She put a log in the fire, and returned silently to the kitchen.
The kettle was about to whistle, and she took it off the stove, just in time. She wasn’t thirsty, per say, but making tea was a ritual that calmed her, and she needed just that. To calm herself. Her hands trembled a little, as she chose her favorite selection of dried leaves, and poored the steamy water on them.
The envelope seemed to stare at her, from the kitchen table, as she waited for the aromas to infuse and fill the air. That damn letter… With its buff paper, it reminded her of all the days spent, wondering. All the doubts, all that time wasted. Now.
She looked at her knotted fingers, warming themselves on the white porcelain of her favorite mug, and knew she had been right, these past years. Or had she? She had thought so, until this morning at least.
Life had thaught her to be reasonable and logic. And living was a thing she had done for a long time… A long time. The wrinkles that had appeared on her face reminded her of tree growth rings, showing how long she had walked the earth.
She sat at the table, and brought the brownish envelope closer, yet leaving it on the wooden surface. It seemed to burn her fingers, more than her cup of tea could have. She knew by heart all the words it contained, and she wished she didn’t. Those words would now haunt her forever.
It was her letter to him.
They had met at the town’s library. A chance meeting, really, because young people like him prefered to work on their computers nowadays, and it was rare to see students doing research the “old school” way… He was in college, studying art history, and it was when he had helped her taking a book off a shelf out of her reach, that they had first chatted.
She had long noticed him, nose down in his books, with a number of empty cups of cheap coffee around him, giving a clear indication of the hours spent in silence in his readings… Every week, she was sure to find him, concentrated, turning page after page, with a monk’s patience. He only took his attention away from the written words to scribble some notes, or to get up and walk to the coffee machine.
He was incredibly handsome. Tall, with strong shoulders, and that steel-like gaze, that only rarely left the books to grace the rest of the room. And that smile… That illuminating smile he greeted her with, when she took place in her seat, with her selection of the day. That smile that made her realize he had noticed her too.
She wasn’t a fool. She knew she was at least twice his age, but he intrigued her all the same. Now, she wished she hadn’t crossed the line, so many years ago.
It was a cold winter morning, and she was hoping to find him in his usual spot. Luckily, he was, and she had walked to him, despite her shyness. She had brought good coffee in a thermos container, and offered to fill his almost empty carton cup.
He had offered a seat next to his, and they had introduced themselves, whispering over the dark brew. They had talked and talked, until a quick look at his watch had reminded him of the purpose of his presence there. He had excused himself, and she had moved a few tables away, leaving him to his research.
But they had met again, and again, over good coffee and a lovely conversation, and one day, he offered to take her out to lunch, somewhere where they wouldn’t have to whisper to each other.
He was so charming. They only spent time talking, but when they were together, she felt like the rest of the world disappeared, temporarely.
She caressed the buff envelope, and sipped on her tea.
People had started asking questions. For one, her now late husband didn’t approve of her friendship with him. She didn’t care much, back then, and kept walking to the library, week after week, hoping to meet him a little more every time.
After a while, she understood she appreciated him more than she would have liked. Luckily, their age difference was enough in itself to keep him away from her, until that fatal day.
They were leaving the library together, when he had grabbed her wrist delicately, and planted himself in front of her. A chill had run down her spine, and she suddenly got that butterfly flutter in the stomach she had once felt, when much, much younger…
She could read desire in his grey eyes, and it troubled her deeply. He obviously could see the same, looking at her, and he leaned down to kiss her. Her head screamed to not surrender to her instincts, but she returned his kiss, inebriated by the touch of his soft warm lips…
It is when he had wrapped his arms around her waist that she had come to her senses. It was ridiculous. She was an honest woman, she had never intended to cross this line, and though it felt so right, she knew she just couldn’t carry on.
She had gently pushed him away, and had walked away. For good.
She picked up the letter on the table, and walked to the living room, after filling her cup a second time. She sat in her favorite armchair an turned the tv on, tuning on the news channel.
He had written to her, regularly, for the past few years… His letters were always filled with hardly controled passionate thoughts, reminding her of the good times, reminding her of his undying feelings for her. She had written too, once, but never had the courage to post the scealed envelope, now laying on her lap.
She had put her own feelings into words… Waiting for the right time to send them to him. But the perfect time hadn’t come. Even after her husband’s passing… She couldn’t give up, and burden him with herself. He would eventually meet a lovely, young woman, and fall in love and… and… and…
And she had kept her love to herself. Yes, she loved him, dearly. Every day, she had taken the letter out of her drawer, had turned it in her hands, and put it back for one more day. And one more, and another.
It was too late now.
A tear rolled on her cheek, as she read his name on the screen again. The news covered the death of a young historian in a major car crash.
He was gone.
She got up, letter in hand, and walked to the fireplace. Sobbing loudly, letting herself feel the love she had so long tried to deny herself. And she longed for the feeling of his arms around her again, as she watched the flames consume the buff envelope…