The Letter: Part 10

black rotary telephone on white surface

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

JUNE 1949

He knew he shouldn’t call, but he wanted to give her a heads up that that he and boys were coming for a visit. He’d been instructed that her treatment involved plenty of rest and lack of stress. But he hadn’t heard anything for two months and enough was enough.

The nurse sounded excited when he told her the name of the person he wished to speak with. He was surprised. Generally, they didn’t like their patients to do much talking. Families were encouraged not to call as it was thought talking could stress the lungs.

“Oh, Mr. Brennaman! You must be delighted to have your wife coming home so soon!”

Delighted was not how he’d describe the emotion he was feeling. Instead cold dread was seeping from his head down his neck and shoulders freezing his chest.

When his wife picked up the phone, he asked if the news was true.

Silence. It may have only been a moment, but in the numbing quiet he lived a thousand lives over.

“I am going to be allowed to leave, but I won’t be coming home,” she said, slowly. Each word hurling a cracking the ice that seemed to have encased his chest. “At least not yet.” She added quickly. “I don’t want to infect you and the boys. And the doctor says I’m still supposed to keep exercise down to a minimum. With two young boys, I just don’t want to overdo it. You know?”

“Where are you going to live?” he asked. He was surprised to hear how calm he sounded. Inside he felt his head spinning.

“Oh, well, one of the girls here has an apartment. I’ve gotten to know her quite well. Anyway, she’s been subletting her place out while she’s sick, and her roommate wrote to say that their sublet will be leaving and she needs to find another roommate.”

“A letter?” he asked.

“What?” she asked.

“A letter. She wrote a letter. So clearly you do get mail there. Which is curious since the boys have been writing you almost ever day and yet they’ve heard nothing back. So maybe you only get letters? But then how did you secure an apartment if the mail service only goes one way?”

“Why do you always make things so difficult? Just say what you mean.”

“Fine. Why haven’t you written the boys? Do you know they’ve been scrimping and saving to come visit you? They miss you. You’re their mother!” He could feel his temper rising.

“Don’t be so dramatic. I wrote to them. And as I recall, you didn’t exactly write every day you were away.”

“Away? You make it sound like a vacation. I was at war!”

“Yes and I was stuck home with the kids. Now it’s your turn. I’ve only been gone 9 months. You were gone for 3 years.“

“Are you really not coming ho—”

“Oh, don’t be a bore about it. I really think it’s the best thing. I’ll come back eventually. I just need to get all the way better. You understand, right?”

Noise in the background that he couldn’t quite make out fell through the phone. Then he heard his wife laughing. He used to love that laugh. He’d fallen in love with that laugh. Now it felt grating.

“I have to go, hon! They’re calling us for dinner. Bye-bye.”

The line went dead.

A few hours later he found himself staring out the window of a bus trying desperately to push down the guilt that was threatening to overcome him. He knew his boys would be devastated when they found out he went to visit their mother without them, especially since he took most of the money they had been saving up to do it. He tried to console himself that he left them their coveted “rare” coins, but it didn’t ease the gnawing in his stomach. He would return with their mom and then everything would be alright. They would forgive him because he brought their mother back. Tomorrow everything would set right and back to normal.

Part 11

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