick a card at random and write and write a reply on the reverse:
I recognise your name from the editors page in the school newsletter. You were one of the journalists, weren’t you? I’m sorry we never talked. For some reason I think we could have been friends. – Alice.
She looked down at her work. It was somehow quite enjoyable, writing little secretive notes that no one was expecting. It wasn’t normal, and she liked it.
The next day passed in a blur of activity. She was only half aware of what she was writing- small confessions, mostly, to her circle of friends. Things she’d done. She wasn’t just that average girl with average blonde hair and average blue eyes who got average grades – not at all. Average? She was anything but. She was persuasive, enough to have gotten away with murder and charmed the policeman into driving her home, too. Who knew? She’d probably done just that, and gotten away with it.
...I’m sorry I never had the time for you. I was an idiot...
... I was the one who hacked your email account. I sent all those messages... I’m so sorry...
... I was the one who really broke your ruler. I blamed it on someone else because I didn’t want you to get mad. I knew you already hated them so I thought I would make sure you didn’t become friends again. I thought you’d leave me...
...I was such an idiot, wasn’t I? I would hate me, if I were you...
As she wrote, it made things better - somehow. Like she was letting all her guilt go. It felt good – letting go.
Today, she decided – with some amusement – was time to write a letter she’d never thought she’d have to or even want to write.
Dear Elise, please don’t pretend you ever liked me – dying doesn’t change that. Once I’m gone you’ll go back to hating me anyway; we both knew we hate each other from the moment you threw milkshake over me, and spray painted my locker. Did I really deserve that? I know I certainly wasn’t being friendly when I changed your locker combination for a week – and if you think stealing my books is a good way of showing affection, then you are even weirder than I give you credit for.
She struggled with what else to say:
We might not have been friends, but at least we never tried to be nice; we weren’t fake, and we made our hate obvious. I just wish I’d had the courage to try to get to know you.
As soon as she wrote those last lines, she scribbled them out. As she’d said before, dying changed nothing. She added a new line:
PS. I was the one who stole your calculator. I threw it in a river, in case you ever wondered why it didn’t turn up.
At last she’d found a nice place to write these confessions, wedged between the sink and the cabinet. Her pen rested on the paper. There was a reason for locking herself up; this was a letter she didn’t want to leave lying around.
Mum, Dad. I don’t know how much you know about the letters by now. I wonder if you expected one, too. It doesn’t matter: here it is. Don’t be worried, or scared. The truth is, I have nothing to confess to you directly. It’s the other confessions that people will tell you about that worry me. Just remember, whatever happens, I always loved you and always will.
Love always, Alice.
She blinked sleep from her eyes, heart fluttering madly in her chest. No nightmare had made her wake up, no fear of being chased by strange monsters in the middle of the night; the very real threat of forgetting had forced her mind awake. Forgetting. The horror dawned on her: she’d almost forgotten. Forgotten to write the most important letter, the one she’d intended all along. In that moment she almost gave in and let sleep claim her again, but something stopped her. Guilt? She felt surprised. She’d never felt guilty about it before. Guilt was an all-new emotion.
Dear Julie, you’ve never met me in person, but you’ve heard of me. I think of you as a kind, young healthy woman. I don’t know how right I am in that. I imagine you aren’t well anymore. They said on the news you don’t go out anymore, that you’d given up searching for your son’s killer.
I knew your son very well when he was alive; I knew him too well.
You might expect this to be a letter about how much I miss him, and how heartbroken I feel. This is partly true, but not the only reason for the letter. I am much like you, I suppose. We don’t want any more sympathy, we just want to return to getting on with our lives but the moment we try to, everything falls apart. Too strong to cry, too crushed to ever be the same.
It’s late at night. I can’t help if I’m being philosophical or melodramatic.
I said I was close to your son. Very, very close. I knew him better than most people; or, I assumed I did. Perhaps I was wrong all along. Perhaps I only saw the side of him I wanted to see the most. Or he was just a good actor.
Either way, he died.
I think I know that the best, because I killed him. I wish I could say it was an accident. I wish I could say to you that I wish it hadn’t happened. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done, but I’m not sorry I did it.
He asked me out last summer. We were happy, very happy. I made plans that involved him. You can imagine my surprise when I found out he hadn’t been seeing just me. He’d been cheating on me for a long time and never leaked a word.
He told me to keep it all a secret because you wouldn’t be happy with him dating anyone. He said you wouldn’t approve, not if I suddenly appeared. Said he had to leave careful hints that he had a girlfriend before he began to introduce me. All that time he said he was studying or taking care of you, he was out on romantic dates. He made me think so little of you as a parent, demanding all his time for your own good.
Then I learned the truth.
I don’t think it’s an excuse for killing him, but it is a reason. Excuses and reasons aren’t the same thing, not always.
This is the closest you’ll get to an apology, I guess, and the closest you’ll get to compensation. I would give you money but it would make it feel like
She glanced up from the paper; an unruly tear escaped her left eye, and then her right. Her hand writing sprawled along the lined paper, not a smear nor a crease visible. It didn’t look like a carelessly written confession. The paper slipped between her fingers and she watched it flutter uselessly to the floor, unable to stop it. A black trail of ink marked the passage of the pen from her hand to the mattress, to the floor.
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