Monday, January 5, 2009

A Very Short Short

Andrew’s Letter
LeAnn Terrell

Mandy pulled her coat tighter as she ran down the steps of her apartment building. The night was cold and the rain continued to pour. She could not shake the chill that was building inside her, a chill that was from more than the cold, damp weather. She knew it came from her very soul. It was her fear, a fear that continuously haunted her and even now made her afraid to open the letter. She clutched the letter close to her as she ran down the street, uncertain of what she should do.

Mandy was the kind of girl that other women envied. Her long chestnut hair framed her ivory face and her blue eyes were framed by long lashes. Her petite and shapely frame turned many heads and men often stole a second glance. None of this mattered to Mandy because when she looked in the mirror she saw a woman who didn’t deserve happiness. She constantly doubted herself and feared the future. She was certain that her life would take a turn for the worst. The anxiety clouded her mind.

She ducked into a small café and slid into an isolated booth by the fireplace. Her hands trembled as she read the return address. After all these months Andrew had finally written. She remembered how he looked that day they met. He was in his military uniform and she had instantly fallen in love.

Their first year together was bliss. They spent every possible moment together and she knew she the he was the man she wanted to marry, but he never asked. He always seemed to hold back. Then Andrew was called to active duty and sent to Iraq. It was as if her world had turned dark.

At first he wrote often, called her and emailed her a work. She could hardly wait to arrive at her office to see if he had sent her a message.

Then he seemed to withdraw emotionally and she couldn’t find a way to reach him. Now months had passed without a word and she was terrified that this letter might be the final goodbye. Probably he had met someone else. Maybe a lady soldier.

Mandy was sure that the letter contained bad news. Her mind considered the possibilities. He was injured. His tour-of-duty was extended. He didn’t love her anymore. He had found someone else. The thought of losing him stirred panic. She felt as if the room were closing in and she wanted to flee.

As Mandy stared at the envelope she knew what she had to do. She was convinced that the news was bad and couldn’t bring herself to read it. She should never have hoped for a future with Andrew. She didn’t serve to be loved.

But she didn’t deserve words that would cut her heart to ribbons either! With fierce determination and tears streaming down her face she rose and tossed the unopened letter into the fire. As she ran out the door, the words “will you marry me” turned to ash in the engulfing flames.


poetreader said...

Very nice story. I didn't see the end coming. This is very much in the spirit of O Henry's work. Life is indeed full of strange twists.

I have a cousin who, some years ago was a missionary in the mountain country of Thailand, a very isolated area. Her only real outside contact was the weekly letter from her superintendent, a man fairly recently widowed, with whom she was becoming very close. ...And then the letters stopped abruptly. She agonized for a couple of months, not knowing why she was not hearing from him, until one day a letter arrived. She opened it, and read, "_____, I must have your answer, please respond." She, with no idea what the question was that she was supposed to answer, made the two-day journey to the nearest town that had a telephone, and called him. His letter of proposal had been lost in the mail and never arrived, and he'd been waiting, as anxisous as she, for an answer that never came. She said, "Yes", and the next several years, until his death, were years of warmth and beauty.


Alice C. Linsley said...

What a lovely story, Ed.

LeAnn is one of my former Spanish students. Initially, she wrote this story with the intention of translating it to Spanish and submitting it for the Spanish short story contest hosted by this blog. I liked the story so much, I asked her to allow me to publish the English version. This is her first effort at fiction and she exhibits natural talent, I think.

poetreader said...

I agree. I think this little piece is fully as good as many of O Henry's.

LeAnn, I want more!