You can feel the summer day heating up and mentally congratulate yourself on having the foresight to get the kids out for a bicycle ride before the heat and UV rays kicked into high gear. The three of you glide into the garage and park your bicycles. You remind them to wash up and drink a glass of water before walking back out of the garage to get the mail. You smile to see the lilies have finally bloomed and remind yourself to water the garden beds if you aren’t hit by one of the stray thunderstorms forecasted for the afternoon.
Opening the mailbox, you pull out a handful of mail. Bill, bill, circular, junk mail. And then your breath catches in your throat and you are suddenly off-balance. Trisha. You blink and look at the return address again. It can’t be.
Your daughter calls you from the door to the garage, jolting you back to reality. You assure her you are coming and force your feet to walk back into the garage. Why would she write? You have been trying so hard to move past the catastrophe that had swirled around her. You had finally stopped thinking about her, stopped torturing yourself, stopped wondering how you hadn’t known, what warning signs you must have ignored. Why hadn’t this letter gotten lost in the mail? Maybe you can just pretend it did. Yes, that is what you will do. No sense reopening old wounds. As you walk past the recycling container, you toss the letter and junk mail in and you go inside.
You check on the kids and sit down to deal with the bills. But you find yourself rereading the same sections over and over again. Instead your thoughts kept returning to Trisha and that letter. What could she possibly have to say to you after all this time? Do you owe it to her, to your friendship that was to read what she wrote? No! No, you don’t owe her anything. And you return to the definite reality of bills in your lap.
And then that quiet, nagging voice that you thought you had silenced, had, in fact, silenced until that letter arrived whispered, “Do you owe it to yourself to read that letter?”
You try to ignore that voice. What good can come from revisiting that part of your past? You have moved on, rarely thinking of her, no longer worrying that you are associated with her in the minds of others.
At the same time you know that if you don’t read that letter, you will always wonder what it contains. What is worse, living with that ignorance or reopening the wound? You know the wound will heal, it did before. You live with its scar which you have been unable to soothe or overlook. You felt its throb when you saw her name on the envelope. Maybe this letter could contain a miracle balm. Or maybe it could, what? What is it you need? You sit there trying to calm your breathing which you realize has gotten ragged. You know the answer, you just need to reconcile yourself to it. With your breathing under control, you arrange your face into the unflappable mom mask you use around the kids and walk past them, smiling at them and their box fort to retrieve the letter from the recycling bin. You can’t recycle it yet.
You return to your desk and stare at your name on the envelope for a long moment. How is your identity tied up with hers? You have successfully extricated it in the minds of others, why does it haunt yours? You shake your head, trying to clear your head, but know what you need to do. You take a deep breath, and tear open the seal.
You unfold the letter, taking no real note of anything but the words which your eyes and mind seek frantically:
I’ve been struggling with what to say to you. I need to ask your forgiveness, but I don’t have the words. I wish I could do this in person, but I don’t think you want to visit me and I don’t think I could face you if you did.
I know how much I hurt you. No, that isn’t fair, I don’t know. But I can imagine. You were my friend and thought you knew me, but really you had no idea what I was capable of, what I was doing. And when I was caught, you stood by me, got me a lawyer, and argued that the accusations must be false. You visited me and told me everything was going to be okay. And I never told you. I can only imagine how you felt when I confessed and pleaded guilty. I hope no one ever held our friendship against you or wondered if you knew or were complicit. But I know you must have spent a lot of time second guessing yourself and that it must be very hard for you to trust anyone.
My instinct is to try to justify my choices to you, but I need to take accountability for my actions. I did it. And I should not have. I had a choice and I made the wrong one. I’m sorry for all of those I hurt, but most of all, I am sorry for what I did to you.
Please do not blame yourself for anything I did. You did not know - could not have known. You think the best of everyone and I will never forgive myself if that changed because of me. You were a good friend to me and the world is a better place because you are in it. Please continue to see the best in others and help those around you achieve their potential.
I hope that this letter will help heal the wounds I inflicted upon you and that you are filled with the strength and positivity that was central to the woman I knew. One day maybe you will be able to forgive me. I wish there were a way to repair the trust I broke. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.
You pause and ponder the last sentence. What could she do? Nothing. So why do you keep clinging to this hurt and questioning your judgement? What good is it doing? Your daughter comes into the room to ask for a snack and you quickly arrange your features into the mom mask, unwilling to taint them with knowledge of this hurt. You follow her into the kitchen and get her berries before rereading the letter. You have blamed yourself for so long for not seeing it, for not stopping it. A more worldly person would have known.
Your thoughts are interrupted by the sound of giggling and you sneak a glance at your children who are building their own world out of blankets and boxes. You smile at their innocence and joy. You want to protect them at any cost.
And then you realize the hypocrisy of your thoughts. You blame yourself for the very characteristics you treasure in your children. Seeing the best in others is not a sin, it is your gift. Perhaps your innocence has been lost, but you can choose how you view the world. You can try to heal the hurts of the world, but you cannot allow yourself to drown in them, you need to have hope and see the virtue in others again. You throw the letter in the recycling and close the door behind you.