With shaky hands, I hold the edges of the letter and stare at Travis's handwriting scrawled across the front.
My heart aches, yet it beats faster with excitement.
Each of my thoughts collide into the next. When is this from? What does it say? Do I even want to open it?
It takes all of two seconds to answer that last question. Of course I do. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid.
Will his letter break me?
You've already broken, Grace. Just open the damn letter.
I suck in a deep breath and shakily unfold the note.
I never imagined it would be this difficult to write you a letter. Yet here I've sat for the last hour, staring down at a blank sheet of paper, unsure of where or how to begin. Searching for something, anything I can possibly say to make sense of all this...at least for you. But no matter which way it all plays out in my head, nothing can be said to justify the fact that regardless of my motives, I've left you, Squirt...something I promised I'd never do, and for that, I am so fucking sorry.
The logical side of you understands all this, I know you do. You're so fucking smart. You know what's up, and why I've done what I've done. You love Maddie. You would want this for her. I know that.
But I also know that my choices have become your burden. A lot of people are going to hate me, Gracie. Let them hate me. Let them stare. Let them talk their shit. Their opinions are insignificant to me. I know who I am, and I prove myself to no one, except the three women in my life who matter most to me.
It's easy for them to sit back and talk their shit from the cheap seats. But what have they done? Now, more than ever, after having witnessed what goes down in that compound, I know with 100% certainty that I made the right call when it comes to Maddie. I'm close to finding her. I feel it, Grace. And thank God, because she can't end up there.
What's happening to those girls isn't right. Actually, it's fucking criminal. And allowing it to continue for as long as we all have, our government left unchecked, our military trained to contain and control us...the very people they took an oath to protect? It's fucking bullshit. No girl should be sentenced to a life inside that hellhole, only to face their death broken, afraid, and alone.
So if they're pissed at me, good. Let them fucking be. People need to start talking. Just know that their judgments hold no place in my heart or mind. So don't allow them to take up any space in yours. Besides, when it comes to anger, you need to move them all to the back of the fucking line and take your place in front. Your anger is justified. I left you.
Just because I kept you in the dark to protect you, doesn't make it hurt any less, and it doesn't make it okay. I didn't give you a chance to say goodbye. And I know how much that fucking hurts. I understand the anger, and I completely get the pain.
You've just gotta find a way to process this, Gracie. Talk to someone. Anyone. Tell them how much I've hurt you. How betrayed you feel. And then tell them how guilty you feel for feeling that way. And how angry that makes you. And how much it pisses you off that you feel guilty for feeling angry with me, since I'm the same person you're fighting the world to protect.
Then let that burden go.
Because I'm okay with your anger, Squirt. I know how much you love me. Your anger doesn't change that. So be angry. It's okay. I'd be angry too.
I know what you're made of, Grace. As your big brother, I've had the honor of having a front row seat to your life. And I am so incredibly proud of who you are.
Like mom always says, you're sunshine mixed with a little hurricane. So if anyone can find a way through these rough waters, it's you. I have no doubt.
And do me a favor. Tell mom there is nothing wrong with the dryer. Your clothes never dried because I've been stopping it mid-cycle any chance I could get. Just consider it payback for the laxative prank. And don't get too comfortable. That debt hasn't been paid in full. Not even close, Squirt.
This isn't goodbye.
I will see you again.
I Love you,
P.s. That Tyler kid is a punk. Get rid of him.
For Mom. I love you. And I'm just trying to be the kind of man you raised me to be. Xo
Ohh, Travis! It's so good to hear from you again!
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