Author's Notes: My entry for the Boundary Buster prompt currently going on at The Village Square - currently ongoing until September 11. The aim of this prompt is to push yourself in your writing - do something you haven't yet. Whether it's writing about a new game or character, a new genre, a new style, or tense, or POV - step outside your box.
This is a fair bit more serious and somber than I tend to write, and deals with heavy subject matter that is admittedly something my friends and family have experienced, and is close to me as well. But the idea kind of hit me like a brick - and writing Julius in a serious light is very new to me, as is the letter format. (Never mind that half of my actual job is emailing people all day...)
Feel free to leave a review, if you'd like, and thanks for reading. Thanks as well to Show The Cook Some Love for pre-reading, and to tapioca two-step, whose story "Facet" brought this idea to mind.
Good evening, Tom,
I hope this letter finds you well. Of course, put like that, it's a bit odd, you know? Circumstances being what they are, if you'll forgive my brief flippancy. I'll admit, I'm here at Pastor Whitman's suggestion - he said that perhaps this would be cathartic for me. Still, I truly hope you've remained at peace, and at rest.
I'm doing fairly well for myself, if I may brag for a moment. You remember Candace, correct? Candace Kozlowski? The lovely, shy seamstress whom I put through utter Hell in our childhood? All because of a silly crush... thinking about it still weighs on my heart to this day, I admit, and there are times I wonder how I ever had the gall to approach her again.
Yet... she's more than forgiven me. Through, perhaps, some sort of miracle... divine guidance? Oh, who cares? She'll soon be Mrs. Candace Pasternak! It makes my heart soar. I'd always dreamed of the day, but never imagined it would become a reality. We shall be wed in November - I know she'll look stunning under the fall foliage. (Of course, so will I, but she has grown to be a truly breathtaking woman.)
Luna is hardly thrilled with this turn of events, but I do hope to regain even her trust in me. I must confess, however, that this is as much for my own peace of mind as it is for Candace's. Luna is still rather uncouth and childish, but I know she means well. She's a good sister. Even if she is still wary of me, it touches me that it's all for Candace's sake.
Koto Accessories is slowly recovering; we've a few new residents who absolutely adore our wares. I'll give you this - you taught me very well. Again, if I may brag just a touch further - we recently designed pieces for the wedding of a dancer who works at Hayden's, and she spared no expense. Surprisingly wealthy family, you see. She was so happy with the results that she's commissioned us to design pieces for her entire wardrobe!
Admittedly, her tastes run rather on the gaudy side (I have been working to reign that in - we've a reputation to uphold!) and she works in a small-town bar where her audience is on the lean side - but we all start somewhere, do we not?
As for Mira...
I believe, and dearly hope, that she's beginning to find herself again. These past three years have been Hell on us. On her, in particular. She was so lost, I'd started to fear that we'd never get her back. That she'd see fit to join you. Her eyes were so dull, her voice so lifeless. Every motion so mechanical, and she'd gotten so thin. She was briefly admitted to the clinic because she hadn't been eating for quite some time.
Now, I see it slip back, little-by-little. The sparkle in her eyes - it's fleeting, but it shines brighter than any jewel we've ever held. I'll catch a rare, genuine smile - nothing forced. Her face is fuller, and when she's happy, she's absolutely radiant. She's even laughed a few times, and I've missed that sound. I daresay you have, too. It's a wonderful thing, to hear her laughter again. I know she misses hearing you laugh with her, as do I. But it's still a small comfort.
She's also expressed some interest in moving on, and I wholeheartedly stand behind that interest. It may seem harsh to some to bring this up, but I feel you would really quite appreciate this.
Our neighbor, Dale - you remember Dale, don't you? - has grown closer to her in the time since your passing. He knows what it's like to lose, to grieve. He's still such a kind man, despite that. Unkempt and gruff, but Mira is nonetheless starting to find love again after losing you, and I feel quite grateful that she fell for such a good person. Even as foolish as I find Luke - he's still the same as ever - Dale has done an admirable job raising him. He's a wonderful father, and I know Mira will be a wonderful stepmother to Luke and Bo, if she can allow herself to reach that stage. I hope they will someday. I know he won't rush her.
It scares her, sometimes, did you know? The thought of loving someone after you? I understand, but I wish I could conjure some sort of... magical phrase, I suppose. Some way to say, "It's okay," and sweep aside her doubts so that she may rediscover the happiness she deserves.
She's cried to me about it - she feels she's betraying you, all the time she spent with you, loving you. Feeling that you'd hate her for finding another, even when we both know this isn't true. I know you truly loved her and would understand. I also know how much she did truly love you - if how hard she's been grieving for you is no indication of that, I tell her, then what is? It helps, sometimes.
