Return to Sender
by: andee lee
January 27, 2009
Lindy Mason squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to stop the tears as soon as she felt the first raindrop go plop on the top of her head. She glanced upwards at the churning clouds and cursed under her breath, her fists clenching at her sides. "It figures," she muttered, shaking her head.
After a few steps and a few more drops, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone, flipping it open and dialing the familiar number. "Please…" She said to herself as she listened to the rings. "Please pick up."
She sighed when the machine picked up instead. "This is Mitch, leave your message."
She groaned in frustration while she waited for the beep. "Mitch, it's Lindy. You were supposed to pick me up from class at 10. Where are you?" She clicked her phone shut and stuffed it back into her pocket, continuing the walk to the bus stop. The rain had picked up even more, plastering her dark brown hair to her forehead.
She didn't mind riding the bus. No, that wasn't the problem. The rain wasn't even so bad, when she compared it to her other problem – Mitch, her boyfriend of six months had promised her he would be outside when she got out of class. He'd promised her he would take her home. So, when he didn't show up and, fifteen minutes later of course, it began to rain, Lindy's bad mood was officially worse than before.
Mitch was different than most of the guys she had dated, which was part of the reason he'd appealed to her so much. He was confident and outgoing, whereas most of her exes were bookworms like her. They'd met after a football game, while Lindy was standing with a few of her friends in the parking lot. He'd walked right up to her and asked her out, and that was it. Despite her obvious surprise, Lindy had no problem telling him 'yes.'
Tall, dark and handsome, he fit the description of Prince Charming to a tee. While most of the time he was less than romantic, he'd had his moments and she'd stayed with him through it all. He's broken her out of her shell a little, and she genuinely enjoyed being with him. Most of the time he made her happy. But today, after walking in the soaking rain for a good five minutes because of him, she was beginning to think she'd had enough.
She shook her head at the thought of him, angry that she'd let herself get taken in. It didn't seem fair, after all of the crappy relationships she'd already had. Was a decent man really too much to ask for? She was beginning to think so. It wasn't that she didn't think Mitch was a good guy, but he definitely had problems showing it. His macho-man mentality really got in the way sometimes. What was so wrong with her wanting a little romance every once in a while?
She made her way to the bus stop and cringed when it pulled up, brakes squealing. Taking a seat near the back, she stuffed her earphones in her ears and leaned back, preparing herself for the twenty-five minute ride to her block, trying to ignore any thoughts of Mitch and the annoying feeling of wet hair down her back.
Bored, her eyes scanned the bus. It was relatively empty for a weekday morning, and there were only a few other people scattered among the seats. Her eyes caught a young man a few seats away, fiddling with an envelope, turning it over and over in his hands. His brown eyes looked sad from where Lindy was sitting and every once in a while he'd glance down, as if trying to make sure that the envelope was still there, that he hadn't lost it.
She continued to watch him on and off for the rest of the bus ride, until he stood up to get off a few stops before her own. He had never stopped twirling that envelope. She stared in amusement as he shoveled papers and a few pens into his backpack, finally stopping to stuff the envelope from earlier inside. Without even zipping the bag, the man tossed it onto his shoulder and hurried to the front of the bus as if he couldn't wait to get off.
As he was making his way toward the door, the envelope he'd been holding fell from his backpack, sliding under the seat in front of her. Before she could even open her mouth to let him know that he'd dropped it, his back had disappeared into the crowd on the busy sidewalk.
She glanced around at the other passengers, and, satisfied that no one was paying her any attention, leaned forward and reached to pick it up. She turned it over in her hands, like the man had done, and noticed the address printed neatly across the front.
There was no return address on the envelope, only the addressee. 13823 Broken Arrow Lane, Spring, Texas.
Lindy shrugged, not recognizing the street name or the town. Then again, she had never been to Texas before.
Before she could think better, she slipped a finger into the envelope and pulled out the letter that had been folded inside of it. As soon as the wrinkled paper was free, however, a wave of guilt flushed over her at the thought that she was about to read someone else's mail. Still, what was she supposed to do with it? Throw it away? With the way the man had been holding onto the damn thing, she would have thought it was probably valuable to him.
She thought about leaving it on the bus without reading it, but was sure that the driver would throw it away once his shift for the day was over. That, or someone else would pick it up and read it. She couldn't have that.
