It was a cold February morning when I received my first letter from Koharu. Frost lined my windowsills and the grey clouds clung close to the ground, covering the mountaintops. A light knock at my door persuaded me to fully wake up. My room was still dim, white fluffy covers barely illuminated. I thought it would’ve been my breakfast but, to my surprise, a baby pink envelope rested under the door. I was delicate with the paper, fingertips barely brushing the folds in an attempt to not rip it open all at once. Dizziness struck me suddenly, my balance wavered as I wobbled back to sit on my bed. After closing my eyes briefly to right myself again, I revealed the contents of the envelope to be a neatly folded piece of lined paper as well as some dried flowers.
I know you said looking at the phone gives you a headache, so I thought I’d write you a letter! It’s been weird without you here at school, I think everyone misses you though, how could they not? Let’s see, I’ve just been out, trying to enjoy winter before it gets really hot. Started working out again, I know surprising right. Next time you see me I’m going to be buff, promise.
Listen, Winona, I just wanted to apologize. And you know I’m not that good at apologizing so just be nice okay. I’m really sorry for what I said, it was completely out of line and I couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through. I was just stressed. And scared of losing you. Please don’t push me away yet, I know I was an asshole but I think you need support during all this. And it’s not going to come from your stupid ex boyfriend. So don’t even think about texting him, okay?
Talk to you soon (hopefully),
She had nothing to apologize for. I didn’t write back.
The next letter I received was a good two weeks later. It was midday, nice and sunny outside, I lay flat on my back with a throbbing head. Those little plastic star stickers on my ceiling were beginning to peel off, I made sure to position my face so that I wasn’t directly under one of them. I had recently discovered that audio books were easy for me to listen to at low volume, so that’s how I spent a majority of my time. The rest was spent thinking. Another knock at the door, I got up slowly and realized I was still groggy from the morning. I chatted with my mom through the door, we exchanged quiet words and I felt her concern. I told her I was feeling better today, even if that wasn’t necessarily true. The envelope was now a pastel green with my name written in big marker letters.
Guess what? It hailed at school this morning! During science we got to go out on the porch and watch it. Thinking back, it was totally underwhelming but it beats being in class. Especially since a couple hours later the sun came out. Did you know that hail can be as big as a grapefruit? Yeah, I know, that’s crazy. Luckily no one’s car seemed broken or anything from it.
I think about you a lot, mostly at school. Lunch table feels a little empty now, especially since people are out from covid too. We just started reading Walden by some weird french guy (or at least I think he’s french). I thought the book was called Waldo and made a joke about it but no one understood it for good reason. Well anyways it’s all about the guy living in a cabin alone in the woods to think about life. So maybe, since you’re still, well, isolated, you can write a book about stuff the future generations will read in class. I think that would be awesome.
Talk to you later (hopefully),
I guess she didn’t realize I was also reading Walden, teachers still wanted me to keep up with classwork. Pretty sure Thoreau isn’t French.
The next letter was a mere couple days after. Pretty pastel blue and pen drawings of clouds all over it.
Hey I wanted to write to you again, who knew letters could be so fun to make. How are you feeling? Any better? I spoke with your mom and she said the doctor’s appointment you had went well, so that’s good.
I don’t really have much else to say so I guess this will be a short one. I don’t wanna bother you or make you think about friend drama when you’re still sick, so if you don’t respond to this letter I’m probably gonna leave you alone. I just want to say that everyone cares about you a lot. Or at least I do.
See you around (hopefully),
I fought back the little lump in my throat. I didn’t want to respond. I really really didn’t.
Hi. I’m okay. Please keep writing me letters. I am just too tired to write back but I promise you I like them a lot.
I miss you too.
Do I sign it with “love”? I felt my cheeks burn red and the pen trembled in my hand. Why was I so worried about how to sign it?
I didn’t have an envelope, so I tied the paper with some string and looked around with anything I could find to spruce it up. Defeated and growing more tired by the second, I slipped the paper under my door and retreated back to bed to text my mom to deliver it to Koharu.
I was weeping softly with the rain when the next letter came. I sloppily wiped away my tears and snot and hurried over to the door. A nice shade of red, I smiled through puffy eyes.
Hey Hi Hi! I’m so glad you replied. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to see your handwriting. What have you been doing? I’m thinking about convincing my mom to get a cat, after I leave she’ll just be with my brother and dad and I think she needs some sort of feminine presence.
The moon looked really nice last night before it got all cloudy, I’ll take some pictures for you sometime. I guess the moon is always beautiful, isn’t it?
Talk to you soon (for sure),
We began writing letters more frequently after that and I grew to rely on seeing them on my cold bamboo floor. I kept all of them in a wooden box lined with felt, I believe it used to hold a poker set. Eventually too, my letters grew longer. I always wrote with a bright blue pen.
March rolled in and brought a rainy spring, the trees outside always looked a deep, lush green. I scrolled through my phone, seeing where everyone traveled to for break. It was there I decided that I would visit the beach as soon as I could and let myself just sit in the sun like a lizard.
Soon, April was right on the horizon and the end of the dreaded college application season. To celebrate, all the seniors were getting ready for prom. Well, most.
