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A Thousand Letters(11)
Author: Staci Hart

"Wade asked me to marry him."

Everything stopped.

Dad's paper dropped by an inch as he glared at me over the top. Mary turned, coffee pot in hand, looking shocked. Beth slowed her jaw, a wad of bread in her cheek like a dairy cow.

"What?" Dad asked, the word hard.

My smile slipped. "He … he asked me to marry him, and I said yes."

"You've got to be kidding me," Mary said, annoyed. "You're seventeen, Elliot. You can't get married."

I watched as my hope for their support slipped away. "We would wait until after my birthday. This … this was always the plan, though we'd always planned on waiting until after I graduated. But he asked me to come with him sooner, and I said yes."

Dad's face was red as he huffed and blustered at me from across the table. "You said yes, as if you have any right to agree to such a preposterous thing. You can't do anything, not while you're still living under my roof."


He slapped the table, making the coffee cups jump and us along with them. "This is ridiculous, Elliot. You're still in school."

"I'll finish school wherever we end up," I answered, undeterred.

He paused for a split second. "You can't marry your high school crush."

I drew a long breath through my nose. "You did."

He gave me a look. "I sure did, and instead of marrying John like I really wanted, I married your mother and was miserable until the day she died."

I jerked away from the shock of his words, not that it was the first time he'd said something so horrible. It's just that it never ceased to hurt me. "Marrying her was your choice, a choice you made for what, for money? She's the reason you have all of this." I motioned to the home around us, the food on the table. "But I suppose I should say I'm happy to hear that her dying released you from your prison. Is that what you'd like to hear?"

He rolled his eyes, his face still red and eyes still hard. "Don't be dramatic, Elliot. Of course it's not her fault that I'm gay, or that I asked her to marry me. I loved her in my way," he said, conveniently ignoring the rest of what I'd said. "I'm just saying that you and Wade staying together is unrealistic. You're too young to know what's real and what isn't. He's leaving tomorrow, and what — you're just supposed to wait for him? Move far away, be all alone when he's deployed? When they throw him on the front lines in Iraq? Why would you want to be a widow at twenty?"

I breathed again. "It's my decision to make, and I choose him."

His brow dropped, eyes leveling me. "It's not your decision to make, Elliot Marie Kelly. I won't allow it."

My cheeks burned with anger, but my voice was even, containing a calm I didn't feel. "And how will you stop me when I turn eighteen?"

Everything about him challenged me, his posture, his tone, all of him, and the air between us crackled with tension. "I refuse to support this. If this is what you choose, what you want? Well, then you can find yourself somewhere else to live. You can find someone else to feed and clothe you. Can he do that? Will he take you in? And is that what you want? To abandon us?" He touched his chest. "To sacrifice us for him? Because that's the choice you'll have to make. I just hope he doesn't turn you out, because we won't be here for you when it all falls apart."

Anger and sadness and confusion rolled through me, disappointment over how everything had gone hanging over me, pressing into my chest, suffocating me. Abandon them? They would abandon me. But how could I survive without them? They were everything I'd ever known, my last tie to my mother.

My sisters watched me through my mother's eyes, nodding their support like mob lackeys, and my father was the Godfather.

"Why are you doing this?" I breathed.

"Because you're not smart enough to make the decision yourself. I'm your father, and I know more about the world than you do. It's my job to protect you from that," he said piously.

I didn't even know what to say through the shock of the moment; his words stopped me dead. It's not that I believed what he said or subscribed to what he proposed — I didn't. But what he said hit me deep, not only because some of it struck a chord — being alone, lonely while he was deployed, praying he came home to me — but because I was afraid. I felt my age, like a silly little girl with dreams too big and feelings too grown up. If I left, I'd have no one other than Wade and his family. And if he died … would Rick and Sophie keep me?

The thought of choosing between my past and my future overwhelmed me. I didn't know how to make that decision.

But Wade … Wade would understand. He loved me — he'd never force me to choose. I believed with all my heart that he would wait, that we could go back to the old plan. The alternative was too much to even fathom. I just had to talk to him, and we could sort it all out.

But I was wrong. So, so wrong. And that mistake had haunted me ever since.



Burned down

And singed,

Razed to ash

And blown to the wind.

* * *

- M. White

* * *


The living room walls closed in on me as I sat with my sisters in my arms, wishing I were strong enough to save them.

They clung to each other and cried as I held them together as best I could. Sadie's face was in my mind, the words echoing as I spoke them … it was a moment I'd never forget, as much as I wanted to.

As their emotions poured out of them, I found that I was numb, razed from all that had happened. A few hours, a few words, and everything had changed. I could hear the clock ticking, the sound taking on a new meaning as I imagined what would come, as I realized how little time I had left.

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