Letters To Father
A Short Story
In the dark of evening, a figure ran down the beach, shattering the calm.. Slipping off her sandals, she couldn’t believe what had happened. As she neared the water’s edge, she lifted her face to the sky, and felt the cool air graze it. She felt strange, like something was wrong, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She listened to the water lapping at the sand, and felt calmed. Going closer still, she felt the cool sea washing over her, easing that feeling of unrest. She could feel her heart beating in her chest, and the world spinning. Although she was alone now, and the night was over, she had a feeling that her troubles were only just beginning, and at that moment, she wished she had never even agreed to go.
* * *
It was nearing the end of another hot summer’s day, and the air had just began to cool. Alexei walked down the beach barefoot. Her mother has told her so many times to wear some shoes, but she’d always loved the way the sand squelched through in between her toes. It gave her a feeling of freedom, not that she was particularly tied to anything anyway. At least she hadn’t been. She had lived in front of the beach her entire life, and she felt the most at home when she was stood on the sand, watching the sea. Normally, she came down to the waters edge for some peace, or to escape her mother’s tirades, but today was different. She was different. As she made a single set of footprints from the sea steps, down to the water’s edge, she clutched a bottle to her, with a note inside. It was only when she reached the sea, that she loosened her grip on it. Tears began streaming down her face, as she let out a wail, and hurled the bottle deep into the waves. She watched in bob up and down a few times, before it was carried away. As she turned, she could hear the words she had written, ringing in her ears..
I’m sorry for what I did. I know I shouldn’t have done it, but why did you have to punish me like this? I’ve always tried to be good for you, and to do what you want me to. I wasn’t even drinking that night. I swear to you. I promised I wouldn’t. So, why have you left me? You used to always be there for me, but now you’re gone. You left me, and you’ve let this happen. How could you let someone suffer like this? I know I’m not perfect, but I’ve always tried to honour you whenever I can. Why won’t you talk to me? I only want to hear your voice. I need to hear your voice. Father, I love you. Please come back to me. I miss you so much. Your daughter, Alexei.
* * *
When Alexei reached the top of the beach, she sat down on the sand, which was still warm from the previous day. It felt so wrong to her, that the weather should be bright and warm and pleasant, when everything in her life had turned black and cold. She looked back towards her house, tears starting to fall again. “Where are you?” she whispered to herself, as she hugged her knees to her chest. Two days had passed, since she’d thrown the bottle into the water, and although she’d walked the entire length of the beach, no reply was forthcoming. It seemed, her days had blended into a routine of two things. She spent her days at his bedside at the hospital, and her nights walking the beach. She couldn’t sleep, even though she was exhausted. She couldn’t even hope anymore. She was so tired, she didn’t notice the man in the tatty overcoat, walking bent and crooked up the beach, carrying an empty bottle and reading a piece of paper.
Firstly, let me say that I do love you. You are my daughter, and because of that, I will always love you, regardless of what you do. I may not be happy about some of the things you do. I set rules in place in my house for a reason, and I do expect them to be followed, but I’ve always told you it must be your choice whether you follow them or not. You cannot blame me for being upset about what happened that night, or the result of it. You put yourself in a bad situation, but I will still, always love you, and if you trust me, together, we’ll get through it. Your Father.
The homeless man finished reading and placed the letter and bottle into the sack that he carried over his shoulder, inside which, he kept his meagre possessions. Taking a piece of driftwood from under his arm, he began the climb up the sea steps, where Alexei had come from, only a few minutes earlier.
* * *
Today had been a particularly bad day for Lexei. The doctors had called to see her, and had informed her that there was nothing more that they could do for him medically, and that all she could do was wait and hope. She’d felt a pain like no other grip her, as she ran from the room and the building. She’d ran all the way to her house, where she’d been greeted by another drunken onslaught from her mother. Running to her room, she grabbed a pen and paper and began to write.
I still haven’t heard from you. Why are you doing this to me? I hate myself for what happened, but I can’t change it. You know me. You know I didn’t do it on purpose. I was drugged. I suppose you think I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Is that why you’re punishing me? You always used to tell me you’d forgive me anything, and all I had to do was ask. Were you lying about that, or is it that I just don’t deserve it? Was what I did so wrong and disgusting to you that you can’t forgive me? I used to think that you cared. That you loved me, even. Was it all a lie?
