Letter to Cornwall

May 25, 2008
By Shaoli Chaudhuri, El Paso, TX

“The husks on the walnut trees crackle deliciously here, don’t they Robbie? Is there any other bliss than this? Haha, that’s poetry. I’ve always wanted to write poetry. Maybe…anyway, I think this color would work very well right here; red pinpricks for her top lip and...yes when you crane your head back far enough it looks the perfect primrose. The hair should be bright, I think, not that dull mousy color I originally picked out. There. I’ll need to buy new brushes when we go into town tomorrow.

“My next painting will be of those spring lambs, Robbie. Innocent white set against that lovely green pasture of the farm. It’s a lovely farm your mistress has here. Laurie and I used to talk about coming here for the summer….us and no one else. Robbie, silly dog, the day you catch one of those bluebottle flies you’re always snapping at is the day I become a nun in a cloister. Sometimes I think Father would have liked that best—for me to be locked away. Would it have been best?

“I’m not so certain they would even allow Jake in an abbey. Jake’s my dog back home, you see. He’s very well-behaved but not quite as good as you. In fact, a few days before Aunt Hettie and I left London to come here, he chewed up nearly all her shoelaces. It makes me think of when Laurie and I were little, and we stole one shoe from every pair my sister, Emily, owned. Her face was so red I’m almost sure I screamed with laughter. I must go and buy Aunt Hettie more shoelaces and that book she asked for this morning. It’s not as if I don’t have leisure time. All I seem to do nowadays is paint these quaint dotted paintings, read, and literally watch the grass grow beneath my feet.

“Oh, but Robbie, all I can do is think about the letter from Laurie...I suppose I’ll have to open it sooner or later…

“‘Dear Izzy,

I’ve missed talking to you. I’ve checked my mailbox ten or twenty times a day since you left in the hopes of finding a letter from you. And when I find none I convince myself that it was merely late in coming because it was lost in the post. It took me an eternity to find this address. Have you forgotten us all here, Izzy? (How can he think that? Why do they insist on blowing this all out of proportion? The Cornish coast and countryside were calling to me.) Emily is upset as well. I never got the chance to truly thank you for what you did for me—for Emily and me. With Emily you felt an obligation, perhaps, but what I asked of you…well, it was crude and completely unromantic as I’m sure we all feel. And you were a darling to do it. (Was I? Well, I would have done it no matter what, though it hurt.) Emily and I plan to go to that new university in Chicago soon, with Professor Dailey, so he and I can do more research; I told you of that, didn’t I?’

“I remember. I remember.

“I remember the day you found me reading behind a gorse bush in Grandmama’s garden, and you crept up to me and laughed and I thought…well, no matter what I thought. And when you asked that I do that one thing for you, I dropped what I’d been reading. Aunt Hetty brought me that book from her travels, a tale of what the Chinese call ‘jeong.’ It’s that indescribable bond, that link, that is love. Oh, cruel irony.

“It’s difficult not to think of you, Laurie. It’s harder not to think of my role as your messenger boy on that day. When it would have meant everything to me if I had been the one receiving the message.

“I waited for what Emily would say, my heart pounding. And then she said those words, her face lighting up like a star: “Yes. Yes. And yes I said yes I will yes. Didn’t you hear Isabelle? Izzy, are you listening? Tell him for me. Tell him I will marry him.

“‘Your soon-to-be-brother, Laurie,’ it ends. I am happy for them, though. I am. I love them both, and how can I be unhappy when the two I love, love one another?

“That’s what this painting is for, you know. It’s to be their wedding present. The boy is the spitting image of Laurie.

“ But oh my, how awful! This painting it…well, the boy looks like Laurie as he should, but the girl, she looks…well with her gold hair and complexion she looks… much more like me than Emily. Awful. It didn’t look like that before; it couldn’t have.”

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