Category Archives: creative fiction

A Letter To My Future Husband

When I set out to write you this, I turned to Google. You probably expected that already, seeing as I am a searcher – of answers, of goodness, of guides.

I thought our letter would be tucked deep down on page 15 of the search results, not yet discovered by even the most devout Internet crawlers. But I know it won’t. I know it has to look different from any other letter out there, because I imagine we’ll be different from any other couple out there.

There will be parts of me to learn over and over, like sifting grains of sand again and again to get to the finest particles until, finally, you know me. And I you.

But in the meantime, in this not-yet-something part of our lives, I’d like to say a few things.

I’m going to be hard to know. At first, you will have me pinned as the kind of girl who is just small and quiet. I can assure you that is not the case. There are not enough square feet inside me to hold every dream, every fear, every hope of mine. But I’m so glad you’ve decided to learn them one by one.

Isn’t that the only way to learn someone?

I hope you’re both apologetic and stubborn. I hope we both are, standing our ground when necessary but compassionate when we’ve done wrong. I hope we admit those moments, rather than build them inside until we cannot breathe without spilling them all over the house, like socks falling out of the laundry basket as I haul it up the stairs.

This is not about me. I don’t want to find myself knee deep in a monologue of things you’ve done—or not done—over the last day, week, year. I’d like it to be about us. The decisions we make and the ones we wish we didn’t have to settle on.

I am an expert at worrying. Plenty of people will tell you that. I just hope, if my cousin leans over at the rehearsal dinner and whispers it in your ear, it’s not the first time you’ve heard that. I hope you’ve already figured out how to settle me when I am sure, so very sure, the world is ending. Good news: the supposed apocalypse will have already happened before we wed.

You’re getting the family package. It’s me, my sister, my parents, my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and those friends of mine who have been in my life since I was 13 and more awkward than the Disney Channel has led you to believe. And we will be welcoming, so welcoming, but protective like whoa.

And lastly, I must tell you, my heart belongs to the New York Giants. I hope you’re OK with that.

With Love & Hope,

Kaleigh

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Truth In Fiction: The Sticky, Heart-Shattering Stories

I had a story for you, but it wasn’t mine. And not that they are all mine, that I am in the business of hoarding these absolutely self-absorbed and metaphored fragments, but some stories are like windshield cracks—ready, at any moment, to spiderweb outward and cave in and leave you sitting in a pile of shattered glass.

I have a feeling this story is one of those, so I’ll let it live inside my heart.

But that’s the question I’m playing ping pong with. Do we write them down—the stories over which we may never take ownership—and live with the guilt of that when somebody calls up and says they’d like to know about the details between the paragraphs?

Do we sit across from them in chrome-lined cushioned booths and say that it was about a girl who got off at the same subway station some odd years ago, a photograph of our mother’s first grade class picture maybe, that sparked the first sentence?

Do we let the lines of truth bleed into our fiction? Let his cracked knuckles, her eyebrow piercing, the way they say the word “wooder” when what they really mean is “water” work it’s way into the conversation. Give them the pieces you can afford to shed, the ones that won’t open doors that lead to windows that lead to the retractable attic stairs holding not just ghosts but everything you shoved up there before you hrumphed and locked it good.

Or maybe we say yes. Yes, there was a girl in the diner who said my name so sweetly I felt compelled to buy a slice of apple pie a la mode from her every Monday night. Yes, that newsboy did once knock my middle-aged husband out when he flung the paper too hard. Yes, it did hit him square in the eye and cause him to stumble into the porch column.

No, she didn’t sing my name when she said it. I only wish she would have. No, he didn’t have a black eye for weeks. I only wish the boy had better aim.

Maybe that’s where the magic lies—in the mystery, the sheer hope, that some girl out there sings sweetly when she says your name, that she always warms your apple pie, that some town out there still has boys on bikes delivering the New York Times.

Maybe I’m too afraid, with the world as fragile as it is, to take away the hope that comes with naivete. Maybe I’m too afraid to replace it with the truth, leaving you with nothing to fill in but honesty. Nothing to muse over but sincerity. Nothing to ponder while you syrup your Belgian waffle but veracity.

