Tommy was nervous, hearts were flying around, gangs of gaggling girls. Each passing in groups. Why did girls always travel in groups? The halls were filled with whispers whenever one of the football players walked by. He looked anxiously around, trying to find the unforgettable bush of curly brown hair through the mass of people. She was as difficult to find as Waldo in a candy cane shirt parade.
Aha! There she is, standing at her locker putting books away. Wringing his hands nervously, he made his way through the sea of people to her. The beating of Tommy’s heart was louder than any of the chatter in the hall. Mustering up all the courage he could, Tommy tapped Gabbie on the shoulder.
She turned around, her brown hair catching in the light, turning it golden. A carefree twinkle sparkles in her eyes, her radiant smile melting the hearts of many. Everything about her sent a wave of butterflies through Tommy’s stomach. No turning back now, Tommy thought.
“T-tomorrow’s Valentines Day… and I was wondering if you would want to watch a movie and have some dinner with me?” Tommy asked shakily. He watched as Gabbie’s face changed from calm to surprised then thoughtful. Regret started to flood over him, he mentally scolded himself for even thinking about asking her.
“Oh u-uh Tommy, look, I’m really flattered b-but Danny already asked me and I said yes..” Gabbie said quietly, looking down at her convers. There was a tinge of regret in her voice.
“Oh… okay well uh have a good time and I’ll see you later,” Tommy said, dejected. He turned away, not wanting to hear another word. It was too painful, all he wanted to do was disappear. Well, he thought sadly, at least now I can eat my sorrows away with the chocolates I got.
Tommy walked as fast as he could out of the school. He just wanted to go home, to lay on his bed in defeat and cry until his eyes were puffier than marshmallows. Practically running through the door, he ran to his bedroom and threw his bag on the floor. Laying face down on the bed he cried, cried until every tear had left his body, and he dozed to sleep. Unknowingly, his phone was buzzing off the hook in his bag, from a desperate caller.
Now, quite a few years later. They made it together, that tale is for a different story. Tommy was solemnly folding the laundry. This used to be an enjoyable task, but now that his beloved wife was in the hospital, it wasn’t. Gabbie, with arthritis, had gotten a knee cramp while on the stairs and had fallen. If she had been younger and in better health, she would be here with him now.
Frustrated with despair and loneliness, he threw down the clothes. Moving on to another task. His sister sent him boxes from their old house for him to look through. She thinks it’d help keep him distracted.
Slowly, he heaved the first box down from the pile and put it down on the floor to look through. The first box was nothing but piles of paper, old schoolwork. The next box, heavier than the first, was filled with books of all sorts. Books from Calculus to the Star Wars comics. He shivered at the thought of the treacherous calculus.
Yawning at all the boring items in the boxes, he searched for one that seemed interesting from the outside. Finally, he noticed a red box, it wasn’t the biggest. A little larger than a shoebox. It was decorated with paper hearts and had one large one with the words T+G = <3. Tommy laughed, thinking about his seven-year-old self writing this and hiding it under his bed. Without looking away from the glued heart, he took it over to the couch and sat. His heart raced with anticipation to open the box.
Opening the box, a pile of letters floated out. Again, he chuckled to himself. An image of his younger self stuffing these letters into the box, hoping one day they would be seen by the aliens or Gabbie. Picking up the one that was left on the very top, he began to read.
Dear Gabbie, 4/23/2004
Todai was so much fun! Tank you for inviting Mr. Snuffles to our plai date todai. He had so much fun. You were cooking a bunch of silli foods! My sthmac is still grmbling from your double chese chocolate ece cream soup. I realli liked the wai it made your eies light up. Oh and the wai your mom did your hair, it was so prety!
Tommy laughed out loud when he had finished reading, he could remember them eating such a concoction. They had tried stranger combinations in the future. His heart grew warm as memories flooded back to him. Setting aside the letter in his hand, he grabbed another and continued to read.
He sat and read for hours, laughing, crying, and remembering. His younger self was full of love and still is, for Gabbie. As he reached the bottom of the box, there was a note that said, “Make sure that Gabbie sees these letters.”
Eyes wide and open, heart beating and breath caught in his chest. A message from his past self, telling him to go for it, hadn’t he already done that? Gabbie and Tommy were already married, each was happy. Questions started to pop up in Tommy’s mind, does Gabbie know what he really feels and thinks? Did he ever tell her what he had written in the letters? The answer to all of these was no, yes Gabbie knew how much Tommy loved her and cared, but nothing to the extent of what was written in the letters.
As if it had hit him like someone waving a piece of bacon in his face, it was clear what the ‘smell’ was. He would bring a letter or two every time he visited Gabbie in the hospital, though she was in a coma, she may still be able to hear.
Deciding he would go that afternoon, he chose a letter that was sure to make Gabbie smile. He started getting ready, pulling on his coat and shoes, gently placing the letter in his pocket so he didn’t crumple the paper. He grabbed his keys and got into the car, and started the drive.
At the hospital Tommy made his way through the blinding white halls of the hospital, the overwhelming smell of illness and sanitizer flooded all around him. That was his least favorite thing about hospitals, wasn’t the doctors, or the needles, the smell. The smell is what makes something inviting, giving it a homely feeling.
Finally, he turned into Gabbie’s room. No matter how many times he walked through the door Tommy would never be used to the terrible sight of his beloved wife lying lifeless upon the patronizing white sheets. All the machines beeped and whirred, all fighting to keep her here. He took his seat by her and sat in the hard, cold chair. The arms of the chair dug into his elbows. Ignoring this, he pulled out the letter and began to read.