Prom is in a couple of days and I’m curious to know if you’re going to take anyone. You mentioned that you thought Elliot was attractive, are you going to pursue him in any way? I think you would make a cute couple. You could wear a purple dress like you always wanted and he could wear a matching tie, it would work well since he has blonde hair.
My prom night plans are going to be pretty fun too. My mom is going to rent me any movie I would like to watch. We also just got another box of the only tea that actually makes me feel better. I am not trying to be sarcastic, I will also have a good night.
Prom had passed, I was ultimately disappointed with the lack of creativity individuals had put into their outfits. Koharu ended up going with Elliot, I found myself on her page looking at the photos multiple times throughout the day. I hadn’t liked them yet, my finger hovered over the button when a knock made me jump.
So that’s great news! Your mom told me it’s only going to be another month of you in quarantine! That’s just in time for summer. I know you still feel sick but on paper the medication is working and you should be strong enough to not like die if you get covid or anything else. I think I almost cried when I heard the news.
Can’t wait to see you soon (for sure),
I wanted to respond immediately, before the feelings taper away like they always do.
Yes you are right. Should be less than a month. If I am honest, after everything that’s happened, I’m not feeling so optimistic. I almost forgot what it’s like to be out. I think I will be overwhelmed at grocery stores now. I am also worried about socializing again. I was shy before, but it’s been half a year since I have talked to people. Well people except you. And my parents. It’s been enough. I am comfortable with only you guys around. I think I will miss it when this whole thing is over. I know I should be excited, but I just got so used to being here. In my room. Alone. I don’t want to leave. I feel like I am worried about so much. I feel like I can not move or get ready to go out. But I do want to see you. I want to see you so badly and give you a hug. It’s been so long and I-
I ripped up the paper and started again. What was I trying to accomplish?
Another month does not seem so bad. I am excited to see everyone again and be out in public. We should maybe hang out when I can leave. I would like that a lot.
In the beginning of May, my headaches almost completely disappeared. To be free of such pain brought an unprecedented, unsettling, feeling, like listening to music on full volume then suddenly taking off your headphones to be greeted with a dead silent home. Koharu and I had graduated to texting, as our letters became short and frequent that it was too much of an effort to deliver them.
Hey Koharu, what are you doing right now?
Oh hey! I’m out with friends, text later, promise :)
A rock in my stomach, I decided to tuck in for the night, burying myself under countless covers. Loneliness settled like a peaceful fog and lulled me into sleep with tears in my eyes.
Half way through May and two weeks away from my release, I woke up one morning full of vitality and strength. Too excited by finally seeing my own recovery, I facetimed my mom and set her up so she could watch me do some squats. It turned out that I wasn’t magically cured and ended up back in bed shortly, but this time with a pleased smile and flushed cheeks. I breathed in and out, feeling my body vibrate with life.
Koharu, I am feeling better! I feel like a ghost that has been brought back to life
That’s great news! Hey, did you get the letter I left for you?
The purple one? It said not to open until I am allowed to leave my room
Yeah I know, but it’s okay you can just read it now
The envelope was studded with those glue on rhinestones. I opened the letter to find a piece of paper staring back at me reading in big capital purple letters
WINONA WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME?
My heart fluttered but I was quickly overtaken with suspicion. I returned to my phone with haste, feeling my beating heart in my ears as I typed.
I don’t understand?
I was thinking we could do our own prom, in your drive way. I already talked to your parents and they’re going to put up lights and a speaker so we can dance :) is that okay?
Yes. Yes so so so many times.
I’m not sure if I will feel well enough…
oh that’s okay, nvm then just focus on your health for now
I closed my phone and dug my face into my pillows.
It was the day before my quarantine was over and I was feeling better than I had ever felt. I no longer thought of approaching death. The image of a cold hospital bed no longer scarred my mind. There’s comfort in sadness. There’s comfort in letting yourself fall deeper and deeper. But where the moon does not shine is no place for a violet to grow.
Hey, I wanted to tell you that I’ve changed my mind. I want to “go to prom” with you
Yes! It’s going to be so fun, I’ll be there around 6pm? So you can still go to bed early
Are we going as “friends”?
I tossed my phone away from me on the bed and covered my hands, waiting for the infamous text tone.
A minute had passed and nothing.
I checked my phone in case I missed the notification.
I didn’t check it right away. I was a deer in headlights.
What do you mean by that?
Now what do I do? I was already too deep, no time to retreat now.
Koharu, do you like girls?
Here goes nothing.
Koharu, do you like me?
I like you too
I guess we’re going as more than friends then
Yeah I guess we are :)
I chose my dress from my mom’s closet. She had a vintage lace yellow dress that worked well with the silk gloves I wanted to wear. I didn’t wear makeup and despite my drained and tired face, Koharu lit up when she saw me. She stood in my driveway, a bouquet of violets in her arms, and glowing under the rosy pink sunset. I loved her more than every color I’ve ever seen. I melted into her arms, I think we were both crying or laughing or both, I could not always tell. She cupped my face in her palms before pulling me in, my head rested on her shoulder and I listened to her fragile frame. She was alive and so was I.
“Let’s dance, Winona! I’ve been waiting for so long”
We swayed with the gentle indie music. It began to drizzle but we didn’t care. The sun still shone on our faces and the rain drops felt like little kisses from the sky itself.