My sincerest congratulations on the birth of your son! I hope…
Samantha stopped and stared at the fragment on the page. She hoped… what? Yes, she hoped that the baby was healthy, but supposing it wasn’t? Wouldn’t Amelia feel worse for the reminder of what she had undoubtedly been hoping herself?
She threw the letter away.
I just heard about the new baby! I’m sure…
Wait, now she was sure? Samantha wasn’t sure what she wanted for dinner tonight. How could she possibly make predictions about a friend she hadn’t spoken to for over a decade? She couldn’t say she was sure Amelia would be a great mom. The Amelia she knew in high school had all the signs of stellar maternal instincts, but that was hardly proof. Claiming sureness was a lie. Amelia deserved the truth.
The letter joined the others in the trash can.
You had a BABY?! Holy Smokes, girl, that’s so exciting! I…
The letter found its way to the trash before the ink had even dried. Yes, that was how they chatted with each other in school, but what right did Samantha have to dive back into their old lingo? Maybe Amelia would find the familiarity crude, or at the very least confusing. Twelve years, and Samantha couldn’t be bothered once to give her a “Hey, how’s life?” call.
But to be fair, she hadn’t been physically able to call for the last five of those years. An attempt revealed that the number in Samantha’s address book had been disconnected. The only avenue of reconnection available to her anymore would be to send a letter to their old high school with a request to forward it.
Samantha sent forth a sigh powerful enough to make thunder jealous, and wondered if she should just forget the whole thing, and let their relationship continue to be confined to memory. As a last effort, she went on a scavenger hunt, hoping that seeing more tangible reminders of the past would help compose an honest, truthful letter for her.
She found the yearbooks, with Amelia’s cute little reminders of theater club adventures, and late night taco runs, and will Mr. Quigley ever get over that cold? And always at the end, the enthusiastic Keep in Touch!
Samantha unearthed some pictures from their five-year reunion; the last time she and Amelia had physically seen each other. That night, Amelia had told her how proud she was to see that Samantha had finally overcome social anxiety.
Of course, this wasn’t true. She was still terrified of intimate relationships. She had just learned over the years that the best place to hide a thorny weed was to put it in a vase so flamboyant that no one would care what it contained. By being friendly and outgoing with everyone, she was able to keep anyone from actually getting close to her.
She had hoped that Amelia would know her well enough to see beyond the pretty vase and ask about the thistle inside, but her exterior was enough to fool even her, and Samantha didn’t have the heart to correct her when Amelia was so proud.
But, ultimately, Amelia wasn’t as easily tricked as that. Samantha retrieved the last communication they had shared: a birthday card. Inside, scrawled in the corner like it was hiding from the otherwise joyous tidings, was the note:
Hey, I know you said you were fine, but I thought it was weird when we talked and you said you weren’t planning on doing anything for your birthday. Are you sure you’re okay? You can always talk to me.
It was exactly what Samantha had been craving for years, but by the time it came, too much silence had already passed between them, and Samantha had lost whatever minimal skills she’d once possessed for confiding in others. She wanted to tell her. She wanted someone to understand what she was going through, but how would she even start explaining it? How could she admit that her new confidence was a mask, and that beneath it she was so much worse than before?
She kept putting it off. Every day that passed made it more difficult to initiate, until it would have been nothing short of humiliating to respond after so many months. Those months became years, and even the little superficial communications between them faded to silence.
Samantha was tired of silence. She reestablished herself at the writing desk.
I’m sorry it’s been so long since we talked! I’ve just been so busy.
I’m so happy for you and your son! I’m…
She stalled. Again.
She hadn’t simply been ‘busy.’ It was far more complex than that. And how could she truly say she was happy for Amelia without knowing what was going through Amelia’s mind right now? If Amelia was standing right here and crying because she was frightened of being a mother, Samantha wouldn’t say, “I’m so happy,” she would say, “It’ll be okay.” And if Amelia was sickly and exhausted, Samantha would say, “Go take a nap. I’ll do the dishes and laundry.”
But Samantha didn’t know. Couldn’t know. All she knew about her once-friend was that she’d had a baby, and Samantha simply couldn’t write a letter based on that one fact alone. No matter what she wrote, she would have no foundation for saying it.
Slowly, methodically, she crumpled this letter as well and let it fall to its grave, cursing that she always second guessed herself, and wishing that she had kept in touch enough to have anything concrete to say. But the truth was…
The truth was…
Well, why not? She had tried everything else. This time, Samantha put aside all the guessing and uncertainty and just wrote the truth.
Can we catch up sometime? I miss you.