Script from a shaky hand spreads across faded paper. The fragile letter was carefully removed from its home inside the old envelope softened with time. Emily reads it on a trip through land spotted in puffs of white cotton. Meanwhile, the stubborn ribbon tying together the top of her satin blouse keeps slipping loose every so often as she bends over to better see the scrawl in the low light of dusk. Between the episodes of tying and retying the ribbon she begins to comprehend the message in pieces. In this body, and simple flesh, there has been a box long locked.
At times, she wants to stop the train, to grab some air. The window refuses to budge and it would be improper to unpin her hair so she leaves her ribbon untied for awhile as it is the only available option for achieving some sort of freedom. The words, written years ago, brought about feelings long buried under the many grains of sand held inside the hourglass. Jane left town out of high school to work during the war and Emily vowed, as younger sisters often do in rash anger, never speak to her again thus the letter Jane had written her the night before leaving and the many after that went unread.
Five years Jane’s junior, Emily did not have the maturity then to understand the call her older sister answered for the family and for the country. Through her tearful eyes, Emily saw Jane had abandoning her without a father and with a mother quite absent emotionally.
The sun dappled daydreams that had danced along their young eyelids in the summers when life was easy, when they would lie together under the oak tree imagining themselves as Greta Garbo or Bette Davis with starry eyes and flawless skin catching the eye of every man were distant memories. Replacing them was the emptiness and confusion of a guideless adolescence. Emily spent years hiding behind books, wondering about the world and searching for answers in the pages that she feared to ask her mother and refused to ask Jane.
As their mother passed weeks ago, a few last lucid words passed from her lips, “Go to her Emily. Forgive us both.”
Pulling out an old unused suitcase, Emily had never before traveled, she came across the letters purposefully hidden beneath the loose floorboard of the closet where she and her mother kept the little money they had saved up over the years. Now from her seat on this train moving fast across the country, Emily read the words of the first letter intended for her so many years ago,
It will be years, I’m sure, before you’re able to open these letters. I don’t blame you for being angry. I’m angry with myself. I wish I could give you more but my heart hangs heavy and I fear I don’t know how to mend it, or your willful heart. It wasn’t only father dying, it was I as well. The words I wish to say leave my mouth twisted and uneven in a way I wouldn’t want you to hear. Forgive me for saving you from myself. Know that I think about you in every beat of my heart. The whistle blows at work and I wonder where you are or if you are getting along in this life alright. Will write more.
Loving you always,
The train rolls to a stop. Jane patiently waits on the platform. A new place, an unpaved new world opens with the door. In the twilight, all is forgotten.