My Dearest Ruth,
I trust this letter finds you in good health. The thoughts of you and I are like a constant symphony in my mind playing the same song repeatedly. I yearn to feel you, to touch you the way we once did. I am saddened at the thought of laying my eyes on you, yet unable to encapsulate your body with mine. The tips of my fingers crave the shape of your womanly curves. To taste your sweet lips again is the reason for my living. I would love to run my fingers through your hair, pull you close to me and passionately kiss you, showing you how deeply I care for you. However, again, I must fold this letter and put it in this envelope and leave it in our secret place. One day soon, I will ravish your body and never let you go.
With All My Love,
Ruth’s tears hit the letter as she reads it for probably the hundredth time. She leans out of the window and sees him. Thomas is in his room in the building right across the street. He is lying on his bed reading a book. He must sense that he is being watched, so he glances out of his window toward Ruth’s. They link stares, then exchange smiles. Ruth gazes lovingly at Thomas. He raises his hand as a weak attempt at a wave. Ruth blows him a kiss. Thomas catches the imaginary kiss and holds it in his hand. He brings his closed fist up to his mouth and closes his eyes.
Ruth watches him, then dreams of the day they can walk hand in hand again, go to a picture show again, or eat at a restaurant again. She always hated the rule of not living together before marriage, but especially now, having to endure this loneliness and isolation without her love, is just too much to bear.
Oh, Thomas, how I long to inhale the scent of you. I feel as safe as a small child when being held in your arms. Your strong chest shelters me from all of life’s storms and tribulations. I deeply desire your loving kiss, your lips touching mine. Then, to delve into the ocean that are your eyes, the magnificent sapphires that stare into my soul. I cannot stifle my passions for you much longer and they will not be satisfied until we unite again. The words “I Love You” do not express how acute my feelings are for you, but I say these words as they are the strongest words in my vocabulary. With this I leave you a kiss and a scent to bring back the memories of the time we have spent and to look forward to the life we will spend together.
Ruth seals the envelope with a kiss and spritzes one spray of perfume on it before sneaking it down to a crevasse in the doorway on the outside of her building. This is the designated place for the love letters. Ruth must be careful, but to retrieve his letter, Thomas must not be seen leaving his building and crossing the street to Ruth’s building or he will be fined.
He accomplishes this feat every night just to look upon, feel, and read the letter from his love. Upon recovering his letter from Ruth, he leaves a letter from himself in place of hers. Before pursuing his transit across the street, he revels in the captivating scent of his beloved.
The next morning, Ruth awakens from a wonderful dream of her and Thomas at their wedding. She is disappointed as she recalls her current circumstance. She looks out for Thomas but doesn’t see him this morning. It’s not unusual since he lives with his family and they have family breakfast in the mornings. She patiently lingers by the window until she can see his face.
The normal hustle and bustle of the city streets has halted and only an occasional car or delivery truck drives down the boulevard. Ruth, still awaiting her love, is startled when she hears a siren. She stretches her neck out of the window and looks as far left as she can. She sees nothing. Then she looks right. She sees an American Red Cross ambulance rushing in her direction. In the year 1918, the ambulance is an amplified version of the Model T Ford car and is Ill-equipped to handle life-threatening emergencies.
Ruth expects the ambulance to drive past, but it screeches to a halt in between her and Thomas’ buildings, blocking the view of Thomas’s window. Two emergency workers fully clad with protective gear jump out from the back of the ambulance with a gurney. They rush inside.
Minutes feel like hours for Ruth as she impatiently watches for the workers’ return. Her heart is pounding in anticipation. Finally, the workers emerge with a man on the gurney. The man is shaking violently, obviously seizing. Ruth recognizes him as Thomas’ brother, Charles. The emergency workers load Charles into the ambulance and quickly drive away.
Ruth can now see Thomas’ window again. He is visibly upset. His antics of pacing and the throwing of his arms combined with burying his face into his hands, sobbing, scares Ruth. This is the first time it has been someone this close.
