Though she did not have a clock, Tessabelle knew it had to have been past midnight when she tiptoed out of her house on Friday, July 17th. Any other girl her age sneaking out at a time like that would undoubtedly be rushing to a party, a forbidden friends house, a concert, or something else of the sort. however, Tessabelle was doing nothing like that.
She was holding a sealed envelope in one hand, and a small flashlight in the other. When she reached the french doors in the back of her house, she turned on the flashlight. Her back yard lit up in the glow of the light, and she carefully pointed it down so as not to disturb her parents.
It was a warm, slightly humid night- not at all unusual for the small piece of Oregon she lived in. Her backyard had no fence, but simply contained a synthetic wood deck, then turned into county land laced with trees and deer. She crept into the woods, knowing they only led about twenty feet further until they hit a road. This journey was well known to Tess, and she hardly needed the light to guide her down the paved roads lined with vacation homes before she reached the river.
She ignored the wide bridges built for strolling tourists and instead started for a creek that fed into the river. When she had reached the golf field on the other side of the creek, she broke into a run, gaining speed as the grit her teeth. A thought was trickling into her mind, a worry twisting her throat.
What if she was too late?
The letter was all she could think about, but really more of the person it was for. She’d spent too long not saying what she meant, and this is what she got. She knew she had to apologize, and she had to do it fast.
Her footsteps were the only sound, aside from distant voices, the creeks rushing, and the typical cacophonous symphony of crickets and frogs. She ran faster now, letting her feet carry her and ignoring the thorns and sticks biting her legs and the lack of breath left in her lungs. Almost flying now, she felt her heart beat in her mouth, whether from worry or physical exhaustion she wasn’t sure. As her heels struck the ground, barely touching the dirt anymore, she felt a rock grab her foot. Falling to the ground, she smacked the forest floor, losing all her breath and hope. the flashlight lay not far from her, casting a scattered beam through the trees. She glanced down to see scraped hands, stinging with gravel, and warm blood spilling from an open cut on her knee. She cursed to the sky, lay back down, and unconsciously began to cry. All the tears she had been so careful to hold back, all the times from all her life where she bit her cheek, every moment was summoned suddenly to her throat and was released in a flood of saltwater.
Through blurred eyes, she saw the stars dissipate into gray skies, which broke into clouds. The clouds must have shared in her misery for rain began to mix with her tears, wash away her blood, wash her thoughts and regrets and her sins and her triumphs away, her life and her loves. Every sunrise, every bad day, every realization, every promise, every idea was carried from her mind, traveling with the tide to mingle with the waves and the mermaids, in the mysteries of the unknown deep. The ink of the letter bled through the thin paper, a hundred apologies seeping out, a million regrets spilling like blood.
And when the sun fought back against the clouds, exploding into a triumphant painting of light and of color, and to her tear-washed eyes, it came with the essence of hope, of forgiveness, of just in time and of I never meant to let you go. As the sun shifted through the leaves and dried her tears, she felt the light and the stars, the trees, and the wind and the sky told her to bring herself to shaky feet and to unclasp her fingers from the ink-stained letter.
She knew she couldn’t return home, she wasn’t even sure where that was. She knew how the sadness would crush her again, so she packed her dignity and her knowledge, and she ran toward the future, boarding a greyhound bus to some faraway place. She left behind what was gone and what was new, and as she watched the places she had once loved disappear into a blur through a dirt streaked bus window, she knew she could finally see the past as days where she was free and happy and the future as days when she could start over. As she saw the trees melt away and saw the city fill the window, she finally understood what she had never gotten before. She knew now, this was happiness. This was love. She was home, at last.