The box was lined with eight stamps, in two rows, along the top right corner. Perfectly aligned, as always, with her name written in block letters below it. Her father was fond of the US postal service. Sentimental, even. The package took over a week to arrive and he simply refused to pay more when he could use his gigantic supply of stamps instead. So what if she had to wait.

When Clara opened the box, she didn’t see the elementary school yearbook she had asked for. It was crammed full of unopened letters from her brother. He had written her monthly for the last four years and her dad never forwarded the letters or even told her that he was trying to communicate with her. Interestingly, he hadn’t trashed them as she would have assumed. Why was he sending them now?

She tore open the oldest one and began to read the first of many pages. Derek was eloquent, which you would never guess from his halting style of conversation. Succinct and also sincere in ways he never was growing up-Clara liked learning about this side of him even if the subject of the letter was troubling. He was trying to explain, or at least put into some moral context, why he had murdered his partner. She couldn’t judge: the jury already had and the sentence was twenty years. She thought Derek was writing all of this down as a way to cope more than anything. He knew he wouldn’t convince her to visit him for some sappy prison reunion. He was too smart for that. So, she opened and read one letter after the other, going in chronological order. She knew she would never write him back, as he all but asked for in the final letter. This was the end of the line for them.

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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