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Sad Drama Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

TW: themes of suicide, child loss, grief, swearing.


Dear Avery Family,


There are no words


How are you?


I’m sorry


It has been 1,819 days since both of our lives were shattered.


This is the last letter I will ever write, and I am writing it to you.


I am writing to you because I need you to know that Andrew did not kill your son.


I did.


I have carried this guilt around with me for nearly five years, and now with the anniversary approaching, I can feel the energy building up again. Every year I am ripped apart by grief and guilt, and this year it has finally reached a tipping point.


This will be my last letter, and I am writing it to you, Mr. and Mrs. Avery, because I have thought of you every single day for the last 1,820 days. I suppose I should have written you earlier, and I am sorry for that, but I think we can both agree, if this letter had come any sooner, it would have been too soon for us all. It still might be too soon. Does grief ever lose its potency?


With these words being my last, I won’t leave any unsaid unwritten. I have envisioned myself coming to you in person with these words many times – it has become my new recurring daydream, which has been a welcome reprieve from the previous nightmarish ones – but when you have made the kind of life-altering mistake that I have made, guilt holds your tongue firm, and fear roots your feet deeply. And so, as cowardly as it may be, I am hiding behind pen and paper, hoping I make it through this without smearing the ink.


I know you think Oliver’s death was Andrew’s fault. (I want you to know I have always referred to him by name, and ensured everyone who talked about the accident knew it. I never let anyone forget him). Andrew was the one driving, and so it would seem a logical deduction to put the blame on him. And over the years I have done little to refute this. Can you blame me? No one wants to be responsible for something as horrible as this. It is time that I clear his name and tell you the truth: it was not entirely his fault, and I’ve let his name be tarnished for too long.


There were a lot of things that had gone wrong that night, but it started with my silence.


My silence is what killed your son. And my Andrew.


I should have said something. I want you to know that I know that. I knew it then, and I know it now, and I’ve spent the last five years of my life regretting the words I kept to myself. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that words are hurtful or embarrassing or simply unnecessary. That words left unsaid are better than choosing the wrong ones. But I know now that a stifled comment can be destructive and violent and murderous…It can be life-changing.


I imagine you might not remember me, as I was not the main offender of your story as Andrew was, nor was I the source of your loss, your beautiful child, Oliver. I was merely a piece in this fucked up puzzle, a domino tipping over the tile before the final collapse. It would have been easy to remain a shadow in this tragic story, but soon I will be a ghost and have no need for a shadow.


I am was Andrew’s girlfriend fiancé. My name is Amanda. We met once that night, and I attended Oliver's memorial service. But I hid in the back, unsure if I would be welcome. I wouldn't blame you if you don't remember me.


When people remember the accident, they talk about Oliver. The tragedy of his death. He was too young. He did nothing wrong. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They remember his talent for soccer, his dreams of becoming a professional race car driver, his honesty and loyalty to his friends, his straight A report cards, the bright future ahead of him.


Of course, they do. You raised a beautiful and smart and good person.


But do you know what they say about Andrew when they remember the accident? The night it’d happened, there were so many whispered slurs: Drunk asshole; piece of shit; idiot kid; got what he deserved; murderer. Did you know that I am the only one who replenishes his flowers at the memorial site?


People had apologized for my loss to my face and then turned around and slandered it. My grief was silenced before I had a chance to realize it. Before the doctors even told me he hadn’t made it.


I do not mean to make myself the victim; maybe I got what I deserved. I don’t mean to suggest that my grief compares to yours in any way. That’s not what I’m meaning to do, here, I promise. What I mean to say is neither of us deserved to lose anybody that night, Mr. and Mrs. Avery. And Andrew didn’t deserve to be remembered as someone he wasn’t. As a monster.


Andrew was a good person. Just like your Oliver.


The worst night of your lives started out as the best night of ours. That evening, we were celebrating. Andrew had just received his acceptance letter into medical school. And after having taken a year off from school, he was elated to finally be setting his future on its path. He was just a summer away from attending John Hopkins.


But that wasn’t the only thing we were celebrating that night. With Andrew’s future finally aligning, and with our first drink already warming our skin, he’d proposed. We were going to get married.

We’d spent the evening painting our future together, toasting to every goalpost we’d planted in our future: I’d move out with him to Baltimore when I graduated; we’d buy a house, adopt a dog. We wanted children… We’d picked out names. Charlie, for a boy. Charlotte, for a girl.