Dearest Gabbie, 5/10/12
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed the way your hair lights up in the sun? Or the way the wind carries it, as though wanting to bring you with it. They’re always saying follow our hearts, but what if the wind is leading us somewhere? I feel the wind is leading me to you. Whenever you're around I feel a gust, perhaps of wind or love. Whatever it was, I knew it was leading me to you. I love the way your eyes sparkle in the sun. It sends a tidal wave of butterflies in my stomach. My heart goes out to you in some of your most trying times, easy times. Ever since I was a boy you stole my heart, no matter who’s with you, where you are, how many kids you have. I’ll love you always and forever. If you need anything, any time, any day do tell.
Forever your friend,
“Well here it is my love, my teenage self confessing my undying love for you,” Tommy chuckled. Patting his dear wife’s hand. It was freezing. Tommy took his gloves out of his pocket and placed them on her hands. Gabbie was known for always having ice-cold fingers. Sighing, he sat down again, lost in thought. After a while, it was time for Tommy to go home. He promised Gabbie he would be back again tomorrow with another letter to read to her.
“Goodbye my love, I will see you again tomorrow, stay strong,” Tommy whispered, kissing her forehead. There was pain behind Tommy’s eyes, as he watched his wife lay there. It was as if part of him had disappeared. He was missing a part of his life, without her the world was quiet and cold. Invisible scissors cut at his heart, this was too much too bare. Hot tears started to leak from his eyes. He didn’t bother to wipe them away. He let them stream down his face as he walked out of the room, out of the hospital, and all the drive home.
When he got home he felt a low grumble in his stomach. He ignored it, there was no enthusiasm to eat. Eyes sweeping the empty house, once so full of laughter and joy. There was the stale smell of dish soap and bread. Then his eyes fell upon the shelf they had obtained a year ago. They were filled with pictures from their countless adventures together.
Tommy turned away, not wanting to look at the happy faces, forever framed. Instead, he busied himself with getting a small bowl of cereal. Then he lay down in his bed and drifted off to a dreamless sleep.
Early the next morning Tommy got up and dressed. He ate a small breakfast then went to the couch to pick out another letter to read. Finding the perfect one, he again got ready to go to see Gabbie.
“Good morning my dear, I am here with another letter for you,” Tommy said gently, sitting in the same spot as he had last time.
My Dear Gabbie, 8/22/15
I can’t believe it, we’ve graduated! This comes with both sad and happy feelings I must confess. We have each started a new chapter in our lives, separate from each other. You’re in another state, I stayed here. I never dreamed of a time we would be apart. This truly is my worst nightmare. Being away from you for such a long time. My heart wishes to be next to yours, to feel the softness of your skin, the calm of you next to me. I know this is only temporary, just try telling my heart that. We’ve promised to call every night, I understand if you can’t. I look forward to the holidays with you. We have the whole of summer together. I know you will do amazing in school, if you ever need help let me know, if anyone is giving you trouble, I’ll be there in a second.
Forever your friend,
Slowly he nodded his head, remembering the terrible pain of being separated from Gabbie for such a long time. Though it was only temporary. Just as yesterday, he repeated his routine of sitting and just thinking, not knowing where to go. Then he went home. The next day he repeated this ritual. For a whole month, he did this, always finding another letter to read. At times the letters would tell of all their many adventures, different places they had been, things they experienced. Then one day, something happened, something that made Tommy alive again.
He started reading a letter that he had written when he was twenty-five, it was a long letter, he poured his whole heart into it.
My Love, my forever, Gabbie, 2/19/22
I’ve held this in for much too long. It’s time I poured everything out. You need to know the truth, though you may already know, just not all of it. Since the day we met in preschool, to our college graduation. I was taken by you. The day I met you I knew you would be mine. Whether you felt the same, it was unlikely. You took a chance on the shy boy just standing around, at a complete loss of what to do. You were a hand that led me through the deepest of darks, the brightest of days. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for you and your kindness. Everywhere you go there is just this kind of calm and ease. You're my home away from home. My light in the dark. My everything. I want to spend my forever with you. I want to feel the warmth of you close to me. I want to hold you tight in my arms, let you feel secure. I want to laugh and cry with you. Talk until there’s nothing to be talked about. I’ll be your rock that you can lean on, a shoulder to cry on. I will always be here for you. I cannot imagine a forever without you, whether you're by my side or just a friend. As long as you’re happy, I’ll be happy. Everyone used to ask me why I didn't have a girlfriend, I really couldn’t respond properly. In my heart I knew I was waiting for you. Waiting until you are ready, and I will wait forevermore to be with you. I love you so so much Gabbie, and nothing can change that.
Forever your friend,
Once he had finished reading, he started at the paper, a flood of emotion breaking down the dam that was so strongly built. Oh, how he had wished he told Gabbie all this sooner, so she would know everything. But everything would not be complete without her.
He brought his eyes up to Gabbie's face and to his surprise her sparkling eyes were open and staring at him. Her lovable smile was on her face, tears were rolling silently down her cheeks.
“G-Gabbie! You’re awake!” Tommy cried, absolutely thrilled. She nodded slowly, still weak from the injury.
“I heard everything, every letter you read, I’ve wanted to say something but I just couldn’t. I love you so so much my dear and I could never imagine a forever without you,” Gabbie said faintly, though love was etched deeply in her words. Tommy stood up and bent his head down, kissing Gabbie full on the lips. Then all of sudden, there was an eruption of applause. The two broke apart and saw the hospital staff, doctors and all, clapping, each wearing a large grin.