Hey. Hi. How’ve you been. So I promised myself when I was eighteen that I had written my last letter to you. And it’s so damn clichéd to be going back on that, not even five years later, but you know what, you left us, so I get to make the rules now. And tonight I went to Olivia’s wedding. And these are my rules.
Rule One: Don’t reminisce too much.
Do you remember when we were. Like. Sixteen, maybe? We were all in her bedroom; you two sitting foot-to-foot on her bed and me spread-eagled on the floor because I never stretched out anywhere else. And all of a sudden you asked about our future weddings, and how we could make something work with three of us. We decided to rotate maid of honor duties, and I secretly really wanted to be Olivia’s, but when we drew names, it was you.
Rule Two: Let the past go.
“You seem tense,” he said to me as I was standing in front of the mirror on tiptoes, holding a bobby pin like I was splitting the atom.
“I am tense,” I replied, barely opening my teeth.
“It was today, wasn’t it? Those years ago? That she went.”
I didn’t say anything. I just clenched my molars harder.
He sat in the doorway, even though our bathroom is tiny. “How are you feeling?”
I placed the bobby pin, impossibly balanced, on the counter. And I didn’t speak till it fell. I looked right at him. “I’m so ready to have another association with this date.”
Rule Three: It’s okay to cry when you’re happy.
We hadn’t talked, let alone seen each other, in at least six years, but I knew exactly how she was going to stride as she came down the aisle. Her steps got more regular as my pulse got more scattered.
“Sally,” he whispered, his hand a breath on the small of my back.
“I’m okay,” I replied, and I was; my face was wet, but my voice was in one piece, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her, and I wished you were there.
Rule Four: Don’t ask questions.
I wasn’t her maid of honor in your stead, in case you were wondering. I wasn’t even her bridesmaid. I didn’t go to her bachelorette party, or her bridal shower. I got the wedding invitation in the mail from her mother, a day and two hours after mine died. I don’t know why she invited me. And H, I don’t know why I went.
Rule Five: Cheat.
She tossed her bouquet over her shoulder like a paper airplane. And I caught it. And as I stumbled off the dance floor with it, still dazed from the setting and the camera flashes, a tall man who danced like rubber winked at me and picked up my left hand and said, “You’re cheating.”
Rule Seven: Go ahead. Ask your questions now.
I don’t want to know why you left, Hannah, I want to know why you didn’t come back for this. I want to know why you always hated it so much when I called you H. I want to know why Olivia could give herself to someone when I can’t. I want to know whether I’m the only one who kept all of our friendship bracelets. All the photos. I don’t want to know why you left, but I want to know how; I want to know how you got away without looking back. And I want to know why I never saw it coming.
Rule Eight: Don’t look back.
I went home at eleven. I just did. Not because I needed to go, but because I didn’t want the night to turn down. It was actually Holden who asked me if I was ready, and I surprised us both by telling him that I wasn’t yet because I needed to say goodbye to Olivia. I felt like my kneecaps were melting off of my bones, but I kept walking, and when I appeared behind her Olivia hugged me so tightly that I felt like I was never going to have to be afraid again. And I couldn’t think of what to say, so I just thanked her, over and over, and she thanked me back, and suddenly I felt that whisper on my back and there was Holden, and Olivia took his hand and said right to his eyes, “Take care of her, okay?” and I knew then and there that she would always be Olivia.
And here’s the thing, H, I don’t know who I’m always going to be because I don’t know who I am now, and I don’t know who you’re always going to be because I don’t know who you’ve been since then. But I know that Olivia is always going to be Olivia, and I know that she is going to be fine. And I know, I know in the core of my soul and my left pinky knuckle, that she grew into exactly the person she was always supposed to be. And I think that’s beautiful, Hannah, beautiful in a way only you could have understood, if only because most of us don’t get that chance. You and I know that better than anyone.
And I know that whoever said It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all is full of shit.
I sing the blues like a song because I don’t know how else to tell you I still love you. I still miss you. I don’t want to write to you anymore because I don’t want to keep you, but I don’t want to stop the letter because I don’t want to stop remembering what it feels like to hope. I don’t know a lot of things, H, but I know that you weren’t at my mother’s funeral and you weren’t at Olivia’s wedding and you won’t be at mine.
And I know that I hope you’re happy, but I missed you today.
And I know that I wish I could stop missing you.
Daniele DeAngelis Walker is twenty-four years young, but her soul feels much older. An avid lover of colors and words, she graduated from Drew University with specialized honors in creative writing. She works in the publishing industry and lives in New Jersey with the fiancee she never thought she’d have.
© 2015, Daniele DeAngelis Walker