If anyone was going to have the letter, it should have been her. She wasn't going to read it. No, that wasn't her place. She was going to keep her nose out of other people's business and simply lick a stamp and stuff it into the mailbox at her apartment complex. The man would probably be relieved that the letter was going to make it to its destination and she could rid herself of the guilt she was feeling for almost opening it.
She nodded to herself. Yeah, that was what she would do. She zipped open her backpack and stuffed the letter inside her accounting textbook, making a mental note to drop by the Post Office on her way to class in the morning.
"Lindy, come on," Mitch said, shaking his head. "I forgot! I'm sorry!"
Lindy sighed and rested her head in her hands, her hair flowing over her fingertips. "You're always sorry, Mitch."
"Look, I got caught up at Joey's and the next thing I knew it was 11:00 and I was an hour late to pick you up. I never would have done that on purpose, Lin." Mitch was shaking his head furiously as if he was trying to prove that he was telling the truth. "I never would have done that on purpose, and you know it."
She did know. Mitch wouldn't hurt her on purpose, but then again, he'd never been the most sensitive one in the bunch. "Whatever. It doesn't matter. I made it home and that's the end of it, okay?"
Mitch sighed, but nodded in agreement, ready to drop the argument. "Alright. I really am sorry."
She nodded. "It's fine."
"Well let me make it up to you," he said, standing up and walking over to her, pulling her hands into his own. "Let's go out to lunch and spend the rest of the day together. We can do whatever you want. I just want to make it up to you." She watched him as he pleaded with her, his eyes on hers. "Please?"
She shrugged. "Alright. But I don't want to be gone too long, because I have a lot of homework."
He smiled and watched her as she unpacked her school bag, pulling thick books one after another and piling them on the bed. Little by little his smile started to disappear. "God, is that all you ever do?" He asked, disdain in his voice. "Study?"
Lindy scowled. "Well," she said, looking at him. "Some of us actually want to graduate some day."
He rolled his eyes and plopped down on the bed next to her stack of books, sending half of them tumbling to the floor. "I do want to graduate," he said. "Just not tomorrow or anything. I swear, Lin, it's like you bury yourself in homework for the fun of it."
"Right, because I'm not trying to get a degree or anything?" She sighed loudly. "Look, Mitch. Actually, I have a lot of work to do this afternoon. Maybe we can just take a rain check on this whole date business, alright?"
Mitch watched her, his eyes trailing her as she paced across the room. He frowned. "Fine," he said with a shrug. "But there's a party down at Calder Field tonight. You'll be done studying by then, right?"
She scoffed at that. "Oh yeah, exactly what I want to do on a Monday night. Get shitfaced and make an idiot out of myself." She rolled her eyes. "No thanks. I'll leave that one up to you."
"Oh, I forgot. You're too busy trying to pull the stick from your ass to have a good time." He glared at her as he stood up from her bed, sending the rest of her books to the floor. The envelope from earlier skittered across the floor, stopping at Mitch's feet as Lindy looked away, angry.
She didn't respond, nor did she turn around. If Mitch wanted to be a jerk, then she was going to be just as much of a jerk back to him. She sat down at her desk and flipped her computer on, listening as the springs of her bed creaked as Mitch sat down again. He was entirely too quiet for just having an argument and, wearily, she turned around.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
He looked over at her and the look on his face sent her mind reeling. He was holding the letter from the bus in his hands, the color drained from his face. "So this is what you've been doing all this time? You say you're studying and then you…you cheat on me? With Jeff? Who the hell is Jeff?" He stood up again, crumpling the paper and tossing the letter in Lindy's face. "I really thought you were different. I thought that I could be…that you…no, wait. I actually don't give a shit. You know what, Lindy? No one cheats on Mitchell Harbinger! No one."
She watched as he stalked from her apartment, slamming the door behind him. Lindy shook her head, unable to grasp what had just happened.
Her eyes caught the letter on the ground at her feet and she sighed, bending down to pick it up. Straightening it out, she scanned the first few sentences and fell to the bed, her knees shaking. She was holding a love letter. To someone called "Green Eyes."
A love letter that most definitely wasn't hers. That Mitch had thought was hers. "Idiot," she mumbled, turning the letter over in her hands. "I don't even have green eyes."
The thought crossed her mind to simply fold it back up and mail it tomorrow, like she'd planned, but…well, she had to read the damn thing now, didn't she? She began in on the letter, crossing her legs at the ankles.