So, when we left the restaurant that night, it wasn’t that we weren’t thinking of the future. We were. We just weren’t thinking about anyone else’s. We were love-drunk, enamored by the events in our lives that were to come, high on the idea that our future was absolute. Or what we’d thought were to come. We felt invincible. It never occurred to us life would happen so differently.


The last kiss Andrew ever gave me was on the sidewalk outside The Gathering Post – did you ever take Oliver there? – beneath the tiki lights and moonlight. When his lips touched mine, I’d smelt the rum heavy on his tongue, and when he’d whispered, I love you, Future Mrs. Andrew Wilson, I’d heard the slurry of his slippery words.


The keys were already in his hand. I know, because they’d dug into my palm when I reached out to hold his chilled hand. All I had to do was hold onto that ring of brass metal. I’ll drive, could have been the words to save your son’s life. And my future husband’s… But I’d held onto them, instead of the keys. I’d ignored the little pinch in my stomach that told me to think twice, numb by my love for a man whom I did not think capable of what was to come, even in his condition.


So many things could have been different. Had Andrew applied a year earlier like most people did, he might’ve been in Baltimore that evening, far away from you and your family. Had that evening been years in the future, Andrew might’ve been a doctor that could have saved your son… Had we stayed out a little later, or gone home a little earlier…. Had I insisted on driving or getting an Uber… Had he not sped up a little to make the yellow light three blocks further up the road… Had I asked him to pull over after he’d swerved a little too far into the next lane… Had we not decided to take the long way home… We’d thought it would be safer; we thought we’d avoid police, but maybe the police was what we’d all needed. There were so many things that could have gone differently, and I have gone through the details of that night over and over and over again, willing time to turn back so I could influence the past.


But those are all just excuses. It was me; it was my fault. I know this now. If I had said something, just two words, both of our lives would be different. We’d be whole and thriving people, rather than the ghosts of the people we once were, a hollow bodysuit of someone we don’t even recognize anymore. Is that how you feel, too?


As the anniversary of the accident approaches, I am driven mad by those words: I’ll drive. They play over in my head like a scratched CD, before they’re erupted by that god-awful sound of metal clashing and glass breaking. I don’t even remember the sound of my own scream, just the clatter of the impact and the screeching of tires. I’ve tried everything, turning up music to max volume, sleeping with noise machines, screaming until my lungs hurt. Still…


I’ll drive, I’ll drive, I’ll drive, I’ll drive, I’ll drive…


I won’t be haunted by these words anymore. What’s the point of surviving a tragedy like that only to be tormented forever? But before I go, I needed you to know the truth; I needed to confess to you, so that maybe one day you can think of Andrew without blaming him. And I needed you to understand the power of your words. If there is anything for any of us to learn here, it is this:


Use your words, Mr. and Mrs. Avery. Don’t second guess yourself, or convince yourself you are being silly, or there will be another time for them. Say what you need to say, all of it, all of the time.


You could save a life.


I didn't use my words when the two people we loved the most needed them, and I hate myself for it. so I'm leaving you with three pages of words that I know cannot make up for the ones I didn't say. And while these aren't the two words I should have said, and they have no power to change anything, these are the only ones I have left:


I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Avery. I'm the reason your son died that night, and I'm so sorry.


And when I see Oliver, I’ll be sure to tell him, too.


Sincerely,

Amanda Davidson Wilson


November 14, 2022 18:11

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28 comments

Michał Przywara
21:43 Nov 17, 2022

Great story! I love the little touches of the crossed out words. Not only does it underscore her frayed emotional state, but it also ironically contradicts her message: "Say what you need to say, all of it, all of the time." Even here, she self-censors, though we understand it's because of the deep guilt she feels, and the responsibility she assumes. Also, it's difficult to always say "all of it", isn't it? It's why there's a story in the first place, because she didn't initially say "I'll drive." The other thing that really struck me is ...

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AnneMarie Miles
03:55 Nov 18, 2022

What did I do to deserve another wonderful comment from you! Thank you for reading my work and investing time. I am glad the underlining worked. It was experimental but I thought writing a letter like this, under all the circumstances, would consist of many uncertainties. I was hoping it would add some authenticity. I really agonized over this. The first draft was very hollow and sloppy (🥴) so I appreciate your feedback around that. And the irony of it all, thanks for pointing that out too. And of course Andrew is not blameless, but I im...

