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All of My Love
Shay sat at the rickety kitchen table and picked up the letter to read it for the hundredth time. It had been folded and refolded so many times it was close to disintegrating. All of my love, Dad he had scrawled at the end. His handwriting was long and slanty; just like her own.
“So you’re positive it’s today?” a voice asked from the doorway.
Shay looked up from the table to see Tamara standing on the threshold of her apartment holding a bottle of wine.
“Yes I’m sure,” she beamed getting up from her seat to take the expensive bottle. “He told me so. Thanks for this by the way.” She held up the wine before placing it on the counter. “The landlord doesn’t like us having alcohol lying around.”
“No problem,” Tamara replied making herself comfortable at the table. “When are your Mom and Sissy coming?”
“Later on; around five or so,” mumbled Shay absently. She had picked up the letter again to read the words she had already memorized.
It had been years since he left. It was common for him to go on many business trips, but this had been the longest. Shay’s hands shook as she carefully refolded the letter. She was sixteen when he left.
“Are you alright? You’re shaking,” said Tamara bringing back her friend’s attention.
Shay looked up, tensing her muscles to stop the trembling. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Just nervous,” she replied. As she moved to sit down at the table once again, she wiped a stray tear from her cheek.
Tamara gently put her hand over Shay’s to cease her trembling, “You miss him don’t you?”
Shay straightened herself up in her chair, trying to regain composure, “Of course I do, he’s my dad and he just left us. For four years. As much as I want to see him, I know he’ll be different.”
“I’m sure he loves you just the same,” Tamara soothed.
“I’m not so sure...” Shay mumbled. She sat staring blankly at the table for a long time, letting the silence consume the apartment. “Well, I’m going to go shower,” she announced suddenly as if their previous conversation had not occurred.
“Alright,” replied Tamara picking up the pace quickly. “Just come down and get me when you’re ready.” She watched Shay skip off to her bedroom. Poor girl, she thought as she headed for the elevator.
? ? ?
Shay sat impatiently at the kitchen table listening to the tick of the clock. Tamara did her best to calm her friend’s nervousness with encouraging smiles from across the table, but Shay was not paying attention. She was lost in thought once again.
There was a knock at the door. Shay jumped out of her seat, pausing to smooth out a crease in her dark emerald dress before letting in her mother and sister.
“There you are! ‘Bout time,” she said, exasperated as she closed the door behind them.
Her mother wrung her hands nervously, “yes well... sorry,” she finished lamely.
Shay looked at her mother and sister standing stiffly by the door. “What’s the matter? I thought you’d be happy he’s coming home ...”
“Shayla, honey, come here and sit with me,” called Tamara from across the room.
Her mother and sister followed her to the kitchen and took their places at the table. Shay sat down nervously sensing the tension in the room. “What’s going on?” she asked warily.
Her mother leaned forward and spoke gently, “Shay, your father... well he’s... he’s...” her eyes filled with tears and the sentence stuck in her throat.
“He’s dead. He’s not coming home.” Sissy snapped crossing her arms and glaring at her sister across the table.
Shay stared at her mother and sister, lost in her emotions. Eyes wide with grief she tried to make sense of the statement. “What do you mean... his plane? When did you...? How do you...?” she stumbled choking on her tears.
“No you idiot, there is no plane! There was no trip! Dad just died! And you got all messed up!” screamed Sissy across the table.
“Calm down Sissy,” said Tamara calmly.
“No! I’m sick of this stupid game! How can you be so calm about this! She’s not getting any better!” Sissy shouted. She stood up abruptly and marched over to the window resting her head on their bars.
Shay looked at Tamara. “What is she talking about?” she asked. The hurt in her voice was apparent.
“Shayla, do you remember what happened when you were sixteen?” Tamara asked searching her face for some kind of recognition.
“Dad left...” Shay whispered quietly, tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“No honey,” Shay’s mother spoke up. “Your father died in a car accident on his way home from an art show. He was an artist, not a business man.”
Shay stood rooted to the floor as the truth struck her. “That’s not true!” She wailed, “He’s coming home!” Her trembling had started again and the tears streamed freely down her face.
“Shay, listen to me,” Tamara began putting her hands on Shay’s shoulders, keeping her firmly in the chair, “that letter you have; look at the handwriting. You wrote it to yourself.” Tamara paused, letting the message sink in as Shay scrutinized the letter.
“That’s not true! He’s alive! He wrote to me!” Shay howled twisting violently in her seat.
Tamara continued to restrain her. “You don’t have a landlord; this is the facility you live in, and as much as I am your best friend and I love you, I’ve been assigned to observe your behaviour and try to help you.”
Shay suddenly froze and let her limbs hang limp by her sides. She scowled at Tamara, “you dirty liar!” she bellowed. With all of her strength Shay shoved Tamara off of her, sending her stumbling into the kitchen table.
“You’re all liars! You’re just jealous he wrote to me and not you!” Shay screamed as she staggered into her bedroom.
Everyone was still as they listened to her muffled sobs.
After some time, Shay emerged; her dress wrinkled and her face bathed in stiff tears. The three women at the table started at her sudden appearance.
“How many times have I planned this party?” Shay asked morbidly from the doorway.
“Every year since his death,” Sissy replied.
“And do you tell me the same thing every year?” Shay asked quietly.
“Yes,” the three answered in unison.
Shay sank to her knees, weeping once again.
Her mother and sister came to the floor and embraced the young woman crying for a man she had lost four years ago.
? ? ?
Shay stumbled around her dark apartment in search of a pen. The only light in the room came from the moon hanging high outside; it filtered through the bars on the window giving the room the atmosphere of a prison cell. She sat down at the rickety kitchen table with a piece of stationary paper in front of her. Absently, she poised the pen on top of the thick sheet and began to write; all the time staring blankly out the window next to her.
She completed the new letter with a flourish and signed off; all of my love, Dad.