With Just A Hint Of Lilac

With Just A Hint Of Lilac

A young man receives a letter whose envelope bears the unmistakable handwriting of a former lover.

The mail arrived with a thump through the letterbox. A letter for me, stuck to a small carefully boxed parcel.

I hadn’t ordered anything in months, so the parcel was completely unexpected. So, in truth, was the letter. The lilac handwriting on the front was entirely unmistakable: Suzanne. She’d always had a way of writing with an impeccably refined flourish in each and every letter.

We hadn’t spoken in forever, not since Paddington. A letter from her was just as much a gut punch now as watching her disappear then.

The letter was incongruous enough but a parcel?

Taking a sharp knife, I gently slid it through the tape, revealing a small bottle of nail polish. Dusky emerald. Not my thing, certainly not Suzanne’s colour anyway. She’d always been more lavenders and lilacs.

I turned the parcel over, realizing it was accidentally stuck to Suzanne’s envelope… the parcel was actually my neighbour’s. She’d understand – she’d remember how I felt about Suzanne leaving.

That just left Suzanne’s trademark lilac sitting proudly on the cream envelope. It was only then that I noticed the traditional international air-mail stripes. I didn’t recognize the stamps… somewhere European maybe.

I stared, wondering what had happened after watching Suzanne disappear out of Paddington station, out of my life – and out of the country as well.

She’d said she’d wanted to travel. I should have gone.

I needed a cigarette. Something about Suzanne meant I’d never entirely kicked the habit. I hadn’t had one in months but I kept a packet in the drawer anyway. Like I might need it someday.

That tiny sizzle as the end catches alight burning the paper, a signal to the brain that something is coming.

I tore into the envelope, with a determination of purpose to understand what brought Suzanne back into my orbit: a letter, folded over, with a hard shape inside.

The shape was a laminated card, an expensive-looking hotel in Germany, with date and time scrawled underneath in purple. No plane ticket, nor reservation. But still, the letter.

She’d remembered her nickname for me, and revealed her hopes the letter would still find me, how she simply had to send it. Paragraphs about what she’d been up to, where she’d been –as matter-of-factly as if she were telling me about a night out.

I wanted her to be here right now. I wanted to be hearing her tell me this story as if it were just one of those nights.

The letter spelled out a lot. The card was the wedding venue. I wasn’t officially invited, but she said she thought it very important to tell me where it would be anyway.

She wanted to know what I’d do. Whether I’d be there to gate-crash with some wild romantic notion where I didn’t hold my peace for the wedding because I still loved her. She pointedly wasn’t asking in so many words.

My cigarette burned itself away as I re-read the letter, fiddling with the card.


Contest Entry

NYC Midnight 500-word Fiction Challenge 2023 (1st Round)
Originally written
August 27, 2023
Story prompt
Genre - suspense and/or thriller, action - opening someone else's mail, object - nail polish
500 words in 48 hours starting midnight on Saturday, August 26
Other notes
Did not place in top 15 in group.

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