Epilogue: Justin's Reply
* 1 Month After Ashley's Letter *
Ashley woke up suddenly. It was November, but yet the mild and sticky air lingered through her room. The sun shone brightly through the windows, illuminating her bed sheet as it lay scattered on the floor.
Her dream had repeated itself continuously, causing a deeper pain every time. She wondered when it would all stop. Maybe when she finally forgives herself and lets go, will she ever be able to live in peace. Just for once, she hoped, and soon.
She walked downstairs and walked through the empty rooms. Everyone was gone for the day. Her mother had decorated the house in the nicest fall colors and the smell of the hazlenut and vanilla candles adorned and totally consumed every room.
Ashley had run to the mailbox everyday since she wrote the letter. Even the day right after she mailed it. She was so anxious yet so afraid of a response that half the time she hoped that she wouldn't hear from him at all.
But, today was different. It was like a new day. It was like a new beginning. She didn't know if it was good or bad but decided to just go with it. The walk to the mailbox seemed like it took forever. Almost as if the sidewalk was growing farther and farther away like in a horror movie.
The mailbox spilled its contents in her hands and as usuall she sorted through every one slowly, hoping to recognize some familiar handwriting. And then there it was, in a small white envelope, her name written in Justin's handwriting. His name wasn't on it, obviously, but she knew it was from him.
She ran inside quickly and threw the other mail across the kitchen table. She fell down on the couch and ran her hands over it. She wanted to open it, but yet she didn't. She was afraid, but yet she wasn't.
She dialed Christina's number quickly, faster than the speed dial. She had to tell her the news. She had to be there when she read it.
"Ashley? What's up?"
"I got it." she said, almost out of breath. "I got the letter."
"Uh, what letter?" Christina paused. "Oh! That letter." she said, almost wanting to smack herself for forgetting.
"Duh. Yes, that letter. I'm afraid to open it."
Christina laughed lightly. "I thought you would have read it ten times already."
"No. I mean, I'm excited, but, yet I dunno."
"Girl, you're not making any sense." Christina rolled her eyes.
"Meet me at the cafe."
"I'll be right there."
"Ok. Later." Ashley finished as she hung up. She quickly got changed and drove her Civic to the cafe.
"You know, I never thought I'd be excited over your letter, but I'm kinda curious. Hurry up and read it!" Christina said as she wiggled in her chair. They had ordered their usuals and had sat and stared at the envelope for almost five minutes.
Ashley bit her lip as she ran her hand over the writing. "Ok, how bout you read it?"
Christina sighed. "C'mon, its your letter, you read it."
"Please?" Ashley whined.
"Ok, ok." Christina eagerly replied as she grabbed the envelope and ripped it open. The first thing that fell out was a small post it note.
"What's that?" Ashley asked.
Christina picked it up and read it with a somber face. "It's a note from JC. It has an I-Zone sticky pic on it."
"What does it say?" Ashley asked again.
Christina started to read.
Hey Ash. This is JC. I added this little note without Justin knowing about it. I told him I would mail his letter for him. That is when I stuck this pic in here. I took it of him when he was writing the letter to you. It made me sad as he read your letter over and over again like it was a broken record that never seemed to stop spinning in his heart. As he wrote the letter to you, he kept his head in his hands. He hardly looked up at us. His face was so sullen, his eyes were so tired of crying. It almost seemed at times as if he was never going to write back, so I volunteered to send it to you. I promised not to read the letter, so I don't know what he wrote to you. Whatever it may be, good or bad, I hope your hearts can heal at last and surround us all with some closure and peace. Take care. Love, JC.
"Uh, wow." Ashley regrouped her thoughts as she sat back in her chair. The letter was becoming emotional already and she hadn't even gotten to Justin's reply. She took the note from Christina and tears started to form. She missed Justin, alot.
"Are you ready for the letter?" Christina said softly.
Ashley looked up and sighed. "Yeah. Go ahead."