Alexei rolled up the piece of paper, and tied a string around it. Hiding it safely inside her jacket pocket, she left her room and made her way downstairs, only stopping to grab one of her mother’s empties, and to respond to the shouts that came from the living room. “You haven’t even asked how he is”, she shouted before slamming the door behind her. She walked quickly across the lane, and down the steps, inhaling that beautifully familiar salty scent. Abandoning her slip ons at the base of the steps, she trod the familiar path down to the shoreline. The sea was closer today than normal, and Alexei didn’t have to walk very far, before the waves began drifting over her toes. Stopping, she took out the note, and pushed it inside the bottle, sealing it afterwards. Swinging it back over her head, she threw it forwards into the for once turbulent sea. As she watched the waves consume the bottle, she dashed her tears away from her cheeks.
Alexei turned from the water and walked slowly up to the steps. She didn’t see it wash ashore. The beach was empty and quiet, there was no one to be seen, and with only a receding tide, the glass bottle with the note inside it, nestled in the sand, with its important message, threatened not to be found.
Alexei, You keep saying I’ve lied to you. This upsets me greatly. I have only ever told you the truth. To lie to you is impossible for me. Please believe me. Trust in me. I do not wish to punish you. Nor do I want to hurt you. I am yours and you are mine. I care more for you than I do myself. Please remember that, Alexei. You say I haven’t been there for you, but I have, you just couldn’t see it. That night, when you were so tired at the hospital bed, I kept watch while you slept. I’m sorry I couldn’t have stayed longer, but I was called away. Lexi, you must stop blaming yourself. You know the choices and decisions you made, and you stood by them. You told me yourself that you did nothing wrong, and I believe you. I saw you that night, too. And I saw him slip that pill into your drink. That’s why I didn’t want you to go. I tried to tell you that morning, but you didn’t listen. Look inside yourself Alexei, think of what I’ve told you in the past. Think of my words. You probably know them better than me. Turn to them now. Please don’t let this consume you. You are too special for that. Do not be scared, for I am here for you, and I will hold you up if you fall, because I am, and always will be…
Your loving Father.
* * *
Mister Wolly walked up to the water, as he did every morning and night. He never knew what treasures he would find there, and even though, in everyone else’s eyes, he was nothing more than a tramp, when he found the gifts of the ocean, he felt he was the richest man in the world. He hadn’t been surprised at the first bottle, it had been a nice treat, rather than the usual shells and driftwood. This time, however, as he neared the water, which was rapidly going out, he saw another bottle. The water was washing its sides, trying to drag it back out to sea. He quickly made a grab for it, and picked it up. Tapping it’s sides, he slid it into his bag, where it clinked against the other bottle. He chuckled to himself as he began his usual walk along the water’s edge, bending down occasionally, to pick up a shell, or piece of seaweed. Stopping only once: when he found a family of starfish, just out of the water, and unable to get back. He picked them up and threw them back deep into the water, before continuing his merry way.
* * *
Night was drawing in, and Alexei yawned as she stroked his head. One week on, and there was no improvement. The days had blended into one, as she sat at his bedside, only leaving at night for a few hours on the beach to collect her thoughts before engaging in a restless sleep that left her even more tired the following morning. His breathing was becoming more faint, and Alexei could feel him slipping away from her, taking a piece of her heart with him. She laid her head down on the edge of the bed.
She jumped when a nurse entered the room, “Time to go, Lex” she said cheerily, far too cheerily in Alexei’s opinion. She got up, gently kissed him, and gave his head one last stroke, before leaving the room, tears glittering in her eyes.
When she got home, her mother was slumped over the kitchen table, glass still in hand, passed out. She quietly went up to her room. Shutting the door behind her, she glanced at the book she’d not been able to look at since that night. It lay on her desk, having gathered a thick layer of dust. Not allowing her eyes to linger on it for long, she picked up some paper and began to write.
It wasn’t until a lot later that evening, that she went down to the beach. She awoke, pen still in hand, though the paper had obviously slipped to the floor. Picking it up, she folded it into four and put it in her pocket. She went to the bathroom, and ran herself a glass of water, which she drank in long gulps. As she left the house, having secured the paper inside another of her mother’s empty vodka bottles, she stepped down onto the sand. She hadn’t really noticed before, but now, she shivered as the cold night air whipped around her. It was a lot colder now that September was in full flow. She sort of wished she’d thought to put an extra sweater on. Even so, she slipped off her shoes, not really caring about the wind nipping at her skin. She walked down to the indigo waters, and threw the bottle in. “This is the last message I’m sending you” she screamed, before turning and running up the beach, and into her house. The bottle bobbed around the shallows for a few moments, before being swallowed up by a large swell.
