The Shape Of Oliver Wright: Part 8
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The letters kept coming. At first, Emma had no desire to open them, but her pesky curiosity wouldn’t allow her to throw them away. And now they were piling up on her little entryway table, covering her keys, wallet, and all of her extra sunglasses. Frankly, it was becoming an issue of tidiness. That’s why she needed to open them. The only reason.
She carried the stack to her bedroom and laid the letters out on her bed. The envelopes were all different colors and sizes, but the return address label was always the same. Sighing a deep breath and regretting not pouring herself a drink first, Emma tore through the first one.
Thank you for opening this letter. After the way I treated you, I don’t deserve even that much. I could say I’m sorry, but those words are insufficient and hollow. Instead, I’ve decided to even the score, at least as much as I’m able to.
You were nothing but open and honest with me on every one of our dates, while I hid behind a different persona each time. And so, in an attempt to make amends, I plan to expose myself to you completely (not in a gross flasher-y way).
A giggle burst from her mouth, and Emma nearly tossed the letter in anger. Oliver had no right to make her laugh. She shouldn’t even be giving him another chance. She was about to crumple the letter and burn the rest when a photo slipped from the pages.
She recognized the little boy immediately. Oliver’s face grinned out at her, his arm wrapped around a little girl’s shoulders. They wore matching Power Ranger costumes. Emma stifled another laugh. Damn it, that was cute. With a frustrated sigh, she continued reading.
In these letters, you will find all of my secrets, my most embarrassing pictures, and my deepest insecurities. It isn’t much, I know, but at least now you’ll see what I was hiding from you. I honestly don’t know why I ever did, except maybe just good old-fashioned fear.
I don’t expect you to forgive me, nor do I expect to see you again. I only wanted to give you what you gave me on our dates, a little piece of myself. Thanks for reading, and I hope you at least get a good laugh at my expense.
He wasn’t kidding. In letter after letter, he spilled his guts to her. A story of the time he asked a girl to dance, and she wrinkled her nose and said she didn’t even know who he was. The name of the first girl he kissed… as a dare in seventh grade. The fact he had always been jealous of his younger brother. Stories about all the trouble he and his best friend Natalie had gotten into as kids. Feeling like a fraud at his first job out of college. The time he gave an entire presentation at work with water spilled on the front of his pants. His fear that he would spend his life alone.
It was all there in front of her, scrawled across lined paper Oliver had torn from a notebook. He had pressed so hard the paper was imprinted with his words, with his life.
Emma lined up the pictures he included with the letters, and Oliver grew up in front of her eyes. Chubby little Oliver in the bath, awkward school photos, terrible haircuts, a scowling teenage Oliver on vacation with his family, prom pictures, Oliver laughing with the friend Emma now knew was Natalie.
The face she had never gotten to know stared up at her from those pictures, and she didn’t know if the tears gathering in her eyes were from sadness or anger. An ache grew in her chest at all they had missed out on. She saw more clearly than ever that she could have loved this man. But he had never given her the chance.
By the time she finished reading, the sun had dipped low in the sky, and her room had grown dim. She swept the letters off the bed and into the metal trash can. The lid closed with a gentle thump. She laid back in bed and closed her eyes, no closer to knowing what to do about Oliver Wright than she had been when she started.
“Smiling wouldn’t kill you.”
Oliver grimaced at Natalie as she dragged him down the hallway of her new girlfriend’s apartment building.
“It’s a party, not an execution.” They paused outside apartment number six, Natalie straightening his collar before knocking.
“You know how I feel about parties. Especially when I don’t know anyone,” he grumbled.
“Yes, I am fully aware of your introverted tendencies, Ollie, but I really like this girl, and I want you to meet her.” She nudged him with her shoulder, and he draped an arm around her.
“Sorry. I’ll be good.” He planted a kiss on the top of her head. “I’m excited to meet her.”
Natalie rewarded him with a grin just as the door opened. Light, music, and voices spilled out into the hallway. Oliver did his best not to cringe.
“Nat! You’re here.” The tiny pink-haired woman at the door grabbed Natalie’s hand and pulled her inside. Oliver had no choice but to follow.
“Oliver, this is Liv.” Natalie turned back to face him, grinning from ear to ear. How could he not smile, seeing his friend so happy? “Liv, this is my best friend, Oliver.”
“Nice to meet you!” Liv wrapped him a hug that was so genuine, Oliver didn’t even feel his usual need to run from such open affection. “Come in, make yourself at home.”
Oliver followed Natalie and Liv through the crowd of bodies in the living room out to the kitchen to find a drink. As expected, it wasn’t long before he lost them both and was alone with his beer. He wandered out to the balcony for some air and a less conspicuous place to be by himself.
A woman stood at the railing, overlooking the view of the city below. Oliver was sure there must be noise rising up from the street, and there must have been some type of weather happening, and the sun was probably setting, but he could see nothing but her. His breath caught in his throat.
It had been months since he’d seen her, months since he stopped sending her letters. He didn’t know if she’d even read them. He should go; he’d promised her after all. But his feet refused to move.
Emma turned to face him, a small smile on her lips. The last of the sun’s rays clung to the gold in her curls, and her cheeks were flushed pink. Her eyes widened at the sight of him, surprise flickering across her face.
He opened his mouth to apologize, to say goodbye before he could upset her, but she moved toward him, her gaze never leaving his. She held out her hand into the space between them, and her smile grew.
“Hi, Oliver. It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
Featured Image by Ranurte via Unsplash