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Pen Your Pride

~NINE~

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The letter falls into my lap.

"I'm okay with your anger, Squirt...I'd be angry too."

His words pierce straight through my heart, and they break me all over again.

"I've left you...something I promised I would never do, and for that, I am so fucking sorry."

I suck in a shaky breath, breathing through my tears...breathing through the sound of his voice playing through my mind on repeat.

How could he have known all of the words I needed to hear, in the very moment I needed them most?

Did he know I'd be broken when I read them?

Did he know they would break me even more, before breaking something free inside of me? That they'd obliterate the weight that's been dragging me down and holding me under, so I could finally breathe again?

Those thoughts make me cry even harder, because that's exactly how his words have made me feel. Light, and free.

Free from guilt, and anger, and resentment. I can physically feel myself letting those emotions go, while new ones take root.

Empathy.

Love.

Determination.

And hope.

If there's one thing I lost when Travis disappeared, it was any hope I ever carried within myself, but now I feel it flowing through me, filling the dark spaces of my heart with comfort and purpose, because with his letter...I feel empowered.

Travis is right; people need to be talking...and they are, but it's not enough. Talk will die down and we'll continue living as sheep under the government's rule, keeping quiet though we know the brutal truths. So if someone doesn't step up and feed fuel to the fire that Travis started with his actions, it'll burn out too soon, and I can't let that happen. I won't.

A soft knock at Travis's door rips me from my thoughts and scares the living shit out of me. I look up and...what the hell?

"What are you doing here?" I ask and quickly fold up the letter, sliding it into my back pocket.

Ashlyn carefully steps through the door. "I heard screaming, and glass breaking...I thought something happened to you." She nervously twists her hands around in her grip. "I've been knocking on your door for at least ten minutes, and you didn't answer, so I...I got worried." She looks around the room, taking stock of the damage I've done. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay...Are you okay?" she quietly adds, meeting my eyes with genuine concern.

I glance around the room, at the chaos I've created within Travis's four walls, and..."I am now," I answer.

"Okay." She nods and takes a deep breath. "Well...I guess I'll," she points behind her, "just go now."

"Yeah..." I should let her go, but... "Wait."

She turns back around, her eyes hopeful. "Yeah?"

"Do you think you could help me with something?"

"Sure," she immediately replies, and when I let her read the letter and tell her my plan, excitement ignites behind her eyes. "I can definitely help you with that."

~~

"This isn't goodbye. I will see you again." Travis's words flash through my mind for the thousandth time.

He's always been confident. Well, let's be real. He's as cocky as they come. So if he says something, he means it. He's a man of his word. So I can't help but dwell on those last two sentences.

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