The Letter

It all started with the letter.  Being the youngest of four children, menial tasks such as taking out the garbage and checking the mail often fell to me.  I will never forget pulling the letter out of the mailbox one cold afternoon in February.  It looked ordinary enough at first glance, but as I turned it over and saw the front I became immediately intrigued.  "From Dad" it had said, in an unfamiliar script.

I ran inside, unsure of what to do.  Who was it for?  Where did it come from?  I scurried in to the office, where my father was busily working.

"Did you send this?" I asked.

He looked at it oddly, before replying in a contemptuous tone, "No, why would I have any reason to send a letter to you?  I'm already right here!"

I left hurriedly, running in to the kitchen where my mother was preparing lunch and my three siblings were waiting.

"Ok," I announced accusingly, "which one of you trickster did this?"

For almost a full minute, there was silence.  Finally my eldest brother, Nicholas, asked "Where did you get that?"

"In the mailbox, dummy!" I responded.

"Why would Dad send us a letter, when he could just walk out of the office ad talk to us directly?"  Asked Katie, less than a year older than I, and clearly confused.

"He says that he didn't send it."

Silence once again.

"Well," said Ruth, the second of us four, "what does it say?"

"I don't know..." I was about to open it when my father walked in.

"Is lunch ready yet love?" He asked my mother, kissing her lightly on the cheek.  She nodded in agreement, silent as always due to the duck tape over her mouth.  Ruth had tried to take it off once, but after the beating she got from father afterwards, none of us touched or even thought much about it.  I tucked the letter into my back pocket for later.

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When I finally finished helping with the dishes after lunch I rushed up to my room, with was actually the laundry room, but was where I slept since Peter stopped letting me share a room with him, and tore open the envelope.  Inside was a folded piece of paper.

My Dearest Children,
I love you all so much.  I know that you are probably confused by this.  You don't even know me.  As far as you know, I don't even exist.  And even if I do, you probably think that I am far away, and that I must not care much about you if I have been gone so long.  But let me tell you, I made you, and I have been building a new house for us, not like that old dingy one your living in now, but a beautiful new one, perfectly designed for us to live in.  And I've not been neglecting you.  I left you in Mother's care, and she is able to provide for your needs.  But I will be coming home soon, and I need you to be packed and ready when I come.  You don't have to.  If you would rather, you can stay here, with him but I want you to be able to come and live with me.  Be good to one another until I come!
With Love,
Dad

I read it over and over.  What did it all mean?  Where did this come from?  Maybe it had come to the wrong address... but maybe... just maybe... no.  I already have a father.  There must be some mistake here. And with that I tossed it into my waste basket.

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The next day I decided I needed some answers.  I entered my father's study quietly.

"Dad," I asked quietly, "Where did we come from?"

He sighed deeply, then turned his chair to face me.  "You know the answer to that."  He said coolly.

"I do?"  I thought to myself.

"Just look around you," said he, "Clearly you can see that you were once a chair just like this one.  Over a long time, however, you became more and more life-like, similar to that TV over there.  But after even more time you became a real person."  He gestured the whole time he was speaking.

"Don't be silly Dad, I was asking a serious question!"

"DON'T ARGUE WITH ME!"  He roared, knocking over his chair as he rose.  His hand rose and fell with a well practiced swiftness.

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Shortly after, I was in the bathroom with Ruth, who was holding a cold, wet cloth on my still stinging cheek.  I told her everything.  About finding the letter, about asking my father, about reading it, about my encounter with father this morning and his answer to me question.  The whole time she listened quietly.  Ruth was a good listener.  When I finished, she simply asked to see the letter, so I took her to my room and pulled it out of the waste basket, a little ashamed that I had disposed of it so quickly.  After reading it, she sat quietly for awhile, then spoke.

"Well," she said, "I guess we better be ready for when he comes."

"You don't actually believe it, do you?"

"Well, she replied, "I had a similar conversation with father once.  He told me that the whole house had been built when a volcano somewhere blew up and the trees landed in just the right order to form this place.  If given the choice between believing that we have a different father who is coming for us, or just being satisfied with fathers answers, I think I'm gonna pack my bags."

"But we don't even know when he's coming!" I complained.

"Well," she countered, "then we best get ready quickly.  For all we know, he could be here any minute."

"What about Nicholas and Katie?"

"Well, go and get them.  If they want to come they will have to pack as well."

As I ran off to find my other two siblings, I felt something I hadn't felt before.  Maybe it was just my imagination, but I felt like what I was doing actually had a purpose.  I called out their names, excited and eager to share the letter with them.

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Peter, Katie, and I entered the room the two girls shared just as Ruth finished packing her clothes.

"Ruth!" I cried excitedly, "Tell them about the letter!"

"Well, she replied as she always did, "Let them read it."

I ran back to my room and grabbed the paper.  When I got back to the room Peter was already leaving.