Christina cleared her throat and started.
I really don't know where to start. I really don't know what to say. Ok, how bout from the beginning. The day I got your letter, my heart sank into my stomach. As soon as I looked at it I knew it was from you. I haven't heard from you or seen you since that night. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to again but deep down I hoped that I would. Maybe it's because I still love you or maybe just to finally get some closure. Whatever the case, I read your letter word by word. Flashbacks of everything that happened, everything that I have tried to put behind, came flooding back like the rain that poured that night. The pain that I felt when I had to leave you after you said you hated me, burned into me like a hot knife all over again. To tell you the truth, I was actually mad that you had written me. I wanted to put you behind me, very far behind me, but, yet I still love you. Over time, the way I loved you then has lessened, although I will always love you in every other way. I feel a bit of repreive though now that I am writing this. I keep putting the pen down now and then, contemplating on throwing this away, but then JC comes along, like the big brother he is to me, and tells me that I need to do this. He keeps snapping his I-Zone because Chris is doing something stupid as usual. I don't even know how to write this when the bus is like a touring circus. But, anyway, enough about them. I need to end this pain. I just wish to exhale one time and release this heavy burden that hangs on my heart. You will always be my friend, first and foremost. You need to know that I forgive you. I can finally say that now. I know that you know the truth now. If you would have only listened to me then, you would have known the truth and saved us all the heartache. But, we can't change that anymore. But, I do forgive you my dear Ashley. Believe me when I say that. You do know that you can trust me now. Whatever that means, I'm not sure. I don't now how to say this or put this into words. We are almost at our destination so I must end this soon. I have to let go of you Ashley. I couldn't face you again or even try to be with you again. That would be like picking up a million shattered pieces of glass and trying to put them back together. The process would take so long. My eyes are starting to water. I'm gonna cry, yet again. I don't mind expressing my feelings for you. You know me. You know every part of me so I'm not afraid to be myself with you. But, I miss you. I miss you so much and I need to let this go. Please, don't think that we could work this out. The damage is unrepairable, but remember that I forgive you Ash. Remember that I still love you. Remember the good times we had. Hold them in your heart. That is what will keep us at peace. That is how we will let go. We are at our stop now. I must end here. In my most poetic way I can expain this: I try to say goodbye my friend, I'd like to leave you with something more, but never have I been a blue calm sea, I have always been a storm. It means that I loved you more than anything, everything, but I can't go back to that again. JC is taking pics again as the tears are flowing. I hate this. But, I love you. Let us go now. Throw this letter away. Put it behind you. Maybe we will talk again someday. Take care, Ashley.
Christina put the letter down but silence was the only thing that followed. Ashley took the letter and looked at the handwriting once more. The tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Ash. I know that wasn't the response you were looking for." Christina tried to console her.
"It's okay." she sighed. "I just need to do what he says and let go." she tried to smile through the tears.
"Maybe all those dreams will finally go away."
"Yeah, and I would be glad. Maybe he is right. There is too much damage to be repaired. The only way to let go of the guilt and these nightmares is to have closure."
"And, now he gave you that. That should be the most important thing."
Ashley shook her head. "Let's get out of here."
They paid their bill and started to walk back to the cars. "Are you going to get rid of that?" Christina asked as she looked at the letter in Ashley's hands.
She sighed as she stared at the letter once again before throwing it into the garbage can. She still held the posty note in her hand that included the small sticky pic of Justin. She turned to Christina, hoping she would give her consent on keeping the picture, but was only met with a blank stare.
As she let the note go, she heard it fall lightly through the hole of the trash can. Christina walked over to her and put her arm around her. With a little bit of a reluctant tug, she finally got her to walk away. Ashley didn't look back. She only hoped that going forward would bring new beginnings.
If he knew that I was letting go, he would be gleaming his beautiful smile once more. Maybe in his heart he knows. Maybe, just maybe, he is smiling right now, just for me.