The city has been under the mandatory quarantine for thirty-six days now. The newspapers say the pandemic is only getting worse. It has been this long since Ruth and Thomas have had any form of touch. Being able to see Thomas through his window, yet not be able to hold him or comfort him, only adds insult to injury for Ruth.
Their romance began like any other whirlwind romance. A little less than a year ago, Ruth was working as a bank teller. A chance meeting of the two happened when Thomas needed to make a deposit for his father. Thomas, having been born and raised in the city worked for his father who owns a pharmacy. For the two twenty-somethings, it was love at first sight. From that day on, they were inseparable.
Ruth had no family in the city. She is an only child and her parents live in a small country town in the next state. As a child, Ruth always dreamed of living in the city. She had always heard such wonderful things. So, one day she decided it was the day, the day she would make her dreams come true. She made her way to the city with her entire life savings, which wasn’t much. She quickly learned it was not as magical as she had determined to herself it would be.
After obtaining an apartment, unbeknownst to her at that time, right across the street from Thomas’, Ruth sought out to find work. She had been an excellent student in arithmetic so obtaining work at the bank was easy. Although alone, Ruth felt confident her decision to embark upon the big city was going to pan out after all.
For six months, Thomas and Ruth were neighbors and didn’t even know it. After getting acquainted at the bank, the two lovebirds wanted to spend every minute together. Every morning, Thomas would walk her to the bank on his way to the pharmacy. Thomas’ parents and his three brothers also instantly fell in love with Ruth. So, it came as no surprise when Thomas set up an extravagant proposal event where everyone that mattered was in attendance.
Ruth had been so enamored of Thomas. She felt as though she were dreaming. When walking, she felt she wasn’t even touching the ground. She and Thomas were so in love and had already planned the date: September 21, 1918. It was the same day they had met the year prior.
Understandably, Ruth’s sadness turned to frustration, then to rage when the Spanish flu made its way into the city. Once the government set the mandatory quarantine into place, Ruth felt her life-is-perfect bubble pop. The quarantine order was that everyone other than medical workers and volunteers that had medical training, police officers, and other essential workers were to stay at home.
Neither Ruth nor Thomas were considered essential. So, they would spend their long, hot summer days staring at each other from their windows and write long love letters to one another.
The next morning, Ruth wakes up and doesn’t see Thomas. Not a single soul has passed by Thomas’ window all day. Concerned, Ruth goes down to the secret place and finds her letter from the previous day had not been collected. A sense of fear rushes over her. While she is in hidden in the doorway, Ruth sees another American Red Cross ambulance. This time the siren is not blaring, and the workers are not moving as quickly. Like before, they take the gurney inside.
Ruth realizes that she has forgotten to breathe. She takes in a deep breath and holds it again waiting fearfully for what she may see next. When the workers come out of the building, they have a person covered with a sheet. Ruth witnesses Thomas’ mother crying in a handkerchief. Panicked, Ruth scans the front of the building searching for Thomas, trying not to give up her location. She lingers in the doorway until the ambulance has loaded their patient and has driven away.
Ruth is completely numb. She stands and watches for any sign of Thomas. Nothing. Walking past in another window, Ruth sees Thomas’ mother and father, now both crying and holding one another. Feeling as though she has no other option, Ruth walks back into her building. Heartbroken at the thought of her love having died from this horrible pandemic, Ruth walks up the stairs. She passes the floor on which her apartment is on and continues to the rooftop.
It’s only five stories high, but high enough to do the job. Making her way over to the edge, Ruth looks down. She envisions the memories shared between herself and Thomas. She couldn’t, just couldn’t live without him. She knows her mother and father would be sad, but to Ruth she has nothing left to live for. She opens her arms wide. The thought of knowing she would be with her love in the next life gives her the courage to do it. Eyes closed, imagining reuniting with Thomas, she jumps.
As Ruth’s body lies lifeless in the middle of the street, Thomas runs out to see what has happened. Everything becomes mute. The blood drains from his body and he forces himself to take a breath before willing his legs to walk over to his beloved. He kneels and scoops up the mangled mess that was once his beautiful fiancé. He holds her tight, then able to incite sound, he screams.