Or maybe it isn’t for you at all. Maybe it is for the girl who sits in that diner, waiting for someone to come back time and again so she can feel wanted. Maybe it is for the boy who always hits the planter and keeps having to truck to Lowe’s to buy a replacement for the poor old lady whose granddaughter just desperately wants her to grow some geraniums.

Maybe it’s for the ones I’m protecting, the stories so real that they shatter your heart, the details too complicated to sift through in 500 words or less.

Maybe, I would like you to believe, all our stories can be told and retold and you will find what you need in them. Maybe I am afraid of the stories that don’t end well, that don’t sum up nicely, that don’t leave you feeling like today? I can do this. I can.

You can. Find the stories that know you can.

November Discoveries

November, I’ll be honest, was the longest short month of my entire semester. Not because of schoolwork, but because I watched people around me recover from at least five deaths, hold onto wishes and hopes that might not pan out, and just generally feel lonely. I’m hoping to bring them (and you all) a list to cheer your spirits.

Let’s begin.

So Worth Loving. The organization will write that phrase all over your favorite, well-worn t-shirt if you mail it to them. I’ve been a follower since the summer, but just this week they launched their official website and they now have their own merch, so if you’re not ready to give up your favorite item of clothing, you can buy something else.

Figment Fiction Short Story Contest. Figment’s a YA writing community & forum (that my 14-year-old cousin and I fell in love with last December when we decided I needed to work there). The company’s paired up with Seventeen Magazine & Scholastic for a short story contest and you only have to write 500 words. In fact, no exceeding that limit or you’re DQ’ed. I entered and am hoping to be among the top 60 finalists, but obviously if you’re a girl between 13 and 21 you best get your pen and paper and write your heart out for the contest, too.

Kerry’s Victoria Secret post. I am not a VS basher, by any means, and my roommates actually ran in my room asking me to go to VS while I was reading this, but I think it’s something that needs to be said. And I think Kerry’s got a way with words. I’ll preface it with this: you are not a model and we love you for that. You have curves and you should not starve yourself–your body is your fuel.

50 People, One Question – New York. OK, this video’s legit three years old, but I just discovered it and found myself wanting to seek out these individuals and tell them how charming and real and honest they were for the camera. This project asks each stranger the same question: “What do you hope to happen by the end of the day?” The answers are almost as colorful as the beautiful souls on screen.

More Love Letters

12 Days of Love Letter Writing. Hosted by the fabulous More Love Letters, the project’s going on from Monday to December 17. One mini package (or giant, if you all get in on it) of love letters for each recipient will bring some warmth and comfort during this month and I’m giddy over the chance to write a letter for one of the days (so be on the lookout for that, too).

A Year in New York. This video is beautiful and I cannot say anything other than that. If you love the city, you will love tracking through it from the eyes of this filmmaker.

Thank you, I won’t let you down. This post from Danielle LaPorte broke my heart and put it back together. It’s inspired by a clip from an X-Factor audition and the girl in the video just shines with personality, voice, sass and, most of all, gratitude. This is what talent’s all about, guys.

Coming Soon: I’ve developed a super secret list of seven wonderful women who—in 140 characters or less—have taught me a thing or two about life, love and growing up. December’s posts (beginning on Monday) will be dedicated to unveiling each lesson, one at a time, and the woman behind it. Prepare for total inspiration.

“Do not return to sender. Under any circumstances.”

I imagine there must be a whole storage unit somewhere in the desert dedicated to Unusable Things.

A stack of journals from your adolescent self, the one who believed in flying by the seat of her pants in all situations. An empty heart-shaped picture frame. Dried up rose petals. A rope necklace with a silver heart, a woven bracelet from an exotic place.

They stack up over time, piling into cluttered corners until every cubic inch of that climate-controlled facility is taken up by the Things that Break Hearts.

I could write a book and fill it with what each object means, each story hidden beneath the crooks of that seamless metal heart charm, every broken promise lying inside the back cover of that picture frame.

It would be enough to shock the world, knowing the way we hold onto things we’ll never use again because of the way its been tainted.

