The familiar handwriting on the envelope stopped me cold. The letter was from Alice, postmarked two days prior. The rest of the mail tumbled to the floor.
The tremble of my fingers made a jagged line across the sealed flap. As if removing a sacred relic, I pulled out the single white sheet and opened it between my fingers. I released the envelope as my hand sought out the nearest chair. It was located against the wall of the entryway, a chair I never used. I thanked God for it today.
The words were just legible. I knew Alice had written it with a vibrating pen.
Dear Ms. Lois,
By the time you read this, you should have heard that I’m dead. Don’t feel bad, you did all you could. You’re a nice neighbor and that’s why I wanted to write you this letter.
You listened to me scream frustrations when my parents wouldn’t listen to me say “I love you.” It doesn’t matter now.
I’m not saying everything here. That stuff I’m saving for the note my parents will find when they find me. Not that they’ll care then.
I dropped the letter to the floor and wrapped my arms around my knees, great sobs shaking my body. It was several minutes before I could lift my head.
The letter stared up at me like an accusation. It showed where I had failed.
I turned my face to the ceiling, my voice squeaking the questions. “God, why did you bring Alice into my life? Just so I could watch her destroy hers? What more could I have done?”
The replying silence was as condemning as the letter scratched out on notebook paper. Deep inside, I knew. I had not done everything. I had not told Alice the truth.
Two hours later I stared at the blank sheet of stationary. The French swirls in the corner matched the waves in my brain.
“Just start,” I murmured to myself. “Dear God, you know I can’t. I can’t do this.” I closed my eyes, bit my lip. Three deep breaths. “I can do this. I must. For Alice.”
With the first words written, I knew I couldn’t pause a moment. I had to tell the story. The image of Alice lying in the hospital bed, head bandaged from the gunshot wound, drove the darkest moment of my life into the light.
You’re not alone. You’re not the first. When I was nineteen years old, I attempted suicide.
My pen slipped between my fingers. I gripped harder.
I never told you of my experience because I was ashamed. No one in my life now knows of my past. I vowed it would always be that way.
If I had told you that is how I came to know the Lord, and that’s what has brought me to this place of joy, hope and peace today, things might have been different for you now. But that, as with all things, is passed. There is a future for you, dear one. With the Lord’s help, we’ll face it together.
This letter would be waiting for Alice when she recovered. I believed by faith she would.
My confession might give her more questions than answers, and the prospect of discussing my horrendous childhood made me sick. But could she heal without it?
A gentle air of relief tingled my spine. Thoughts emerged that Alice was not the only one in need of revisiting my past.
I folded the letter with the care of a US soldier folding the flag. Indeed, I hoped it would be the first step in Alice’s freedom. It was for me.
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