Letter From America

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

28th October 2016
The padded envelope contained a letter, and a note. Tara had ripped it open, thinking it was something to do with the Irish lottery she'd entered on a desperate whim, but her excitement turned to shock as she saw the handwriting. She dropped the letter as if it had bitten her.

An hour later, she'd fed Matty and put her down for a nap. The envelope with its ghost's handwriting scrawled across the front was propped up against the fruit bowl. Between Tara and the letter was the note.

Dear Miss Smith,

This letter was found behind a kitchen unit when we renovated our house. I don't know who you are or who wrote it but the envelope was sealed so it felt wrong to go prying. I don't know if you still live at this address but it felt wrong not to send it on.

Kathy Schnider

Kathy's address was on the back. It was an address she'd seen once, a long time ago, before throwing the piece of paper it was on onto the fire and trying to forget it. She never did, of course.

Should she throw this letter on the fire?

Tara left the envelope where it was for the minute and went through to Matty's room. Her daughter lay bundled in in a duvet in her cot bed, snoring softly. There lay Tara's heart. A gift from God, Matty had come when Tara had given up on being anything except alone. She was over 40, single, barren, or so she thought. And then the office night out. And Graham, the office lothario. Against all her better judgement and with hell to the wind and a excuse to God, Tara let herself be seduced by his smooth words and soft hands.

Matty looked like them both. Graham hadn't wanted to be a part of Matty's life and Tara was relieved - although a tiny hidden part of her still hoped he'd change his mind, one day. But if he didn't, that was okay, becasue Matty and she were a good team. Just them against the world. Girl power, God's gifts, a good team.

She kissed Matty softly on the cheek and left the room.

She sat and regarded the envelope. She wondered when it'd been written. There was only one way to find out and with every bit of will she had and a soft prayer cast at the ceiling she slid her finger along the fragile fold, the paper almost tearing as if the letter couldn't wait to be opened.

She took a deep breath, blinked back the tears that made the world wobble, and began to read.

Tree Fold Ranch, Mitchell, Arkansas, 43657 USA
July 5th, 1984

My Darling Tara,

You didn't answer my last letter. I've tried to telephone you, but Dad says you don't want to talk. I understand why but I need you to understand. I need you to, all right my love? This won't be a long letter and if you don't reply, I won't try again. I'll respect that.

Leaving you all behind was the hardest thing I have ever done but I was so unhappy. I had to go. Your father and I would have made each other miserable. One day you might understand. You know how much we argued. I know you're only 10, but you can understand this much, at least. Dad and I made each other really unhappy, and that made you unhappy and your brother unhappy. I didn't want that.

I left to stop all of the arguing. I left to protect you from it.

I've known Paul since I was your age. He and I were best friends at school and when he moved to America when I was 15 I thought I would die from sadness. I thought I would never see him again. When he came home for a holiday and he contacted me it was as if nothing had changed. We were still best friends. He asked me to go back to America with him and I knew I had to. I just had to. I didn't want to leave you but you can come for a holiday when you are older.

I am happy now, and I hope your dad is happier. I know you must miss me but we can talk on the phone. Please, please Tara, phone me. Daddy will help you. One day I want to come home with Paul, but for now his work is here, helping the government sort out the mess the world is in. America is going to make everything all right again, and paul is a part of that.

I hope that one day you will understand. I am so sorry I hurt you. I know Dad can look after you and I want very much to still be your mum. Part of your life.

Think about it. try to fogive me and understand.

I love you, Tars.


By the end of the letter Tara was crying messily but her teeth were clenched. She gave an incomprehensible groan, part pain, part fury. She stood up, flung the letter on the table and began to pace the kitchen, letting the tears and the anger have their moment.

Then she stopped dead sand looked at the letter.

That was it? That was all she did? That was her one and only other attempt to contact her daughter, after that first disastrous phone call that Tara remembered like it was yesterday? And that stupid postcard, telling her how happy she was?

What had been wrong with the woman? She'd been in love, thought Tara dully. She's loved this Paul more than she loved her own daughter. She could understand leaving a husband, but not leaving a child. The thought of leaving Matty...

Tara shuddered and ran back to Matty's room. She was still there, serene and dreaming, her small world complete and happy.

'I'll never, ever leave you,' she said.

She turned back and sat down again at the table, and reread the letter. The same feelings arose.

Had her mother decided not to send it? Had something happened? Had she left it for Paul to send, but it had got knocked down the back of the unit, and she didn't realise? She'd said she'd never try and make contact again but how could she give up? How could she walk away in the first place?

Tara banged her knuckles against her head. She'd been here and been here again and thought these thoughts too often. She was over this now. She did not need to go back there. Why had this damned letter arrived now, just when she was perfectly happy and content?

She walked to the window and looked out at the trees. Her father was gone. He'd planted some of those trees with her mother. She remembered the stories they'd told, about wanting Tara to be able to climb them when she was older. Her mother was gone. But the trees still stood, growing stronger. If there was some lesson there she couldn't see it.

She looked back at the letter that, she found, she was still holding. 'I am so sorry I hurt you'. Had she been? Had she loved her as much as she said she would? Would she have come back?

She thought back to the only time she'd gone digging. With the arrival of the internet in all corners of life and the death of her father - still partly from grief, Tara knew - Tara had found a way and some motivation for trying to find her mother. She told herself it was to blame her for her father's death, show her what that casual 'goodbye' had done to them both, but the hunt got hold of her and she became obsessed with finding her mother.

She contacted a friend of her mother who told her a strange story. Paul wasn't who he said he was. He was working for an underground group who were trying to undermine the goverment. It had all sounded like an outlandish American film, and Tara had hardly believed any of it, but she had no choice. Thorugh her computer, she traced her to New York, where she had followed Paul, who apparently was working undercover, onto something big, some huge conspiracy that involved the President himself and a plot to do some damage and blame it on terrorists and then... then 9/11. The trail went cold. The man who'd been helping her stopped answering her e mails and that had been it. The end.

Tara thought about the rage that had followed and then the religion, which had been a balm on the burns of anger. And finally, peace.

This letter disturbed all that. Why now?

'Mummy?' Matty's voice brought her out of her thoughts. She shook herself.

Matty stood, sleepy-eyed and smiling, on the theshold of the kitchen. Tara scooped her up and cuddled her close, inhaling her baby smell and letting it wash away the memories.

'I had a dream,' said Matty. 'About a lady who said she was your mummy!'

Tara stared at her. She'd fallen into a parallel universe.


'I dreamed about a lady. Do you have a mummy, Mummy?'

Tara sat down at the table with Matty on her lap. For a few minutes, she couldn't speak.

Finally she said, 'Yes. Yes, I do have a mummy.'

'Where is she?'

Tara shook her head. 'I don't know, sweetie. She might be alive, but I don't know. Her life was very... interesting. It's a long story. A very long story.'

'But what was she like?'

Tara thought for a long moment. She glanced at the letter. 'Well. She was brave. And loving. And she followed her heart. She tried to do the right thing, I suppose. I loved her so much. I wanted to be just like her. She looked like a film star... I'll tell you a story. See those trees over there?' She pointed out of the window. Matty nodded.

'Well, she and your grandpa planted those trees. And one day, you and I are going to climb them. Together. Because sometimes, when you climb up high, you can start to see the world differently. And when we're up there, I'll tell you more about what she was like. When I've thought about it myself.'

Tara blinked hard, and went to get the biscuits. She tucked the letter into her breast pocket, where it sat against her heart. She could have sworn it felt warm.

She cast her eyes to the ceiling. 'I'll try, God,' she said. 'I'll work on it, all right?'