Contemporary Fiction Coming of Age


Dear Steve ,

I know you must be surprised at getting a letter from me when l could have texted or phoned . Well , what l have to tell you cannot be conveyed except through a letter .

By the time you get this letter l will be a thousand miles away . You will never see me again . I needed to write to you because I need to come to terms with my past , exorcize these demons which don't give me a moment 's peace .

So where am l going ? I am going home , Steve . I am going home to my parents , home to my old ordered life , home to complete my degree . I never told you about my parents because l had quarrelled with them and left home to follow the glitzy world of fashion and as l had thought - instant fame . I struggled for a bit , got a job as fashion designer and leased this small apartment . l thought life was pretty cool - so different from the sheltered life l had been leading - until l met you . You swept me off my feet . In my rarefied , sanitized world , l had never met anyone like you . Your flattering attention , your anecdotes , your wicked sense of humour enraptured me . I thought l had fallen in love irrevocably , irreversibly ... Life was on a roll .

 Until came Barbara into our lives .

 Tall , slim, golden haired, she was everything was not - a living Barbie doll . She spoke with an lilting , enticing drawl. Could l actually blame you for preferring her to me ? In any case most men can see better than they can think . The outward wrapping for them is paramount . She taught English to immigrants - mainly adults. Her classes were always bursting at the seams. I remember you had gone to drop your neighbour to her class. One look at her and you were smitten . You no longer looked at me , you looked through me - l had ceased to exist . Don't ask me what l felt - bewilderment , deprivation , helplessness - and finally a rage so intense , l thought it would consume me . Then l thought, don't get mad , get even . And cold - bloodedly l planned my next move. 

I went to her , " Barbara , will you teach me English ? " l said. "I want to learn to speak and write as well as you do ."

Barbara put down her chalk , wiped her hands with her snow - white lace handkerchief and smiled her fake smile.

"Perhaps you can join my class ?"

" My office gives over late. Please give me some other time."

I looked appealingly at her. 

" My evenings are taken up , " she laughed again." How about 9.00 am ? Before you leave for work ? "

" Anytime you say, " l said gratefully. 

So our classes started.

 We began with the basics. I went through the whole process, the whole rigmarole . Many days she was ' too tired' to teach. Obviously  , you must have spent the night with her , l thought grimly to myself. However , l made good progress. We were now on letter writing. ( Essay Writing came next ).

We got talking and l learned she was terrified of snakes and reptiles - but so was l - so they were out . She was also scared of mice . Now that was another story altogether. 

The next step was acquiring a pair of mice. I got them easily from a pet shop.  

We were writing letters of apology when l said, " How can l write a suicide note ? " 

Barbara laughed uproariously. 

" Are you thinking of committing suicide ? "

" No , but ...."

" Okay. So what would you write ? "

I thought for a while. 

" How about, ' Good bye, cruel world ! ' ? "

This time Barbara could hardly stop laughing. "Here let me write it for you."

She wrote out a poignant suicide note on her scented letterpad.

'" Barbara, this is amazing! You should write books ! " My admiration was genuine. 

Barbara smiled. 

The next step was to release the mice in her flat .

" I couldn't sleep a wink last night. I think there are mice in my house, " she said the next day. 

" All you need is to place rat poison strategically and lo and behold , no more mice. " l said. 

She got the rat - poison. 

" Where should l place it ? " she asked next day. 

" Allow me, " said l.

" Wow! You deserve a cup of coffee! " she said gratefully .

  The next morning , the insistent ringing of my phone woke me. It was you .

" Maria, Barbara has committed suicide! "

" Suicide! Oh my God ! How? Why ? "

" She poisoned herself. The police found traces of rat poison in her coffee ."

" Suicide ?" I said. " Could it be foul play ? She was not the sort to commit suicide. "

 "Her suicide note, in her own handwriting was on the table  weighed down by a fork.... "

 But at her funeral , when l saw her lying cold and pale , something snapped in me . Why did she have to pay for someone else's choices ? I didn't blame you either . Hadn't you a right to exercise your free will ? I was reminded of the words of a poem l liked :

'If she think not well of me ,

What care l how fair she be ?'

Only in my case the words should have been modified to:

' If he think not well of me , 

What care l how fine he be ?'

Did l fall out of love ? No , l doubt if l had ever been in love . The blinkers fell from my eyes . I wanted someone who would love me for myself. How could l have done something so reprehensible ? I wish l could put it down to momentary insanity but it was not that . I had cold - bloodedly planned every move . It was a watershed moment - a moment of epiphany . It was the time to face my demons and move on .

Now you know it all . You have two choices - you can go and tell everyone , even the cops ; or you can let my guilty secret - the secret that l shall carry to my grave - be just that : a secret . 

Wait Steve , the story is not over yet . Then l called my parents . They were ecstatic that their contrite , prodigal daughter was returning home .

Next day , l ended the lease of my apartment , resigned my job and packed my meagre belongings .

This is to say goodbye . You will never see me or hear from me ever again . Am l angry with you ? No , not at all . I have taken this as a learning experience . You know what , Steve ? I never told anyone my real name either . You knew me as Maria . Now if you ever think of me , think of me as Miss Nobody from Nowhere . 

I'll always be grateful to you for opening my eyes to the real world. 

I am leaving this letter with the concierge with the instructions that he should deliver it to you twenty - four hours after my departure . 

Thanks or everything .

With love and gratitude , 

' Maria '

I re - read the letter , put it in an envelope and seal it . I recheck my already empty apartment , turn off the lights , pick up my suitcases and lock the door. I take the elevator to the ground floor and hand the keys to the concierge . I give him the letter with instructions to give it to the addressee twenty - four hours later . I give him a generous tip . He touches his cap and hails a cab for me . 

Soon l am heading to the airport and the beautiful future that beckons . The guilt will always be there but by confessing , l have laid my demons to rest and closed the book .

August 30, 2022 09:55

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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