The can opener you used the first time you made him tomato soup on the stove. The pens he leant you when you were too cheap to buy your own at Staples for a dollar. The ear buds you meant to return but just forgot. The t-shirt that got kicked under your bed and never saw the light of day again.

All the objects, innocently enough, tried to be ordinary household items.

But we’re moving out, packing our necessities into boxes, when that shirt sees the light of the day for the first time in years. And it still smells like him: sweet sweat and a hint of cologne.

We can’t make a can of soup or look too closely at that scar on our wrist from the time he accidentally missed the colander and poured scalding water onto our arm.

So we do what we do best: we pack up those unusable things and ship them off.

Where do the plates that aren’t just plates go? The heart-shaped picture frames that were meant for only two smiling faces?

What about the shirts we can’t bear to bring to Goodwill or the half-eaten bag of M&Ms pushed to the back of the pantry?

How do we collect the little moments and pile them into the backs of our cars and drive them off a cliff when they seem so innocent and average?

Maybe we don’t.

Maybe we purchase a storage unit in the middle of sunny Arizona and ship them all out there with a note that says, “Do not return to sender. Under any circumstances.”

Maybe we pray our aunt who lives on the other side of the country has an empty shelf in her china closet waiting for all the things we couldn’t bear to keep.

Maybe.

The Girl Who Saved The Postal Service

packaged letters bundle

via weheartit.com

The moment she heard the news, she ran outside and got into her car.

She drove the thirteen miles to the nearest Target, slammed the driver’s side door shut, and raced inside.

Grabbed a red plastic basket — she was going to need it.

It wasn’t until she reached the stationery section that she broke down and cried.

A young mother with an antsy toddler in the front seat of plastic carts slowed her steps to raise an eyebrow at the girl on hands and knees, scooping packs of blank note cards into her basket.

She filled it to the brim with all the supplies she needed to fight the system: packs of pens, blank invitations and thank-you notes, note cards and envelopes.

The cashier at the checkout counter, a sweet old man with the smile the size of Kentucky, scanned each item and placed them gingerly in the bag.

“You heard what they’re saying on the television, right?” he said. “About the postal service?”

“I heard.” She bounced up and down on her heels, rubbed her hands over her biceps. “Uh huh. I heard.”

“It’s not gonna shut down right now,” he assured her. “Been around since the country’s founding and it’s not going anywhere.”

She ignored this.

“I figure if I send at least fifty letters to fifty people, and those fifty people send fifty letters, that’s already thousands of letters in the mail. That’s already thousands of people having a conversation.”

“You kids these days.” He laughed and handed her a receipt. “You think you can just do something small and it’s going to matter to the higher-ups. The government’s a big mess. A big self-centered mess.”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “All those government people, they all have family too.”

He handed her one of the bags.

“So they want to keep in touch with their families. They want to get a handwritten note still on their birthdays.”

“Honey,” he said. “My family stopped sending me birthday cards almost 50 years ago.”

“What’s your name?”

She reached into her bag and pulled out a sticky note pad and a pen.

He tapped his nametag. Carl. New Team Member etched underneath.

“Well, Carl New Team Member, I’m going to add you to my list.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” he said.

“I’m not. I think you know 50 people who want a letter. I think you can save the postal service.”

And then she exited the store, hauling her bags to the car.

It was raining outside when she got back to her house. She darted to the front door, juggled her house keys and slipped inside.

Then she sat down, wrote straight through the night.

When her wrist ached and her eyes closed, she thought about the generation after her. The generation dedicated to text messages deleted every two years when they traded in for new phones. She thought about her own pile of letters, crumpled and stained at the bottom of her desk drawer.

She could smell the parchment, feel the pages beneath her fingertips. She didn’t know what would happen if she didn’t have that.

She waited until the sun came up before she walked the mile to her driveway and stuffed the mailbox full. She raised the red flag on the side and waited, dazed, worried the mailman wouldn’t come. 

Hannah Brencher believes the world needs more love letters. Don’t let this beautiful project die because Congress won’t bail out the postal service. Write a handwritten note today.