photo of hands holding a love letter

Love Letters by Richard Thomas

It started with the paper, tearing it apart into little pieces, pressing it into tiny balls and popping the crumpled words into her mouth. Cassidy would chew and chew his love letters while staring out the window, the sun setting across the city— her apartment falling into darkness. She imagined that she could hear him speaking, his deep voice filling up the empty spaces that she created with her desperation and remorse. He compared her to a summer day, to a moonlit lake, to a drug addiction— one he needed to quit. She didn’t believe he would disappear— Cassidy felt their love was eternal. Twirling her long, red hair in slender, pale fingers, she stared out at the city, wondering where he was.

She moved on to the ink. In an effort to embrace a historical sense of romance, she purchased an inkwell and a quill, inserting the sharp tip into the shimmering black liquid, running the tip across the page. It didn’t turn out well. When she hesitated, and that was often, she would place the tip of the quill on her tongue and tap it, tap it, trying to put in words her feelings for him, the man who spent many a night caressing her ivory skin while whispering in her ear. Soon enough her stomach rolled and flipped, tightening into knots of anguish, vomiting a great void into the toilet, her lips and teeth stained with death.

She crafted her own perfume, a mortar and pestle sitting on her kitchen counter, grinding up bits of sandalwood, pounding out waxy pieces of ambergris, slicing her finger over the stone bowl, crying into it, squeezing out blood orange, adding a few drops of honey. She poured this lumpy mixture of one screen after another, the weave getting smaller, until the essence was but a spoonful in a bowl. She rubbed it in her fingers, behind her ears, her kneecaps, and ran it across the envelope seal, dropping her letter in the mail. To no avail— he didn’t notice.

When his silence filled her mailbox, a slender rectangle of metal and failure, she took up her needle and thread, to immortalize his final words, the last letter he sent to her, signing off with the words that haunted her now, caused her to flinch— love always the lie he kept telling. She took a deep breath and ran the needle under her skin, a muffled gasp, her heart quickening, his love still finding a way to her heart. She pulled the thread through, up and down, the script filling her left forearm, a reminder of the things men say, a warning to the next fool that would certainly share her bed, a love letter to herself.

Richard Thomas is the author of three books— Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots and Staring Into the Abyss. Over 75 stories have appeared in Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, and Pear Noir. He is also the editor of two anthologies, both out in 2014: The Lineup (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. In his spare time he writes for The Nervous Breakdown, LitReactor, and is Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. For more information visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com or contact Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.