I have a confession to make.
I have written you 213 letters over the past year, each one of them to try to explain to you how I feel. Last night I pulled them out and counted each and every one of them and I realized then that if I could think of 213 different ways to tell you that I love you in a letter, I could walk right up to you and say it to your face. It was the first time that I'd ever even considered the idea.
Only problem is, it's too late. You're gone. You've been gone, with him, for some time now, and I'm not sure that even if I had the chance, anything I have to say now would make a difference. I'd like to think that it would, though. I'd like to think that I didn't mistake the look in those green eyes of yours on the day you left.
I've come to terms with the fact that I can't tell you that I love you to your face, and instead, I'm writing you this 214th letter. This last letter.
I know that I can't promise you a perfect life. I can't do a lot of things that Hallmark cards and Prince Charmings can do, but I can love you. Completely, absolutely, one hundred percent. Forever.
That's a promise I can make.
I've missed you so much since you've been gone, Green Eyes. Come home. Come home and tell me you love me. I have 213 other letters with your name on them to tell you the same.
I love you,
Lindy's eyes stung with unshed tears as she read the letter over for a second and third time. She thought of the young man on the bus, with his sad eyes and nervous hands, and tried to imagine what he must have been feeling.
She wondered if he had been on his way to mail the letter.
Her mind wandered to Mitch and how he'd stalked out of her apartment a few minutes before, and she knew that he wasn't the kind of guy that would write 214 letters to a girl he loved. She wasn't even sure that he would write one. She shook her head and tried to focus on anything but him.
She couldn't understand why this "Green Eyes" would ever want to be apart from Jeff, let alone with another man, but then again, she wasn't sure what kind of relationship the two had. It seemed to her, though, that there was something there.
No one could love someone that much without there being something there. Right?
She sighed and leaned back on the bed, the letter crumpled between her fingers. Was it really her place to mail a letter so personal? What if he'd only written it as some way to get closure? What if he hadn't planned on sending it at all? After all, she had plenty of letters stuffed in a box under her bed that she'd never sent.
Then again, she didn't put them in envelopes and address them, either.
It was settled then. Lindy knew that whoever "Green Eyes" was, she didn't deserve to miss out on someone like Jeff, if that was what she wanted. She would give her the opportunity to see what she was missing.
She would mail the letter.
The bus was crowded that morning as she rode to class, so when she stepped out of the science building later on and saw Mitch's truck parked at the curb, she was almost relieved.
Then she remembered the conversation they'd had the day before and rolled her eyes.
"Lindy!" He called out from inside the cab. "Come on, I'll give you a ride!"
She sighed loudly and hitched her bag higher on her shoulder. "No thank you," she said, shaking her head. She started down the sidewalk and did her best to ignore him as he drove alongside her.
"Come on, baby. Just get in. I know the letter wasn't to you. You don't even have green eyes!" He was leaning halfway across the seat and she stopped walking so he wouldn't crash. That was the last thing she needed on her conscience.
She already felt a little guilty for mailing a stranger's love letter.
"You just now realized this, Mitch?" She asked, hands on her hips. Why did it have to be so difficult with him?
He looked down, a faint blush on his cheeks. "I got mad, Lin. I got mad and I overreacted without thinking, and I'm sorry. Please get in. I'll take you home."
Lindy glanced down the street, a few blocks away, to the crowded bus stop. She really didn't feel like riding the bus. Not to mention, she knew that if she were face-to-face with Jeff, she wouldn't be able to help but blurt out to him how she'd found his letter and how she'd thought it was the sweetest thing in the world.
And that she'd mailed it for him. She wasn't sure that he would like that much.
"Fine," she said, reaching for the handle of the truck door. "But this doesn't mean that I forgive you for saying I have a stick up my ass." She climbed in and tossed her bag to the floorboard and crossed her arms over her chest.
"I'm sorry," Mitch said, reaching to place a hand on her shoulder. "I really am. I should have let you explain."
She nodded. "Yeah, you should have. And you should have come to pick me up, too, but you didn't."
Mitch slowed his truck to a stop at a red light. "You're right," he said softly. "I know I was wrong. Lindy, I...yesterday I realized that..."