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Molly Nuse
03:47 Dec 08, 2022

I'm reading this late at night and after reading a Maze Runner book, I thought I had reached my limit of grief, sadness, and tears for the night. This story is beautiful and geniune. I don't know which hurts more: the blame and the repition of 'I'll drive' or the idea of this woman being pushed to her limits so far to commit suicide and the last line: 'And when I see Oliver, I'll be sure to tell him, too.' Everything about this story is sad and painful (in a good way) reminding us all to just say the words. Reminding us all of how raw grief ...

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AnneMarie Miles
03:35 Dec 10, 2022

Hi Molly, wow, this comment is so sweet and kind. I thank you so much for your kind words. And for taking the time to read this after having already read Maze Runner! This was a tough piece you write, trying to put myself in Amanda's shoes. I'm glad her emotions came through as genuine, and that this story could offer you so much. I think all we can hope for as writers is to make others feel deeply and feel connected. Thanks again.

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Molly Nuse
00:34 Aug 20, 2023

oh my goodness. i've reread this story so many times and every time, it gets better. you'd think after rereading things a lot, they get a little repetitive and boring, but this story never loses it's amazing quality. your writing is truly beautiful and this story makes me cry every time i read it. it is so so so so so good. all of it is so gorgeous and tells such a haunting and sad story. i'm obsessed and in love with your writing and story-telling. you are incredible at what you do. never give up writing. you have a TRUE god-given talent fo...

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Wally Schmidt
07:21 Nov 24, 2022

This is a gut-wrenching story which is a testimony to your truly absorbing writing style. All of it worked- the story, the backstory, the underlining, the heartache. While the pain is personal, it is also universal. All of the what-if's we harbor in life in search of a better outcome. I read your comments below about the difficulty of writing a letter and being thrown off a bit by the dashes. This week I am also posting a story that is an exchange of letters and I struggled with those dashes too. Hope you'll have a look at it and give me yo...

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AnneMarie Miles
06:46 Nov 26, 2022

Hello Wally, thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for your kind words. I'm glad you felt the story worked, and I appreciate that you found the universality in it. It's easy to get caught up in those what-ifs. I am certainly looking forward to reading your latest story. Best, AnneMarie

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Susan Catucci
23:18 Nov 23, 2022

Devastatingly real, necessary, hauntingly important. I appreciated so much your use of the cross-outs, much more authentic in this context than other forms of subtext. Beautiful, meaningful work. (sob)

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AnneMarie Miles
06:37 Nov 26, 2022

Thank you for your kind words, Susan, and for taking the time to read this. I found this to be a challenge piece which made it that much more interesting to write. Thanks again.

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Francois Kosie
19:51 Nov 23, 2022

Well done, and what a sad story, Anne Marie! This conveyed so well the pain of your MC tortured by guilt and grief, going over the things that might have been and the what-ifs of something that can't be undone. What an interesting idea to use strikethrough. One small one that stuck out to me was, "Is that how you feel, too?" and, of course, the name change at the end.

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AnneMarie Miles
21:36 Nov 23, 2022

Thanks for your feedback, Francois! I was definitely trying something new with the strike outs. I was hoping it would help convey more authenticity of with such a tragic topic. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

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Thom With An H
19:01 Nov 20, 2022

Wow. So poignant and painful. I love the technique of writing and crossing out. It allows so much more depth. Once again you write a story capable the win. I am a big fan.

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AnneMarie Miles
06:00 Nov 21, 2022

Thank you for more of your kind words, Thom. I was trying something new with the strike outs, I'm glad they worked for you. I just read your latest; another hard hitter. Have you any ideas for this week's prompts? Gift giving has never been easy for me.

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Thom With An H
18:51 Nov 21, 2022

I reworked a story loosely based on my mom. As for ideas, if your asking, try a surprise. Make the gift be a kind word or a random act of love. I also like the cashier prompt. Oh the things a cashier at Christmas could write about. Maybe all the people who don't get it and the one, anonymous person who does. Anyway I hope you find something to write about, I want to read it.

