My face warms at her words.
“He called me,” I blurt out. I hadn’t planned on telling her. I don’t know why. Maybe I wanted to keep that to myself, too. Or maybe I was worried she might get all judgy. People always seem to have an opinion about things, and I just hadn’t wanted anything to dampen this. I’ve been so happy, and I didn't want to jinx it.
I knew I’d felt happier lately. I just didn’t know it was noticeable. I hadn’t realized others could see it in me, too.
“Oh, really?” Her teasing humor is back, and it makes me smile.
“He said he finally got somewhere he could call me from. Told me he was in Ireland for a few days. We talked for three hours.”
“You gotta give me something here.”
“We talk about everything and nothing.” We really do. We used to operate by writing one letter and waiting for a response and then sending one back. Now I find myself writing him every day. Almost like I’m writing him a diary and sending it to him.
“Sounds like a relationship to me.”
I wish. He’s never said anything like that. I know he’s single. Don’t those guys get to base and hookup with women and stuff? I couldn’t bring myself to ask. I wish I was more like Tammy and could’ve made a teasing joke about it, but my shyness still gets the best of me, even with him sometimes.
I’d nudged him a little to see if he was going to go out. He told me he was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing—talking on the phone to me.
It made me feel warm and fuzzy all over.
I just shrug at Tammy’s comment. No matter how much I wish that were true, it’s not. We’re just friends.
“Didn’t you mention he’d be getting out soon?”
Her reminder sends a knot of dread rushing to the pit of my stomach, crushing all my butterflies.
“Yeah,” I mutter, picking up my own glass of wine and taking a few big gulps.
“I can’t wait to meet him!” She grabs the bottle of wine and tops us both off.
“I don’t know about that.”
“Come on. As much as you two talk, you can’t still be shy around him. I know you sent him more photos of yourself.”
I did, and Tammy had taken them for me. He asked for them, and I sent them in the next letter, wanting him to have them, pushing past my shyness for him. I’m almost sure there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do if he asked. He’s made a few side comments about traveling here, but nothing solid.
“I don’t even know if we’ll write once he gets out. That’s the whole point of this. I write him because he’s in the Marines. That’s the point of the program.”
It’s what I’ve been dreading. What if we stop writing when he retires? Never hearing from him again would hurt. No, it would more than hurt. I’ve formed an intense attachment to him and losing it...
“Oh, come on.” Tammy slaps my shoulder, pulling me from my depressing thoughts. “A man doesn’t write you like this,” she picks up the box of letters, giving it a little shake, “and then just quit.”
I cling to that sliver of hope. Maybe she’s right. The kids in the program don’t get letters like I do. Most get maybe one a month. I’ve been getting about four a week.
I take the box from her and place it in my lap. Either way, I’ll always have these to hold on to.
I smile as I kiss the letter and put it in the box with the others. It’s been almost a year since we started writing, and I’m packing up all of Katie’s letters to take with me back home.
It’s been so long since I’ve been excited about that word. Now it means more than just a destination or a country. It means getting to see Katie.
I never thought I could care this much about someone I’ve never met. But it feels as if the letters have taken away all of the bullshit and left us with nothing but simple truth. It feels like I’ve come alive, and for the first time in my life, I’m on the right path.
The path to Katie.
Our letters have turned into so much more than just saying hello and answering questions. I’ve written out quotes from authors I love, and I’ve sent her poems written by greater men than I. It’s the only way I can say ‘I love you’ in a letter to her. Because the first time I say it to her, I want to say it to her in person. I want her in my arms the first time she hears it from me. Because I do. I’m hopelessly in love with her.
Every letter, she asks me about the PS and why I leave it blank. I’m going to tell her, and I’m going to say all the words I’ve been holding back, saving them for when I can say them against her lips.