Lindy cut him off. "Why should I even waste my time, Mitch? Are you even interested in a relationship with me, or am I just…"
He held up his hands in protest. "No! No! Of course I'm interested in a relationship with you! Why do you think I got so mad when I found that letter? Lindy, I…" He stopped and sighed, running a hand through his black hair. "I know I haven't been all that great to you...and, well, I've never been good at this sort of thing, but...I think I'm falling in love with you."
Lindy stopped fidgeting with her backpack and turned towards him, her mouth open. "What?"
He turned away from her to stare out the windshield. "I've never felt this way before. I mean…never. I know that I'm not the most romantic guy in the world, but I want to make it up to you. All this time I've been pressuring you to be someone you're not and I was just ignoring the fact that I fell in love with the person you are. I...you make me want to be a better person, Lin. I wish I were just...half as intelligent as you, half as determined to get what I want. I don't want to lose you. I know that I've always been too concerned about myself but…yesterday…I mean, when I thought you were…" He stopped and groaned. "This isn't coming out right."
Lindy continued staring at him. No, it wasn't coming out right. But then again, if it hadn't come out right the first 213 times Jeff had tried to tell Green Eyes that he loved her, why would it be any different for Mitch? She may have been jumping into things, but the sincerity in Mitch's voice reassured her. He had never been good at their relationship, but he was trying. She understood what he was trying to say, and it warmed her from the inside out. They may have been complete opposites and Lindy knew she may have given him more chances than he deserved, but she couldn't ignore the loud thump of her heart as she turned the idea of being with Mitch over in her mind. He had always been different from the other guys she'd been with - that was what she loved so much about him. How could she hold that against him? And when he was trying so hard to win her over? She looked up and met his eyes.
"Mitch," she began. "I know how hard it is to tell someone you love them." She grinned. "Trust me."
Three weeks later.
"I hate riding the bus," Mitch grumbled, reaching down to grab Lindy's hand as they climbed onto the bus one after the other. "Why can't we take my truck again?"
Lindy rolled her eyes and scooted into a seat. "I already told you, Mitch. There's never a parking spot at Nina's during lunch time."
Mitch sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, whatever. But don't say I never did anything for you." He nudged her gently with his elbow and sent her a mischievous wink, sending Lindy's pulse aflutter. He sure could turn on the charm.
She grinned and shook her head. No, she couldn't really say that.
The past three weeks had been like night and day between the two of them. He'd been more caring and understanding, not to mention infinitely more romantic. Instead of ditching her for his friends, he'd made an effort to spend time with her after class, helping her study - or distracting her from studying - whenever he could. Instead of parties every other night, they shared takeout on the couch and saved the parties for the weekend. Not to mention the sweet notes he'd leave inside of her books for her to find during class, or the promise he'd made to take school more seriously. While he most definitely wasn't perfect, he loved her. He loved her and she believed that he really meant it, and that was all that mattered. It may have been fast and sloppy, but she still felt the same.
She leaned back in the seat and listened as Mitch started talking about plans for the weekend, but she let her mind wander as she glanced around the bus. It was habit. Every time she got on the bus, she looked for Jeff.
She hadn't seen him since she'd mailed the letter three weeks before.
She and Mitch made small talk as the bus traveled through the city, stopping at a routine spot in front of the university they went to.
Lindy glanced out the window quickly and thought nothing of the young couple boarding the very bus she was on, but when the two of them passed, hand in hand, Lindy looked up.
It was Jeff and a very pretty girl with the prettiest, greenest eyes she'd ever seen.
Author's Note - I got the idea for this story while I was browsing PostSecret. If you're not familiar with it, it's a website where people write all kinds of their "secrets" on postcards and send them in to this address in Maryland. The guy that runs the site posts new ones each week, and let me tell you, there are some seriously amazing postcards on this site. You won't believe some of the secrets people have. There are funny secrets, sad secrets, life changing secrets...
Anyways, this one particular card I found read as follows:
Dear Stranger, I found the crumpled envelope containing the love letter you wrote for "Rachel" and didn't send. I read it (sorry!) so I know just how much you love her. The envelope was already addressed, so...I mailed it to her. If I were her, I'd love you back.
If you're interested in the website, I have a link to PostSecret in my profile! Thanks for reading!
* This story has been nominated for an SKoW Award for the "Best Oneshot" category! Thanks to whoever nominated me! Don't forget to check out the other nominees and vote! The link to the SKoW website is in my profile! Thanks guys!