Heart

Ryn is morbidly pessimistic, blaming the world for his problems. He would probably see past the anger if he could still... well, see.

Asher sees the good in everyone, probably best since she blocks out what everyone says about her. Not by choice, but she does it.

The pair are forced to form a bond after becoming partners in group therapy as a desperate attempt to bring some light into their lives, starting with writing letters to each other. No one expected a third letter to arrive.

// Cover by ireumeun.chloe

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9. Eight ∞ Letters

 

Ryn asks his father to type Asher’s letter into his phone, deciding that he’ll go back to the cliff and listen to the monotone voice of Siri read out Asher’s words. The older man stays quiet while he types up the letter and Ryn can’t decide if that is a good or bad thing. He doesn’t put much more thought into that.

           

Ryn’s father tells him stories during their drive to the cliff.

           

“Do you remember when we first moved here? I thought we’d moved to a better town, a better school, a better job. The only thing you thought about was the ocean.”

           

Ryn nods, remembering the time when he first became fascinated with the ocean. “We lived closer. I could see the sea from my bedroom window.”

           

“Then your mum wanted to move closer to town, so we moved again.” Ryn imagines his father rolling his eyes at the life-size dollhouse they now live in. “I gave you my camera one day and you took hundreds of the photo, all of the sea and the sky. You used all of the ink in the printer because you printed every single one of the photos of and glued them onto your walls with PVA.”

 

They both laugh at the memory. The conversation quiets and Ryn continues thinking about the ocean. For as long as he can remember, the back of his mind has been painted with bottle green and aquamarine and everything in between, a swirling watercolour to match the ocean waves. He remembers running along the beaches that weren’t ever nice enough to walk on barefoot. He remembers finding a hidden path that led to the top of the cliff and laying down to peer over the edge, scaring his mother senseless when she looked up at him from on the beach.

 

His father didn’t know, but that was another one of the reasons why his mother wanted to move.

 

To cope with his loss of the ocean view and weekends spend by the water, Ryn turned to sketching it. He knew it well enough to sketch it forever. It wasn’t quite the real thing: his sketches remained in pencil and nothing more, not warranting colour as Ryn’s inspiration didn’t seem to have left that house.

 

His father’s voice breaks his thoughts.

 

“We’re here, Ryn. Do you want me to walk you up there?”

 

Ryn shakes his head, checking that his phone and earphones are still in his pocket, as well as the handwritten letter. “No thanks. I think I have to do this on my own.”

 

***

 

Asher leaves home with the intention of reading Ryn’s letter at school, far away from the prying eyes of her mother. But she never reads the letter. Not because she doesn’t want to, or because she can’t find the right time. But because she found another crumpled piece of paper on the way to school, soggy and covered in dirt but also words.

           

She leaves in the middle of her maths lesson, saying that she has a headache and needs to go to the office. She goes to the toilets instead and locks herself in one of the cubicles.

           

The paper looks like a letter: handwritten in green ink – who wrote in green ink? - and smudged beyond recognition, almost as if the writer knew that someone would be invading their privacy. The only legible paragraph at the bottom of the page explains all that Asher wants to know.

           

Sometimes, I feel like I’m underwater, like all the air is being pushed out of my lungs. I’ve felt like this for a while. I’m drowning, but I can convince myself that I can still breathe, even though I can’t. I need to gasp for breath, but that will let more of the water in. Soon, I’ll have to end this, and I’ll do it on my own terms.

           

Asher knows nothing else. She doesn’t know who the letter is from: the name at the bottom is also smudged away with what she hopes is tap water, or rain, although she can faintly smell the salt from the sea.

           

Just like that, Asher forgets all about maths and her eyes meet the crude poetry carved on the back of the cubicle door, and the familiarly harsh words do nothing to soothe her panicked mind, because the letter and her newfound responsibility to it will not be able to relax.

           

She decides that she is stupid, but not quite stupid enough to convince herself that she could just throw the letter away and everything will be okay, because she cares about this person, even though she doesn’t know who they are. No one deserves to feel that way, and Asher knows it too well.

 

She’d been there herself, only a few years ago when she first lost her hearing. She knew she didn’t feel exactly what the letter writer felt, but she’d been close.

 

This wasn’t about her, but about the writer, and she didn’t know what to do about it.

 

She could hand it in to the school. What would they do about it? What could they do? The person won’t confess and hand themselves in to the school counsellor: it was clear that they were far past that point now.

 

Asher is out of her depth, knee-deep in the water that the writer wrote so passionately about. She can’t deal with this on her own, but she isn’t heartless enough to leave it. She was the one who found the letter, and her only clues were the handwriting and the green ink.

 

She takes her phone out of the front pocket of her bag, unlocks it, and texts Ryn.

 

***

 

Ryn has settled down on the bench at the top of the cliff and is about to listen to Asher’s letter when a text message interrupts him. Then another. And another.

           

“You have three new messages from ‘Asher Pierce’,” Siri’s robotic voice informs him. “Open, or ignore?”

           

“Open.”

           

“First new message: Ryn! I have something to tell you. Second new message: Is this the right number? Third new message: I have to go but please reply! Would you like to listen again, reply, or ignore?”

           

“Ignore,” Ryn replies instantly.

           

He has a letter to read.

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