You glanced out the window, your eyes following the tips of the trees. The sun was just rising, and the sky was filled with streaks of electric coral and fuchsia. Readily, but still a little tiredly, you rise from your seat on the couch, set your mug of cold brew down, and stumble to where the keys hang on the wall. Finally, you think to yourself. The sun had taken long enough, and right here in the middle of November you were up at 7:30, your traditional cold brew and book just set down. But who even drinks cold brew in November? You shrugged your shoulders. It didn’t really matter. Your shift at the front desk of the chiropractor’s didn’t start till eleven, so you had a few hours to use up. Not that those few hours had anything working for them.
Pulling on a rain jacket and a pair of rainboots, you swing open the door and burst into a weary jog down the driveway to the mailbox. Fog enveloped everything this side of the sky. Bright sprays of the remaining golden leaves remind you it isn’t time to go back to sleep yet; the fog, the cold, everything but the feeling of dampness on your face seemed to be bent on persuading you to drift off.
In the autumn, the mail was your only real source of excitement outside of the goings-on at work. Most of your friends were either working or in school, and for some reason, screens just didn’t appeal anymore. So you ordered magazines and books, the former of which you swallowed up while the latter just ended up for a good decade in a new home on the shelf.
You had a few old-fashioned friends and relatives who would hand-write letters and mail them to you, so that was something to look forward to. It was a goal you currently had to reconnect yourself to any and every family member, no matter how much they treated you. Except one.
Fumbling with your keys, you clutched the smallest one and thrust it into the lock; no need for this to take longer than it needs to. The black metal is cold against your skin as you open it quickly and feel around for anything. The slightest of smiles finds its way to your face as you pull the papery stack out from the mailbox and shut it again, turning to retreat back into your house.
On the walk up the driveway, you file through them and take mental notes.
You got the bank…. Oh here’s the one from Clem…. That Jeep is pretty sweet. Ah, there’s one from Julia, Elder, Skylar, Travis….
You stop dead in your tracks and do a second-take at the letter that is now at the top of the stack in your hand.
No, it wasn’t. It was any other Ruth, because there are millions in the world, and it was pure chance that her name was Barkely. But there was no denying it, once you looked where the recipient's address lay. Your name was written there, plain and simple and horribly filled you with dread.
You hadn’t spoken to Ruth for years. You hated her--or, as near you could get without abandoning your morals. Ethics became very important when you were what, nine? You just had a habit of making quick decisions. But Ruth, Ruth was another case.
Lovely sister Ruth had not done a thing wrong in her life, according to your parents. No, nothing at all, except for being a bloody tyrant behind closed doors. Where there was no public, no person to be seen outside of you or her, she became a cold-blooded serial killer. You never knew why she hated you so much, why she spited you in everything she did, or why her very presence was a disturbance in what had previously been a somewhat aura of peace.
But you knew why you moved away the first chance you got. The reason your parents had been so devastated at your renouncement of family. You couldn’t tell them; they wouldn’t believe you. Sure, there were sibling quarrels, and sure, most brothers and sisters got over them, but this went far deeper than the usual. Ruth had used violent words and actions from the moment you were born, and there was nothing that would stop it. No words of truth or hurt or anger could persuade your parents at one point that she was a terrorist, and that was why you left.
So holding that letter in your hand, you thought about spitting on it, about ripping it to pieces. That wasn’t the you you knew, but it didn’t matter--it was Ruth! The devil! But still, it would be a violation of everything you knew to rip it to pieces now, especially when you were trying to mend the broken relationships…
You grunted under your breath and made a complaining sound that you would not dare utter in public. Fine. If Ruth was reaching out to abuse little brother/sis, then that was her choice and you were not going to give her the honor of responding. Besides, if that was the case, the return address was states from your house; nothing to be worried about there.
The warm air of the house felt like a blast of heat to your reddening nose and ears. You stepped to the couch and slumped back against the cushions. This was nice… the heat, the plushness of the couch, and oh…
You sat straight up to read the letter. You definitely were not a morning person. At least, not today. Willing your already-reddened fingers to move, you tore open the envelope and unfolded the letter. Preparing for a cruel blow, you hardened your heart as best you could--which wasn’t at all difficult--and began to read.
I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me, or vice-versa for that matter. I’m just writing to tell you that I am trying to change, and that I am infinitely sorry for what I have told you and done to you your whole life. I did get your address from Mom and Dad, but they said this would be the best way to get across with you. They also said that you have a personal goal to get in contact with family. It’s alright that you haven’t reached out to me, I don’t blame you. No, there is nobody looking over my shoulder as I write this, and yes, I told Mom and Dad the whole of it. It’s no surprise that they were surprised, but something happened that changed everything for me, and maybe it will for you too. I hope so. But it’s too much to write here, and if you want to try to fix this mess of a relationship, you can call me at (678) 136-7092. I want to do anything and everything in my power to fix this, and I can’t say enough how sorry I am.
You stare at the letter, dumbfounded. Was she really sorry? After everything she’s done, she just writes a letter and everything’s okay? Just like that, you’re cool? You shake your head in disappointment. No, it wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true. Ruth weaved lies better than any arachnid and why would she stop now? But your address… You couldn’t ignore accounting for that. Desperately, you searched for some way you could be right and she could be wrong; a way, maybe, she wasn’t with your parents. But then how would she know your address and thing about connecting with family? It didn’t make sense.
You set the letter down beside you on a cushion and cover it with a pillow. Immature, to be sure, but out of sight, out of mind, right? You take the stack of envelopes and magazines back into hand and read them quietly. Apparently it’s been a pretty sleepy month. No news from her parents. No letter, much less any mention of Ruth. After a few minutes of quiet and distraction, you relax and lean your head back against the couch. You clenched your fists and pursed your lips. It was best to give the benefit of the doubt.
*Y/N = Your Name