THE LETTER ~ A story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #54 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we write a story based on three words:

Chocolate | Lust | Thorns

Since it was around Valentine’s Day when we received the prompt, my story touches on love … sort of. 😉

*  *  *  *

Dear Adam,

I want to offer you an apology for my behavior the past two weeks. I know most women would’ve jumped at the chance to go with you to some romantic spot for Valentine’s Day. Your invitation caught me off guard.

I panicked.

Instead of graciously accepting your gift, I stopped accepting anything from you, including your calls and texts.

Let me start by saying, you’ve been patient. You’ve followed my lead, and from our first date more than six months ago, I’ve led you to my door but never through it. It must have crossed your mind why a thirty-year-old woman would seem so … puritan. Yet, you never asked, so I never felt the need to explain.

I care about you, Adam, very much, and you have a right to know why I ended our relationship so abruptly. This letter is further evidence that I lack the courage to even pick up the phone and call you. I’m taking the coward’s way out, but I hope you will understand.

Valentine’s Day is a dreaded day for me, but by design or by coincidence, I’ve managed to avoid the holiday for years. When I couldn’t avoid it with you, I had to retreat.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day for the last time seven years ago. He was much older than me, unlike anyone I’d ever met—well traveled, confident, a little dangerous. He excited me, and I looked forward to how we would spend Valentine’s together.

On that day, he made a special request of me—a gesture that would show my love for him, he said. I was reluctant at first. I didn’t know him all that well, but he had showered me with champagne, chocolates, and a dozen of the most amazing long stem red roses I’d ever seen. I thought it only fair to give him what he wanted, so I allowed him to tie me up.

Not long after, I discovered his true intentions, but it was too late. The more I screamed and begged him to stop, the more I fueled his lust. The cost of love, he said, was not the price of candies and flowers. True love had to be measured by different commodities—commitment, strength, sacrifice. How else could I value him if there was no risk involved?

I told him I wasn’t willing to pay the price for him, but it didn’t matter. He was determined I would learn to enjoy the pain.

I did not. I passed out from it.

By the time I awoke, he was gone, but not before he left his mark. I never saw him again. I assume it was because I failed his test.

You did me a favor, Adam. You forced me to confront the scars of my past. The problem is my scars are real, not just metaphorical. I am, forever, damaged goods.

I have enjoyed every moment with you. I wish it could have ended differently.

With affection,

Brenda

* * * *

 

“How does that feel?”

She sighed, “It feels good, like a feather. I love how gently you touch me.”

I stared at Brenda’s well-formed back as she sprawled on her stomach, naked but for the white sheet that wrapped around one of her calves. Her loose, chestnut hair framed her face, which was turned away from me.

I continued to kiss below her neck and felt the ridges against my lips. She stiffened and then relaxed. I brushed my lips over the raised, carved letter on her back—the letter S.

He had taken his time cutting into Brenda’s flesh, the letter etched from the thorns of the roses he had bought her that Valentine’s Day. The cuts were deep, the design ornate. The pain must have been excruciating.

I closed my eyes to suppress my anger.

“Adam?” Brenda turned to her side and propped her head on her elbow facing me.

“Yes, my love.”

“Thank you for being so persistent, for not giving up on me.” She dropped her gaze and picked at imaginary lint.

I tilted my head and forced her to look at me. “What that monster did to you was not your fault. You didn’t ask for the scar on your back.”

Brenda stared at me with glassy eyes. “It’s been two months since you walked back into my life, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you. It’s just that …” Her face, hidden in shadow, turned a deeper shade of pink.

“What?” I asked. “You can tell me anything, you know that.”

She cleared her throat. “Okay … why haven’t you asked me what the S stands for? You must be curious.”

Brenda was right. I was curious. I had almost asked her the first time I saw the well-formed letter. It spanned the entirety of her back from the base of her neck to her tailbone. What once must have been a blood-red scar had now faded to purplish-pink, several shades darker than her skin. Brenda said she could not remember how long he cut into her before she fainted. I suspect she must have struggled for the top half of the S. Parts of it had healed as jagged clutters and bumps, contrasting the smoother curve at the bottom.

My guess was the letter stood for the initial of the man who did this to her. A narcissist—Steve or Sam or some other shitty name. Or maybe it was the symbol of a serpent or something else, who knows? The man was a sadist, a psychopath. Would I even be able to make sense of it if I knew?

“Adam, are you okay?”

Brenda’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts, and just like that, I found my answer. “I know what the S stands for,” I said.

She took a quick breath and her eyes widened. “You do?”

“Yes,” I said, in a confident manner. I cupped her cheeks in my hands. “It stands for … sweetheart … which is what you are to me.”

A look of relief washed over Brenda’s face. It confirmed I had made the right decision. She had never wanted to tell me what the letter stood for, and I, never needed to know. 

Do you have any scars you wish to share? Feel free to leave a comment or question. I’d love to hear from you.

~eden

**

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13 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Poetry

13 responses to “THE LETTER ~ A story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

  1. Really tight story Eden…just loved it–brought back some of my own scars.

    XO

    RB

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written and oh so interesting. I do enjoy your writing, Eden!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully written as always xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A reader of the story (I’ll call her B) posed an interesting question to me on Twitter. Here was her comment:

    I read your story. I can’t help but wonder why did she even ask him about the letter if she didn’t want to tell him.

    ***
    Hi B, Firstly, thanks so much for the question. It’s a good one and it made me think. To frame my response, I’d like to say that in a short story, character motivations are not always explicit. I do this on purpose to engage the reader’s imagination. For me, the reader should always be an active participant in the story, and this cannot happen when every detail is provided. I tried to squeeze in what I thought was just enough, but not too much.

    As to your question, the answer comes down to a couple of things. One is fear, the other is trust.

    I used the premise that some women are unable to face their fears, especially when they are victims. Instead, they cope by avoiding the triggers that force them to face these fears. Brenda avoided Valentine’s for many years following her “scar” incident. When she met Adam and could not avoid it with him, she shut him out altogether. Yet, at the end of her letter, she thanked him for helping her confront her past—finally. How she does this is unknown – maybe she sees a psychiatrist, maybe she tells a friend. The details of this are not revealed.

    When she allows Adam back into her life , she has decided to stop avoiding, but this does not negate that she still has trust issues. The last time she trusted a man, he maimed her, so it will take her some time to fully trust Adam. Because she really wants to, she tries to offer him something from her past, albeit tentatively. She does not say: “Do you want to know what the S means?” Instead she asks “… why haven’t you asked me what the S stands for? … ”

    By posing the question in this way, she is testing Adam’s character. She wants to know how he will respond, but she’s also leaving herself an “out.” Brenda may have taken a proactive step, but there is no promise she will tell him the truth. Perhaps, she is not ready to do so as yet. That’s why she is relieved by his response.

    Having said all this, if what I’ve just written does not make sense to you, it’s perfectly fine as well. As a writer, all I do is provide the text. I like to believe that you as the reader will give it meaning based on your own experiences.

    I hope this provides some insight. I’m more than happy to answer any other questions you may have, either here or on Twitter. 😉

    eden

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Of all the months to miss reading alongside you! Chilling, but sweet. You are very good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent piece, Eden. So well written.

    Loved your response to “B”.
    xox

    Liked by 1 person

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