Rachel put the letter back in its envelope for the hundredth time. It was crumpled from over-reading. It had arrived a week ago, out of the blue. After years of sparsely worded postcards it had broken into her listlessness like an all-bells and whistles TGV. She pushed her chair back and moved to the glass doors. It was a stormy, grey day. The wind was crying, moaning through the gaps at the window’s edges. She sucked her cheeks in and made a face at the taste of stale coffee. She’d had three espressos already today and it wasn’t even lunch-time. Anything to get moving these days. She stared at the sky – she hadn’t seen any planes today – they’d most likely been grounded because of the gales. Just like her.
She moved slowly into the kitchen and turned away again. The chores could wait. She lifted her phone. No messages. She’d been on twitter so much today she knew it all by heart. She was tired of seeing twitter’s version of reality, tired of reading about won competitions, published books, travel opportunities. That had not been her life. When she looked back, she could see past successes, but not for a long time now. In fact, that year abroad had been her peak. Since then, life had been ok, but never better than that.
She pulled the letter to her again. It was like an invitation to her past. She passed her hand across her face. He still remembered her. He’d promised years ago and hadn’t reneged on it. She climbed the stairs, slid across the mirrored door and reached up to lift down a bright pink box she’d almost forgotten. The dust fell on her hair and hands like snow. She set it down on the bed and lifted the lid.
There they were. Her breath caught and she shook her head. She pulled out one of the photos and traced her finger over it. The only one she could never see again. Tears pushed against her eyelids. Regret or something like it grabbed her chest. Could she have gone back sooner? Did anyone out there wonder why she hadn’t?
Should she go now?
She stood up and headed back downstairs. Her heart was racing. She opened the bureau drawer and lifted out a wad of Euro notes she had kept for years. That would be enough to get her started. She went online and checked flights. It would have to be an open-ended ticket. There was no way of knowing who would be willing to see her, and who wouldn’t.
She grabbed a sheet of paper and pen. Step one.
Thank you for your letter. It was so lovely to hear from you! Your English is perfect. I hope your mother is well.
I have a crazy idea. But hear me out. It might just work…