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Love Letters
          By Terrance Keith Harrington

 
 

Paper and a stylus sit on the desk at the Sheriff's office, the bottle of ink, closed, holding the breeze-rustled sheets in place. A few pages, if any interested onlooker... one who could read, that is... noticed, were covered with words. These were the fevered writings of young love, that may yet be... the stumbling, yet sincere, words of a heart seeking another...

"[The bottle covers the name],

I haven't quite figured out what to say to you, but I have to say something before I explode. I know I haven't paid much attention to you, but that doesn't mean I haven't noticed.

I saw you at the general store last week, all pretty in your new dress, and my heart nearly leapt out my mouth right then. But, you know I looked away, pretending not to see you. But, I did. So, I've got to say something, or die like a coward never saying it. So, here it goes.

I'm in love with you. I can't seem to stop thinking about you. Every where I look I see you. Every time I hear a voice, I think it's yours. I'm nearly crazy with strong feelings for you, and I can't hole them up any more. There's so much I have to tell you.

There's this dance coming up, in a couple of weeks over in Pine Ridge "

The letter sat unfinished, as its young writer had to scurry away on some chore or another. The marvel of it was that such simple words could... and still can... convey such complex desires, but, even though his prose was halting and uneven, his message remained clear. It was granted that the letter will be completed in due time, as hope springs ever eternal in the hearts of the young...

But sometimes, hope is not enough. In another place, in another room, a letter sits, folded, beneath an ornate tin box in a drawer, in a room at the men's boarding house. Its paper is yellowing and dry, with the circular stains of too many whiskey glasses embroidering its face. The letter, a remnant from a kinder time, described a dream much different than the writer possesses now...

"Dearest Heart,

It is with great joy and celebration that I write you! I am homeward bound soon from the university, eagerly awaiting your warm and tender embraces. Even the possibility of war cannot diminish this intolerable longing in my heart for you, and I must exorcise my desire within your arms!

Oh, Beauty Incarnate, what measure of good fortune has shined upon me that I have the unbounded favor of your grace? What manner of honor have I partaken in, within this mortal plane, to deserve your affections? I know not, My Darling, what I might perchance have accomplished to be deemed worthy of your love, but I count myself blessed to have chanced upon it! Delirious anticipation vexes me with sweet tortures as I await the day I may adore you, once more, in person.

Word has reached me, Most Beloved, that you have not been well, but I pray that this notice finds you in good spirits! Never fear, for you shall find me at your gates once more, seeking to curry your attention. Know that I am ever grateful that you deigned to be patient with me these many months. You have ever been in my thoughts as we were apart. Yet, in a swiftly approaching hour, we shall be reunited, and, if you'll have me, I shall never be parted from you again!

I am ever yours,

Ezra"

And sweet words etched in complete sincerity, by a man who learned, in time, to feign sincerity for financial gain, reached the abode of his Adored too late. Upon his arrival in Charlotte, upon his greeting at her door by her Mother, the missive was placed back, tenderly, into his trembling hands, never opened.

Pneumonia had a stronger claim on her than his love, and, two days before his letter arrived, she nodded off, never to awaken again. A broken man dragged himself from the doorway. Never having completely healed, the man entered his mother's world, a little darker, a little colder. But, he always kept the letter to remind himself of what he once was... and might be again...

Then, there was the lair of the holy man. Like the very church structure, he found himself in need of constant repair... especially since he joined forces with the others! Yet, in these quiet times, he found himself writing to a memory...

"...It was never easy losing myself in religion, once I saw you. I know you were 'just' a dancehall singer, but, at the time, I was torn between the love of God and loving you. I often wonder how our lives might have been different had I stayed..."

Josiah, sitting in the window writing in his journal as well as possible in the pale light, gazed up at the stars. A strange smile crossed his face.

"...I have believed all my life that God moves us for purposes we don't always understand. I wondered often and aloud for a time as to why He had us cross paths, Emma, and imagined you were just a another temptation."

Josiah's smile broadened in the fading light.

"But I have come to see, in time, that love is the only reason for living. Even if we were star-crossed, I will love you forever. I always have that."

The big man read what he wrote, then closed his journal, setting it gently on the table by his bed. Reaching his fingers up to his lips, he kissed them, then softly touched the cover of the book...

The sky spirits winked at her from on high above the hidden Seminole village as she read a letter from the man who loved her. By the firelight, Nathan's words danced in her eyes as they danced in her heart... "...We've been pretty banged up here lately, what with all the fighting and all. But, I wanted you to know I'm being careful. After all, I got to see you again.