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AnneMarie Miles
23:32 Nov 21, 2022

Oh I see you have uploaded your story already! I am envious. I had a story in my head on Friday, and now I am fighting off a head cold. Between that and travel, I'll be lucky if I get some writing time. I look forward to reading your latest story!

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Mary Lehnert
23:05 Nov 19, 2022

We’ve all written this apology. Very very few have sent it though . Guilt over actions. deeds in the past , any number of things. Would that we all could have acted with the raw honesty of your protagonist. Good work Anne.

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AnneMarie Miles
16:55 Nov 20, 2022

Hello Mary, thanks for reading and commenting here. I imagine Amanda had nothing to lose given she'd already decided to end her life. But I agree, I admire her honesty and willingness to express her guilt and apologize for something as horrific as this. Thanks again.

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Laurie Roy
21:47 Nov 19, 2022

Well done. It’s often the words we didn’t say that we regret the most.

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AnneMarie Miles
16:53 Nov 20, 2022

Absolutely! Thanks for reading and commenting, Laurie!

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Jack Bell
01:06 Nov 19, 2022

Great hook and the gradual reveal is perfectly paced and compelling. The story left me with one niggle, which may be deliberate. With what's written, it's incomprehensible that Amanda didn't drive. They are a strong, in-love couple, an "invincible" team. Amanda says, "Had we not decided to take the long way home… ". So, together, they knew Andrew was too drunk to drive and took steps to avoid the law. It seems impossible, while discussing the way to cope with Andrew's unfitness, that Amanda wouldn't automatically take the wheel, a much simp...

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AnneMarie Miles
04:49 Nov 19, 2022

Hi Jack, thank you so much for reading and investing a bit of your time into this story! I see your perspective, absolutely, and it does give me something to speculate, a perspective I hadn't considered. But I only hadn't considered it because in my own experience, driving under the influence is still something I see. I have a friend whose husband just received a DUI, and thankfully there was no accident, but it does happen (maybe that is what inspired this story, now that I think of it). With this story, what I had in mind is the connecti...

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Jack Bell
07:02 Nov 19, 2022

Actually, but the time I'd written the above post, I'd almost changed my mind -- no one ever had a clue why Hamlet didn't act, and that play scrubs up okay. But I thought I'd post it anyway, as a possible talking point. Maybe I was also looking for something to excuse Amanda a little more. Also, given all the cross-outs, what's not said bulks large here. Given Amanda's mental state, even if Andrew had strenuously insisted on driving, she'd probably not mention it, preferring by now to completely own all guilt. After that, must be time to th...

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AnneMarie Miles
15:04 Nov 19, 2022

Lol, nonetheless, I am grateful you brought it up. It certainly made me think more deeply about my characters and their intentions. I do mean to get to your page soon, friend! I have been unusually busy this week with the holiday coming around, and I haven't been tending to my Reedsy neighborly duties! Your stories are on my list for this weekend!

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Edward Latham
20:17 Nov 18, 2022

I too like the very cool approach of the struck out words which aren't just errors but which give additional context to the story and her mind. I also like that she is trying to clear Andrew of full responsibility, but perhaps isnt quite clear herself if she wants to be associated with the name Wilson, although she does settle on it in the end. It shows it's still affecting her greatly. You had me captured the whole way through the read, nice one!

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AnneMarie Miles
04:54 Nov 19, 2022

Thank you for your feedback Edward, and for taking the time to leave it here. I was really going for something different with the struck out lines and it seemed a good fit for the topic. Glad it worked for you :)

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Tommy Goround
19:03 Nov 16, 2022

Clapping

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Niyathi Iyengar
14:11 Nov 16, 2022

I loved this story so much! I liked how raw Amanda's guilt was, and how well you conveyed it in your story (like with the repetition of the "I'll drive", and how it haunts her). I especially love how she signed her name as "Amanda Wilson" in the end. That was so powerful and revealing!

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AnneMarie Miles
15:27 Nov 16, 2022

Hi Niyathi, thank you so much for your kind words and taking the time to read and comment! I agonized over this one, trying to organize what would have been a very challenging and probably unorganized letter to write. It was hard to portray this kind of emotion but it sounds like it worked for you, yay! I also was so unsure if I should sign her name with Andrews last name, but it felt like she'd been holding onto him for so long that in her dying day, she would finally succumb to it. Thanks again for taking time out of your day for this one!

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