The Letter – A Short Story by Kathryn Lang

The words were probably Latin.

She knew he preferred to write to her in the dead language. Her instinct told her to wad the letter up and throw it away. Even the feeling of the letter made the flesh of her fingers crawl. “Just toss it.” She needed to toss it.

shadow figure for The Letter Short Story

She folded it back to its original state then slipped it into her pocket.

He was watching.

He was always watching. She couldn’t see him, but she could feel him watching her.

A single rose always accompanied the letters, but sometimes the rose would show up alone. She grabbed this rose, perched delicately under her wiper, before darting into her car.

It seemed necessary even though he had never shown up where one of his letters rested.

She locked the doors, not willing to take a chance this would be the time.

The letters had been showing up for over a month. They first appeared after she broke off the relationship, a choice which had been uncomfortable for her and unacceptable to him.

It started with a random note – sometimes left tapped to her door but more often on the windshield of her ca. Men weren’t allowed in floors were the residents slept. He would have to get someone to slip the note on her door or else find a way to sneak it. It was easier to leave it on the car.

The words written in the letters were always in Latin, although she only assumed they were the dead language. She never had the courage to find out what they said.

The letters had started to show up more frequently and the words spilled across the page were more abundant. She still didn’t know what they said, but she could feel the pitch of desperation rising.

She tried parking her car in different places, but he always found it. That is how she knew he had to be watching.

The sight of the white rectangle stuck under her windshield or the glimpse of the red petals always made her heart skip and her palms sweat.

red letter for The Letter Short Story

Others had spotted him at night sitting out under her third-floor window on the picnic table below. He never yelled or threatened. He would just sit calmly at the table and watch her window.

He also called late at night. The excuses were always the same. He wanted her back. He needed her. He was better with her. All the attention was to show how much he wanted her. Instead, it reminded her why she had walked away in the first place. It was all about him.

The evening before exams, he had watched her window until late. Her floor mates had come to her room to make sure she was okay. She took the chance to peek out her curtain and see for herself. He was watching. She ducked back behind the curtain hoping she had not been noticed. Sleep avoided her, held back by the unease from knowing he was there.

At some point, she fell into a fitful sleep. The ringing phone pulled her from her restless slumber.

“You have to come back to me.” His words were hoarse and tired.

She was tired. She had heard it all before, and nothing had changed for her. It was over and there was no going back.

“I won’t live without you.” Each word dripped alone through the line.

She was through. He would have to find a way to live without her. She couldn’t take it anymore. She hung up the phone and unplugged it from the wall. Sleep seemed to come much easier after she silenced the phone.

The next morning her whole dorm building buzzed with the news. The neighbors had found him lying in his apartment unconscious from an overdose. The ambulance arrived in time to save him, but he would be in the hospital for a while.

“Some of us are going to visit him, do you want to come?”

She didn’t want to come, but she didn’t want to seem heartless. They all knew who he was to her. She breathed a sigh of thankfulness they were unable to see what she felt. She didn’t like the small part of her that wished it had ended differently.

The pile of letters she had accumulated over the weeks stared at her from across the room. She swept them into the garbage. No. She would not be going to visit. Let them think what they wanted. She was freeing herself from the chains.


Read more by Kathryn Lang


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