I see how gentle Dale is with her when they walk together, how she lights up when she listens to his stories. She takes Luke's silly antics in stride, and is delighted to see what a gentleman Bo is becoming. Even seeing her with that dog of his, she's sometimes like a little girl, full of energy, showing not even a trace of the pain you caused her.
And, yes, I'm afraid I had to go there, Tom. I almost want to apologize, but... I'm not quite sure how sorry I am for saying that, if I may be completely frank with you. I'm sorry you felt that way, absolutely. But you realize why I'm still angry, don't you?
I understand what it's like, Tom. I understand what it's like to feel utterly worthless, to want it all to stop. To feel like you'll never be enough for anyone. I know what it's like to hate yourself and cause others pain. I know what it's like to feel like life has no value anymore, and to wish you were dead. To feel like a laughingstock, a failure, to feel unwanted. You remember why I moved back in with you and Mira to begin with, I trust.
But both of you gave me a chance to move past those feelings - or, at the very least, learn to deal with them. To face the darkest days of my life and see the sun shining through. However faintly, however far off it seemed, it was still there. You two taught me how to be confident in myself, to know that I'm worth something, that I'm loved and appreciated, even when there will be those who try their damnedest to make me feel otherwise.
I wouldn't be the man I am today without your guidance, you know. Not perfect, but far more than the bully I once was. And I thank you for that. You gave me the strength and courage to grow up, swallow my pride, and better myself.
You also always, ALWAYS told me that pretending everything was okay was not okay. And I believed it wholeheartedly, and I do now. But for a while after you died, I wondered if everything you ever told me was just a lie. I hadn't felt so betrayed since my parents abandoned me.
And Mira... you left her broken. You left her wondering if she wasn't enough. If she caused this. Is that what you wanted, Tom? For her to feel just like you must have? To make her feel like I do to this very day? You remember how sweet and carefree and alive she was when she was by your side. She's still fighting through her pain to ensure that the last of her doesn't slip away to be with you and leave us with a shell.
You told us in your letter that you felt like a burden, a failure - yet you didn't want to stick around for this woman who still worships the ground you walked on. Who now feels like a failure herself because she didn't pick up on the signs fast enough. You vowed in sickness and health, and so did she. You were very ill, and you snatched away her chance to honor that vow. She deserved better than that. I did, too. And so did you. It didn't have to be this way.
I almost hope you don't know how much grief and anguish you've caused us - I know that in your mind, everything was plummeting to Hell, and I truly want you to stay at peace. I don't want you to think that we hate you. We're disappointed, yes. Angry. And it'll never stop hurting, even if it will hopefully hurt less as the years pass. I just wish you'd given yourself another way to find your peace. You always told me I couldn't let my demons win, that so many people would be hurt if I gave in. Did those words ever play back through your mind?
I just wish you'd given us that chance to help you. To do our best to keep you here with us. I just wish you'd stopped insisting - just for a moment - that you were fine when the shop was failing. That you were okay when you learned you couldn't conceive. That everything would be alright when your father passed away. That when your arthritis became too much for you to continue your craft, you would find a way through it.
We didn't want lies and reassurance, Tom. We wanted you. Wanted you to look to us and see the same sunlight that you showed me, no matter how far away it seemed. To swallow your pride and ask us for help. To realize that you didn't always have to be the strong one for us, the rock.
And I wish we'd been more persistent. I wish I'd been more persistent. I wish I didn't feel like I'd somehow failed you. I wish I didn't feel like breaking down every time I remember talking to you, wondering how I could have missed the warning signs, feeling lost and confused. I wish I could let myself cry in front of Mira just once, without worrying I'll undo all the progress she's made. I wish I'd given back to you what you gave to me. And now, I only have one wish left to give you. I wish you well.
Goodbye, Tom. Please continue to watch over us, and please protect Mira.
We miss you, and we love you.
Heaving a deep, shaky sigh and swallowing the knot in his throat, Julius knelt down and placed the folded-up letter at the foot of the tombstone bearing Thomas Jensen's name, the salty September breeze gently whipping his long, colorfully-streaked ponytail about. The smell of rain was heavy in the brisk, charcoal-hued sky, and he closed his burning eyes for a moment, steadying his nerves as he stood back up.
Now casting a thoughtful stare at the grave and clearing his throat quietly, he jammed his free hand into the pocket of his trenchcoat and frowned. Perry had made a very good point - while a terrible ache still stung deep within him, he couldn't help but feel at least a little better already. And every little bit helped.
With a few taps of his umbrella against his leg, he gave a final, decisive nod and spun on the heels of his boots, turning to head into Harmonica Town and return to the Garmon District without another look back - he and Mira were expected at Dale's for dinner that night, and he was by no means a man of tardiness.
Behind him, the wind picked up in increasingly-sharp gusts, eventually snatching up the letter in its bitterly chilly tendrils and carrying it far out to sea.