"Peter!  Peter, where are you going?"  I called.

"Back downstairs."  He replied.  "I don't want anything to do with this nonsense."

"But Peter, if your not ready when dad comes you'll be left behind!"

"Thats stupid!"  Peter spat out, "Dad's right downstairs, in his office."  As he turned to go, Katie began to follow him.

"Katie, don't go."  I was pleading with her.  It worked.

"Alright, I'll read your stupid letter."

As she read, I could see the confusion on her face.  When she finished she handed it back to me, told me that it was all good for me, but that she couldn't understand it.  Then she left.  I was heartbroken.  If dad were to come right now, only Ruth and I would be able to go with him.  Then I suddenly realized it would be only Ruth, as I had not yet packed, so I ran off to get my things together.

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That night I had a dream.  I was in front of a beautiful mansion.  There were gardens out front, and a playground out back, perfect in every way and with even a tree-house and a swimming pool to boot!  After walking around it, I finally went to the door and knocked.  Immediately the door was opened and a man I had never seen swung the doors open and swept me up into a huge joyous hug.

"My son, I've missed you so much!  I'm so glad your here."

So this was my father.  He walked me inside, and sat me down on a comfy couch, then sat down next to me.  His arm was around my shoulders, and I felt safe, warm, and happy.

"My son," he said once again, "We haven't much time."  He was serious now.  "I know this won't be easy, but I need you to watch this."

He grabbed the remote and flicked on the TV.  On the screen I saw a house.  It was my house.  I was ashamed of how dirty and small and rundown it had become.  Then I saw a flicker of light, bright red-orange, in the kitchen.  It quickly grew.  "NO!" I cried.  But there was nothing I could do.  I saw my siblings in the upstairs window, the fear plainly showing on their faces.  The fire continued to grow, and within minutes the roof directly above the kitchen collapsed.  I could watch no more, and buried my face in my father's arm.

"Who will tell them that the fire is coming?" my father asked.

"I will."  I replied

He smiled at me.  "I will be with you.  Always.  Whenever you need to talk, just dial this number."  He wrote a phone number on my hand.

Then I awoke.  The number was on my hand.  In my own handwriting.

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It had been years since I had the dream.  As soon as I had woken up I had ran to all of my siblings' rooms, woken them up, and told them everything.  Katie had packed her bags, right then and there.  Peter had socked me in the nose for waking him up.  But what was taking him so long?  Katie had long since laughed it off as a bad dream, and Peter got angry every time I brought it up.  He said he would be with me, but I neither saw him nor felt him near.  Ruth and I still kept our bags packed at the feet of our beds.  If it had not been for Ruth's patience and quiet perseverance, I would have long ago given in to the other's taunting.  They often laughed at us, called us crazy, and every time they asked us why our bags where packed all we could say was that we believed.  Every night I would call the number.  It would ring, then a computerized voice would tell me to leave a message.  I must have left hundreds, maybe thousands of those messages.  At first it angered me.  Why wouldn't dad ever pick up?  Was I not important enough to him?  But Ruth told me that just verbalizing my thoughts and feelings to him would help me remember him, would help me see him when he worked in my life.  And sometimes he did.  There were times when inexplicably things that I prayed for would happen, but the others always attributed it to shear coincidence.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.

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I was sleeping when I heard her.  I woke, groggy at first, then sat up with a start.  That singing, it couldn't be!  But it was!  It was my mother!  She walked upstairs, still singing, and behind her was father, the one from my dream.  In his hand was the duck tape that had held mother's mouth shut all these years.  He was beaming, and she, in her song, was telling of her great love for him, how he was their real father, and how glad she was that he had returned.  She wore not her usual dingy old pants and shirt, but a beautiful white dress.  All four of us stood in our doorways, staring.

"We are leaving," father said.  "Who is ready to go?"

I spoke up first.  "Ruth and I are.  I tried to tell the others, but they didn't believe me..."  My voice trailed off.

Then Katie peeped up quietly.  "I'm ready too."  She went back to her room and pulled her bag from under her bed.  "I always did believe, I just didn't want to be made fun of."  She hung her head in shame.

Peter stalked off angrily.  "Fine!" He smirked, "Leave me here!  I like it better here anyway, and it'll be nice with all these little brats gone."

Father looked sadly at him.  "I tried to tell you Peter, but you were to stubborn.  I am giving you one last chance.  Come with us--"

"NEVER!!!" Screamed Peter and a voice from downstairs in unison.  It was the voice of my fake father.  "WE WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS MADNESS!"

My father nodded.  I could see tears streaming down his face.  He lead Ruth, Katie, and I out to his car.  I saw Peter watching us from the window, and could still hear the voice of my fake father calling from inside, "DON'T YOU EVER COME BACK!"

As we drove away, I saw the red-orange light in the kitchen.

The End

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