Chapter Twenty-Three

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Every day since that day I've tried to give my heart away but its not mine and that's the way it stays, K. – Jackson Killian

Chapter 23

I tipped my face to the sun. It scratched electric over my skin, etching my hairline, turning the undersides of my eyelids red and gold in the black. The warmth ran through me, from my nose to my toes, clearing the chill from the wet parts of me—the damp and dangling front of my t-shirt, the knees of my jeans, my backside, my hands. My body was a comfortable place, fitting me just right. Sometimes, it didn't.

I plunged the sponge back into the bucket and squeezed it a few times, my vision blurry. I fished the tire brush from the bottom and sat cross-legged by the driver's side Bronco tire. I scrubbed, smearing suds and dirt over the hubcap; gray water ran down into the gravel.

Music played softly inside the house, the doors and windows all open to let in the June day. Quinn napped in his room, and Jack would pick him up later. I felt the happy glow of a nearly summer day, not yet so hot we were incapacitated and desperate for some kind of cooling mechanism, but so pleasantly warm after a cold spring that it was a pleasure to be out in short sleeves and sandals and sunglasses. I could feel the sun sucking the sallow out of me, turning my skin the rich honey brown of summer. The fine hairs on my arms would bleach gold. I would glow with it, a lamp lit inside me.

I rinsed the tire and relocated my bucket and brush to the next one. For the hundredth time since I'd read it, my mind wandered to Carolyn Killian and her last letter to me.

It had come the day before, the only meaningful piece of post amongst the ads from pizza places and realtors selling property in my neighborhood. I could never open her letters right away; they needed to sit a bit as I worked myself up to it. I needed to imagine the possibilities inside the envelope and how I would deal with those possibilities emotionally. I needed to procrastinate it a bit, until I couldn't deal with the uncertainty a minute longer.

The letter had been the longest I'd yet received—six pages of fine stationery in Carolyn's well-practiced hand. Her handwriting was so elegant and precise I ogled it for a bit before reading the letter, flipping through pages, not reading them, just tracing the perfect script with my eyes. There were no areas where she'd had to strike out a line of exposition started and shied away from. No areas where she'd accidentally formed a D instead of a P, or put the I in the wrong place relative to the E.

There was something about that which affected me. Especially as I read. Because, as formal as the script was, the content was very personal. And Carolyn had laid it out with a clear, decisive hand in a manner suggesting her mind was also clear and decisive. Two things I often wished for when I felt muddled and unsure.

I'd read it multiple times, each read transforming the Carolyn I'd thought I'd known. I had never known her, not really. And to some extent Jack, as well.

Dear Kate,

I've thought long about this letter before sitting to compose it. I've wondered if these topics shouldn't be held until you and I sit in the same parlor. But as I've stated before, the written word is better for me. I can write to you as if to myself. I can speak plainly, and with more emotional honesty than if we were together. I do believe that should I try to tell you these things directly, I would fail.

You asked me in your last missive if I've listened to my son's music. The answer is: yes. You did not, however, ask me my thoughts on it. But still I think that question was implied, so I will answer. I'm certain we both listen to Jack's music in a different manner than most. We are the women in his life; we are the women who helped shape that music. You directly. Me—less so—but still, in fact, there. I can only imagine what you think of it. A lover's perspective is very different from a parent's. I know too that those feelings aren't ones you want to share with me, but because you also have a son, I think you may appreciate my perspective—now, in a way you couldn't before.

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