The Short Story Experience: THE LETTER

You know that thing that happens when you start to clean your room and then stop in the middle of it when you find something amusing that distracts you? Welp, turns out that when you’re packing everything you own, you find a lot more amusing things than when you’re just cleaning. Which means you stop a lot more often. And the whole ordeal takes a lot more time than it should.

In the time my sister took to pack all of my parents’ old stuff, the attic, and her own room, I’ve only got my closet and dresser. And I’ve found so many hidden treasures: stuffed animals I had when I was younger, a little box where my mom kept all my baby teeth, the last picture I have with her. Also, a pair of red slippers I got two years ago and still didn’t have the chance to use. But I’m sure New York City will be the perfect place for them.

New York City! I still can’t believe we’re actually going. For so long my sister has talked about leaving this dead-beat town for the big city, I never thought it would actually happen. Or that she would actually take me with her. Even being legally obliged, since she’s my guardian.

She gave me the news as a birthday present. She put a lot of NY-related stuff, like t-shirts and travel guides, inside a huge cardboard box in the middle of the living room. After I opened it and looked through everything, she handed me the lease of our new apartment. We’re actually going! I was so happy! Then I was a little mad because she gave me such a short notice to pack all my things and say goodbye to all my friends — only four days between my birthday and the day we’re driving up to the city — but I couldn’t stay upset for long. After all, it’s a dream come true. Our dream come true.

“Are you done Kitty Kat?” she shouts from downstairs.

“Almost!” I lie. I’ve been perusing through old books instead of packing them.

I get up in a hurry and restart the packing. I’ve decided no books are staying behind, which means I’ll need a lot of boxes. Two are already full and I still have three shelves to empty. I start going faster, not really paying attention at what I’m doing, which prompts me to knock down a shoe-box hidden behind a pile of books. Old notebooks and diaries splatter across the floor, lose sheets flying under my bed.

“Shoot,” I complain under my breath as I start to gather it all together again.

I didn’t even remember most of this stuff. There are old Valentines’ cards, dry leaves, journals I kept as a child, and letters I received from friends. My best friend and I wrote letters to each other twice a week for an entire year when I was 11. I laugh with the memory as I gather the sticker-filled envelopes from under the bed. And, then, something makes me pause — a sealed, clean white envelope addressed to me.

I immediately sit down on the floor, intrigued. There’s no sender information and I don’t remember who’s it from or why I didn’t open it. I don’t even remember receiving it! I trace the tip of my finger over my full name, written in black ink in the front, in somewhat familiar calligraphy. It looks recent, too white and clean in comparison with the aging paper organized so poorly inside that box.

My curiosity peaks and I open it, retrieving a two-page letter. Wow! I start to read.

Dear Katie,

Two days ago you turned 16 years old. Right now you must be sitting on your childhood bedroom floor, surrounded by half-empty boxes, trying to figure out how much of this life you want to bring with you to NYC. I’m writing to you to let you know that now, the exact moment you’re in, will be the happiest you’ll be in a long, long time. And, also, don’t take the red slippers, you’re never gonna use them.

NYC will be rough. The concept you have of living in the big city right now? Total bullshit. We shouldn’t have spent so many hours of our life watching all those stupid shows where people prance around in high heels and fall in love at coffee shops. I know this is how you picture yourself in a few years but, sadly, this will not happen to you. You can’t walk in heels. You won’t find love.

On the topic of love — remember in 7th grade when Ashton Grier kissed the new girl in front of the whole school and you thought it was the worst thing a boy could ever do to you? It wasn’t. Boys are trash, Katie, and you’ll learn about it soon enough. Remember this name — Christopher Bell. He’ll make you feel like those silly dreams about living in the Big Apple are coming true. It will soon become a nightmare. And this will only be the start of the shit-storm our life will become. A little advice: keep a pepper spray inside your purse at all times.

Another nightmare? High school. You’re the new girl now. We never thought about what it would mean and, believe me, I wish we did. Teenagers in big cities are not very welcoming of pretty, country girls. They’re mean, unforgiving beasts who’ll make the best out of our naivety. Oh, yes, Katie, you’re so naive. You’re the epitome of the good girl. You have no idea how immature you are right now. You’ll try so desperately to fit in, falling for so many traps before you realize it’s not worth it. So, I’m telling you right now — it’s not worth it. Tell them to fuck off. Yes, start practicing those words because you’ll use them a lot — fuck off.

Anyway, this letter isn’t about boys or school (maybe I’ll come back to them at a later time if this one has any effect). This is about Kelsey.

I didn’t mention yet, but we’re in therapy now. It’s recent, we’ve been to a total of five sessions. Don’t freak, therapy is a good thing nowadays, everyone’s doing it. I wish I had had the vision to start it sooner. So, another advice: seek help sooner. Don’t wait until we’re as fucked up as we currently are.

This letter is an exercise our therapist recommended. She wants to ‘get to the bottom of it’, whatever that means. ‘If you could contact your younger self and warn her about one thing, one thing only, what would it be?’ Well, dear younger-self, the one thing I wish I knew while I was sitting where you are now, dreaming of a life I’ll never have, is this: don’t trust Kelsey. I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the thing that kept nagging at my brain until I sat down to write this damn letter. I bet you are, though. You’d never question Kelsey. Oh, Kitty Kat, you don’t know half of the story…

“Katie?” My sister storms into the room, interrupting me. “Do you need any help here?”

“No, no, thanks,” I stutter, accidentally crumpling the letter into my shaking hands.

“Are you sure?” she insists, looking around with disapproving eyes. “You’re not even halfway through!”

“Sorry, I got distracted.” I stand up, folding the letter and putting it into my back pocket.

“What’s that?” She notices my nervousness. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, yes,” I lie, trying to tame my heart. “Just an old letter.”

“Oh, my, a letter?” she chuckles. “From who?”

“Uh… an old friend,” I say as I start to put things back inside the shoe-box. My heart is pounding so loud I don’t hear what she says next. It’s only when she rests a hand on my shoulder and I jump that I realize she kept talking.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asks.

“Yes, Kelsey!” I snap at her. “I’m fine!”

“Okay, okay! I’ll be downstairs if you change your mind.” She turns around to leave and stops at the door, giving me the warmest sisterly smile. “This is going to be so much fun, Kitty Kat. You and me, in NYC. We’re going to have a blast!”

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