Father, he’s growing weak now. I’m so scared. I know this wasn’t planned, but now he’s here, I can’t bear to lose him. It’s not fair. He’s never even been outside those four walls. Doesn’t he deserve more than that? I thought you loved me. If you do, please help him. Punish me if you want, but please don’t punish him. Let me take him outside. Just once. Please. Alexei.
* * *
Mister Wolly had seen many things in his time, but this, for some reason surprised him. On the beach again, he had already collected a pink shell, and one with long, white spines. They had gone into his bag. He didn’t even see it at first. The bottle had washed ashore and nestled itself between a couple of rocks, almost as if it couldn’t risk being pulled back out to sea. Retrieving it, he saw that it had another note inside. Opening the bottle, he pulled the note out and read slowly, as his English was poor.
Alexei, I wish I could help you, but I’ve done all I can for him. It’s up to him now. You have to try and get him to come out of it. Talk to him. Don’t just sit there soothing him. Tell him what he’s missing. Tell him about the beach, the sea. Tell him about me. I can’t do any more than I have done. It’s up to you now. Please don’t think I am punishing you. I’m not. I want you to see the truth, to know the truth, but sometimes, it is a hard path to follow. Please be strong for him, Alexei. You can do this. I have been preparing you for such a time as this, and now you must step out and trust. I really hope this message reaches you in time, Alexei. Your father.
Mister Wolly read and re read the note. He sat down and removed the other bottles from his bag. Re-reading those too, he realised that he had to be the one to deliver the message. The sea had done it’s job. It was now up to him.
* * *
Alexei walked to the base of the steps, and sat down on the sand. Laying an empty bottle down beside her, she allowed her thoughts to wander. She couldn’t understand why he wasn’t improving, or getting better. The doctors had said the virus was slowly leaving his system, but he still wasn’t waking up. She hated herself for having put him in this position, and she hated her Father for abandoning her at such a bad time. She missed him so much it hurt. Staring out at the sea, she began to remember some of the things he’d said to her in the past. She was miles away when she heard a gentle cough, “Ahem”. Looking up, she saw a homeless man. She made to get up, so that he could get past, but he gestured her to stay where she was. “Is that yours?” he said, as his eyes focused on the empty bottle beside her. Alexei nodded. “Don’t worry, I won’t leave it behind” she said quickly. The homeless man laughed, “Don’t worry, I won’t call the police” he said, smiling at her. “I have something that belongs to you” he continued. Alexei looked at him, confused. He rummaged around in his bag, and pulled out the bottles, which he handed to her. “I found them washed up on the beach and kept them, but when I read the third one, I knew I had to find their rightful owner” he said. Alexei couldn’t believe it. Taking the notes, she read them, tears flowing freely down her face. “Oh, thank you, Mister…” she trailed off. “Folks call me Mister Wolly” he said gently, “but you can just call me Wol”. Smiling at her again, he turned and headed off down the beach. Alexei watched until he was out of sight, and then read the notes again. “You didn’t leave me. I’m so sorry.” She said, putting the notes in her pocket and getting to her feet. She hurried to the top of the steps, where she put the bottles in the recycling bin. Then she ran all the way to the hospital. Hurrying to his room, she sat beside him. “Hey there, little guy” she started talking to him. Taking his hand in hers, she told him about the beach, and the sea, about her Father, and about how much she loved him. She looked down at his face, and gasped as she saw what she’d been hoping for, for months, as his eyes flickered open.
* * *
Alexei wrote what she knew would be her final note. Placing it into the bottle, she left the house immediately, and made her way to the shore. Throwing it into the churning blue, she whispered the words that were written; “Thank you”. Turning, she half expected to see Mister Wolly, but the beach was empty. She hadn’t seen him for days. Not since Michael had woken up. Smiling to herself, she walked up the beach and straight up to her room. Once inside, she went to her desk and picked up the book she’d not touched for months. Wiping the dust from the cover, she carried it to her bed, opened it and began to read.
Li Carter is a writer, artist and crafter. She lives in South Wales, UK, with her family, and five rescue dogs. She’s on Twitter @rbcreativeli , Facebook: Rainbow Butterfly Creative, and Instagram @rainbowbutterflycreative and is the author of My Only True Friend: The Beginning. She is currently working on a new series titled The QuickSilver Chronicles. She is the original Rainbow Butterfly, and wants to fill an ever darkening world with a little bit of beauty and creativity.