“Empty Sheets” Fiction. Based on a True Torn Out Letter

“I’m a lonely girl dressed in red with lonely curls. Fill my bed with lonely boys, cause I’m a lonely girl. It’s been six and twenty years that I’ve cried my lonely tears for my string of darling dears, it’s been six and twenty years. When I fall it’s like a love song. But full of, oh they all fade out. So I try to convince myself I’m gonna make this count but I know how the story folds. And this is where my heart breaks down.”

“Empty Sheets”

Fiction. Based on a True Torn Out Letter

by Ruby

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

LAST DAY

Rolled over on my side, I feel the pressure your body in my sheets. I stare at the wall. I memorize the photograph I put there. Who is that girl? Where is the me that took that photo? My eyes dart in your direction when I hear you inhale. I feel the heat of tears trying to descend upon my lashes. This is not the time for the excavation of my cheeks. I cannot risk waking you with my feelings. Gingerly I get out of the bed. I walk down the short hall and into the bathroom. Locked behind me, I sit on the floor, back against the door. I finally let a sigh escape.

How did we get here? No, how did I get here? The cat shoves her paw under the door. She searches for me. When she finds me, she extends her claws and sinks them into my thigh. Not to hurt, rather to claim. She’s making sure not only am I still here, but I can’t leave without her. I place a finger tip on that paw. Her claws recede, a little. Salt slips past my lips. Tears are free flowing now. Carving deep paths into the dark circles that live under my eyes.

I wake up to you knocking on the door. You’re telling me you have to pee. You don’t realize the hours I spent in this bathroom. I get up slowly due to a kink in my low back. As soon as you hear the click of the lock, you use all your weight and push your way in. You rush past me and pee. Right there. In front of me. I blush. Not because of your exposed bits…because your freedom is embarrassing. I stretch and leave. I never look back at you.

SHEETS

It’s been a few days since you’ve been gone. I washed my sheets twice already. There’s a blood stain on them now. I didn’t see it at first. After I put them back on, washed once, I saw it. Right in the center. Glaring at me. The cat jumped up and sat atop the mottle. Fury burned across my face. I shoo her away and rip the sheets off the bed. In underwear and a shirt, I crouch in the bathtub over the offending cloth. I scrub until the friction burns my fingers. Defeat washes over me as I throw the sheets back into the washing machine. Maybe the blotch is gone. Maybe my eyes trick me as I put cover the bed once more. Either way, bile pricks at the backs of my teeth.

Since I made the bed…I’ve slept on the couch. I don’t know why. When you’re in my sheets I count down the minutes until you leave. But when you’re gone, everything feels so wrong. I don’t even care where you’ve run off to this time. I am more lonely when you’re here. A tiny red light blinks in the darkness of the living room. I keep the blinds closed because the neighbors could reach through if they really wanted to. The other blinds are next to our building’s patio. The last time I left those open, I woke up to a drunk man staring at me through the shades. I should be asleep. I should be in my bed. I have a midterm tomorrow. Even when you’re gone you keep me up all night.

Cat is yowling at the end of the hall. I don’t have to see her to know she is sprawled in the doorway, teeth bearing, demanding I go to bed with her. She doesn’t like when I sleep on the couch. She expects me to always sleep in bed. She doesn’t understand what makes her human misbehave. I don’t either.

Someone is knocking on my front door. I rub the sleep off my face and slump off the couch. Blanket draped around my shoulders. I forget I’m not wearing pants. I open the door. Dumbstruck, a UPS man hands me a package and backs away. I might have mumbled a ‘thank you,’ but my voice doesn’t wake up for a long time. You know how it is. In my hands a small, heavy box awaits. I slump back into the couch. Cat joins me. She’s fairly irritated I haven’t fed her yet. Inside the box is an even tinier wooden box. Hidden in that is a stone paper weight. I lift it. A piece of paper wafts unto my lap.

“Ground yourself.”

“I love you.” – Mom

DELUGE

I bought a dress today. I am not sure I will ever wear it, but it didn’t fit in. On the rack. I was wandering through the aisles in Value Village, you know the one. Down on Broadway. Right next to the bookstore I love so much. Well, you still hadn’t come back, so I went there. As soon as I walked in I saw it. Light blue, capped sleeves. Very Alice in Wonderland. You’ll be my Cheshire, I bet. The dress looked lonely, amidst all the tattered things. I had to take it with me.

I also found a journal. Tucked away in the shelves of used self-help books. It’s leather bound with an embossed Celtic knot on the front. There’s a brass clasp on the front and still locks. It needed to come home with me, too. Sitting on the bus I leaf through the journal. Somewhere near the middle is a letter. It reads:

To my daughter,

You were made from unicorn blood, mermaid tears and sprinkles shaved from rainbows. You were made from the softest clouds, and the thunderstorms that brew in them. From the moon’s most vibrant beams, the sun’s powerful heat, and the ocean’s salt. From the green stuck in a tree’s heart. From the fuzz of peach skin. There are hurricanes trapped in your iris. Meadows from atop mountains canvassing you brow. You are nature. You are light. You are mine.

I love you more with the passage of time. Unconditionally.

I gently tear the page out and trace my fingers across each letter. The impressions of this mama’s love dented into the fibers. Did the daughter ever see this? Does she need to? I look up and across the aisle on the bus is a woman… she’s not a girl. She must be my age. She looks directly into my eyes. Heat presses against my cheeks. I look right back at her. Fluttering takes over my heart. A lump grows in the bottom of my esophagus. My palms get a little clammy. She smiles…at me? I smile back without even realizing I am smiling. The bus stops and she gets off. She walks away and into her life. I flop back against the bus seat, not remembering to tell my body to lean forward. My heart beats right out of my chest. I don’t even think I know what her face looks like. Her eyes, though. Those eyes looked straight into the center of me. They didn’t shy away. In fact, those eyes saw me and smiled.

My fingers press against my bottom lip. Holding it in place. Forcing it to keep in whatever feelings are trying to bubble out of me. I don’t even know what I am feeling. Tears want to come out, but so does a smile. Maybe this is that fated “love at first sight.” All I know is, I’ll never tell you about this. The letter feels a little heavier in my hands. I fold it up. As tiny as I can. I slip it into my pocket. I’m going to keep this letter, and that stranger a secret. I’m going to hold onto them. Tuck them as far away as I can. And when I lay in my empty sheets, I’ll unlock that memory of her. I’ll feel the weight of folded paper. Silent impressions. They’ll wrap me up and I’ll cherish them always.

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