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The Servant's Letter
Everything is not all right. That pitiful lie you told me only days before your departure still hangs in the air like the musk of your father’s evening cologne. I knew this to be untrue on the morning you packed up your olive green suitcase and put on your nicest black shoes, when the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach first appeared.
Your black shoes had a thin coat of dust, I remember. They were in the very black of your closet, behind the large boxes of your childhood possessions, the ones I know you had forgotten about. You retrieved those untouched black shoes slowly, as the reverie you had placed yourself in upon seeing your old marbles collection had impeded you. I watched from the doorway, silently as always, but fighting the urge to snicker at the way you held each precious glass sphere, as if they were all tiny little planets.
‘On with it, Son!’ Sir’s voice had echoed from the downstairs foyer. I jumped a bit at his sudden request, and scampered away before you turned to comply and noticed my presence. I hid in the opposite hallway, dusting the vases I had already dusted, wishing there was more time before the clock struck noon and your ride would arrive.
I disappeared into a lull of memories from the past years, the ones when we were only children and we could play freely, before our ages caught up with us and divided us the way it would always be. Your footsteps pulled me back into our grim reality, and I sucked in my breath before you realized I was nearby.
You walked down the stairs, slowly, counting each one so you wouldn’t forget how many there were. It was a game we used to play, for the times you would depart, on small trips with Sir and Madam. ‘There are twelve steps,’ you would tell me firmly every time we said goodbye as children. ‘Those twelve steps will be here when I return.’ I smiled, remembering those times, the times when you would leave this estate and me behind for only short weeks. Now it might be forever.
I wanted to cry right then, I did. I wanted so badly to run after you, and brush lightly against your hand. That would have satisfied my ache, I know it. But the dismal expression you had worn since that morning had made it much worse. I would have done anything to take away your pain.
‘Goodbye,’ I heard you call to the others. They each responded, seeming sad in their own adieus, but not nearly as sad as you deserved from them.
O, Benjamin, how badly I wanted to be there at least to give you my farewell. But I knew it would have made me too weak, too vulnerable, and too apt to make me shed a tear before you. This rift between us was inevitable, we always knew. I remained upstairs, peering out the grand window, watching the way you climbed into the automobile reluctantly.
You paused for a moment before you stepped in, I remember. You looked around just once, maybe for the meager servant you had grown up with who had seemingly vanished on your last morning. My heartbeat hammered away hopefully, praying that it was I you were missing. I didn’t deserve such a thing, but my selfish wish seemed so real for just a minute, that last minute before you hoisted yourself into the seat and closed the door.
The engine hummed as it came to life, and I impulsively threw the window open, leaning out over the driveway. ‘Twelve steps, never forget!’ I wanted to cry. Maybe you would turn around, just once, and notice me there. Maybe you would smile at our childish tradition and salute to me, or maybe you would return a farewell. But you kept your eyes straight ahead as the old thing rumbled away, because I never called anything out to you. I sank down in defeat, softly calling out a goodbye that you never heard.
Now it has been three years since that harrowing morning, and we have never spoken once since. It would be an odd thing to do, of course. So I will not send you this letter, nor will I send any of the others that I have written over the years. Someday, perhaps, if we were ever to cross paths again, I might in person tell you how much I have missed you, or how I hope you are doing well.
I might even mention, if we were in some other world of course, that had fate been good to us, I might have someday been able to tell you that since we were children, I have been irrevocably in love with you. But if you were ever to know such a thing, our gentle world would break as easily as one of those little marbles. Thank Goodness for distance, I suppose.