I've been helping Josiah repair the church... Damnation! I've never seen a man bleed as much as he does and still go raring for a fight... But, you know, that got me to thinking. One of these days, a real doctor will come to these parts, then I can come help y'all put stuff back together again. And, if you'll let me, to spend my life with you.

I've been healing folks pretty much since I first learned to hold a knife. I figure it's high time the healer got healed. Men and women need each other.

I reckon what I'm really saying is that we need each other! It shouldn't be much longer now. Just keep waiting for me a little while more.

I love you, you know.

N. Jackson"

She smiled and shut her eyes, folding the letter and holding it close to her heart. She heard the approval of the night spirits as they whispered in the trees with the wind...

And the wind and rain whipped another letter's edges fiercely, as it sat beneath a rock under an elm tree by an old creek. Off a few yards from the creek, the burnt skeleton of a farmstead stood a reminder of the price of hatred.

But, the letter was not a testament to hate... it represented the lost love of a man and woman who loved well, once upon a time...

"Laura Beth,

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

It was pretty when I got here today. You would have liked it. It reminded me of so many times we spent here, watching the clouds roll by. Fish were jumping in the creek, and birds singing in your honor...

Not a day don't go by that I don't think of you. I've tried to do what you asked me, but it's so hard
sometimes, Sweetheart. I've always liked the ladies, and I love them all I can, but my heart is always going to be yours.

I try to keep going, keeping that smile on my face you always loved so much. But I miss you, Laura. God, I miss you so much..."

Once upon a time, Buck and Laura Beth had a lifetime of loving ahead of them. Once upon a time. But, today, He couldn't write any more, so he gently left the note on her grave, placing a rock over it to keep it near his only love. Kissing the cold marker when he'd rather kiss her soft, warm skin, he turned his tear-filled eyes away.

Hours later, the very skies cried in sympathy...

Another night at another time, another man finished hunting for the evening, built a fire, and
settled down for the night. He pulled a harmonica from his pocket, and played a tune or two as his catch slowly roasted over the flames. After eating, he cleaned up, and pulled paper and writing supplies from his pocket. Not far in the distance, the lights and soft sounds of life floated from a small cow town. It was there that the object of his thoughts lived...

"...I can almost hear you laughing, even out here. We talked for hours the night we were together, and you know me. I'm not much for talking.

But, I've never told you how I felt. Even though we've been together several times, I've never been completely honest with you.

I wish I were different, somehow, that I could settle down and leave all this behind me. But you know me well. I'm not a farmer, and I don't think I can work in town for long. I need to get away too much. I guess being on the run suits me.

But, it don't change the fact that I love you. I just wish I could tell you that."

Vin Tanner looked toward the town wistfully, and the woman who filled his thoughts of late.
Shaking his head slowly, he tossed the letter in the fire, as he had done with all the others. As it burned, he pulled out his harmonica and played a sad little song, because, unlike the lone coyote, he didn't howl mournfully at the moon...

And ashes were all that were left of Chris' life, as his heart was burned cruelly one bitter night. But, on the day his wife and son vanished in hatred's fires, he had left a love letter to his darling wife... left it on the bed with a wild flower to accompany it.

"Dearest Sarah,

I've never been much good at writing. But, today, I just wanted to tell you something special. Buck and me have a chance to make some money, and that's important to us right now. We need to develop the farm, for us, our son, and the little ones I hope will come. But, I'd give anything if I could stay.

Sarah, I love you. You have no idea what a change you've made in my life these past few years. From the very first time I met you, I knew I loved you. It just took me a while to convince you. I'm awfully glad I could.

I look around me, and I see all the things you do. You take care of the boy and me without complaint. You're the best wife a man could have and the best mother a boy ever needed. I've never seen you angry or sad about anything. And, you're the prettiest thing I ever laid eyes on!

So, my beautiful and loving wife, Buck and I will go, even though I don't want to, because I want to give something back to you. I want to give you an easy life and lots and lots of happiness. Always remember while we're gone that I'll always be with you. Just close your eyes and think of me. And I'll see you again real soon.

Your husband,

Chris"

Chris never knew whether or not she read it. After the fire, all traces of the letter, the flower, and his heart blew away with the wind. When men looked at him, now, and thought they saw a man, they only saw the shadow of the once-was, the man his wife saw through loving eyes...

Despite it all... or perhaps because of it all... hope is the essence of life. And, one letter once
received returned joy to the sender.

JD Dunne stood arm-in-arm with the lovely lady he adored, out on the dance floor, as she reached over and kissed him happily on the cheek.

"I loved your letter," she said...

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