Inspired by characters in my book series, Be!
Words have never come easy to me. Even in your presence, though, in a lot of ways, you were the one who felt safest, outside of Henry. Even in your room with the door closed, though that is, perhaps, where felt safest.
To be honest, I’m not sure exactly how to address this letter. I’ve never really known how to address you. I’ve always been waiting for some indication, some type of sign, but perhaps I’m as lousy reading between the lines as I am with words.
Or is that just wishful thinking?
Looking back on it, I wonder if you were doing the same. Have the two of us spent years standing still, waiting for the other to make some kind of move? I’m even worse at dancing, if you remember, despite your best efforts.
Not that I blame you. I don’t think I ever could. We both had plenty of reminders over the years that I was never yours. And you were the one who gave me Henry. You were the one who saved me. You were the one who gave me a voice, even if I’m not very good at using it.
I’ve always liked the thought that I might be, though. Lingering outside your door when you’d tell Henry stories or when you’d sing him lullabies when tucking him in, I never wanted to intrude. It was nice to pretend they might’ve been for me, too, though.
I never really knew my mother. She wasn’t someone you could get close to. After witnessing the resulting scar on Zane’s nose, I learned quickly it was better not to try. I remember watching your hands when you first arrived. I remember being just as terrified of them. But your hands never hurt the way hers or anyone else’s had. Your words never hurt, like so many around me, either. I don’t think you’re capable of causing hurt like that. Mostly, my mother has remained a spectral terror of my nightmares.
She was hardly the only nightmare. I know I don’t need to tell you that. You saw enough of it.
Then, you showed up. I wish I could remember the first time I saw you. The first time you smiled at me, like I was something worth noticing, like there was something in me that was worthy of evoking such a reaction. The first time you brushed the curls from my face. I wish I could tell you what your kindness meant to a little four-year-old who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak in the midst of the cruelty and violence that dominated his life when anybody deigned to pay him any attention.
I wish I could tell you what it still means to me, now, no longer quite so little.
Before you, no one cared.
But then, there were tartlets. I might not remember much of those earlier years. Might barely remember the first time I dared open my mouth with you. The tartlets, though, I remember clear as day. When I hadn’t seen you in a while, when I thought you’d gone away, too, or forgot me, I’d find them waiting. They quickly became my favorite. Whenever I needed them most, whenever I’d seek them out, there they were.
Whenever I eat them, now, I think of you.
Something that was just ours. Something special. For a moment, it felt like you were saying I was yours.
They might not have been a story or a song, but it felt like a piece of you. Like a hand over the heart.
I know I wasn’t yours. But I would’ve given anything in the world to be. I would’ve given anything for the scar on my hand, the one I share with your son, to somehow make me wholly Henry’s instead of just half and make me wholly yours instead of just pretending.
There’s so much I should’ve told you, so much I wish I was brave enough to say. Not the least of which is “I love you.”
This letter is a sad, incomplete attempt to say it now. Even if it’s too late.