Fiction Series: Love by the Numbers Part 1
156 letters. One for every week that he was gone. 156 letters that told me how much he loved me. 156 letters that begged me to wait for him. 156 letters that promised he’d never leave me again. I never cared that three years was 156 weeks, until I had a letter for every one of them. I never cared about letters until he was writing them to me. And then I watched for the mailman. I craved the sharpness of the envelope edges on my fingers; my heart beat for my name, written in black ink, in his barely legible scrawl across the front.
My family laughed at us, made jokes, but the letters were our love. I loved reading his words as he wrote them, without spell check and Autocorrect, his hesitation as he thought about how to word his feelings. His heart was open on the pages, spilled by his own hand, and I only fell deeper in love even as I missed him even more desperately. When I had 156 letters, it was time for him to come home.
I met him at the gate, both nervous and excited. He was wearing the same clothes they’d taken him away in, a dark blue polo, jeans and Nike Airmax sneakers. He was bulkier, more sturdy. And even though his eyes had a film of sadness I doubted I’d ever be able to lift, he smiled when he saw me. I got out of the car and ran to him. He held out his arms and gathered me in, lifting slightly. My feet left the ground and I gasped in surprise. Though he’d relished and reveled in every inch of my thickness for as long as I’d known him, the “him” from 156 weeks ago had not been able to lift me. I laughed.
“Put me down, before you hurt yourself,” I said. He sat me on the ground and stared at me like he was trying to memorize my face. And maybe, he was.
“Hurt myself? I got you, don’t you worry about that. Now give me some sugar so I can forget about you talking all crazy,” he said back. I grabbed at his shirt and lifted up on my toes. Our lips met, clung. I opened my mouth, sent my tongue into his. I sighed in relief. He growled in remembrance. Passion bloomed and warmed me head to toe. His hands went around me, gripped my ass, squeezed. I remembered him telling me, years ago, that kisses weren’t kisses unless you used your hands and mouth. We explored each other’s mouths leisurely, getting reacquainted. Our kisses were wet, slow, and passionate. I wanted a hug, and his clothes off simultaneously. Finally, he pulled away.
“I missed you, Ree,” he whispered to me. I smiled. No one else called me Ree. No one else was allowed to.
“I missed you,” I whispered back. I grabbed his hand and tugged him over to the car. He got in and I ran around to the driver’s side and got in too. I turned to look at him, all chocolate brown and handsome. My heart skipped a beat. 156 weeks. 156 letters. And now he was home.
When we got to the house, we went straight to the bedroom. He undressed me, putting his mouth every place he revealed. I wanted fast love, instant gratification. My pussy ached for him. It’d been 156 weeks, after all. He slowed me down, made me wait, told me my patience would pay off. And it did. My legs over his shoulders as he tasted my cream for nearly an hour. My voice, hoarse from screaming his name, bite marks and hickeys on my ass, neck, breasts, stomach. Every orifice filled as I sobbed and screamed my way into a countless number of orgasms. He fulfilled every filthy promise he wrote in those letters, and emptied his essence into me over and over, fulfilling his last promise. Because in Letter Number 156, the last one before he’d come home, he’d also promised me a baby.
The job market was a tough place after 156 weeks. And with the proof of where he'd been hanging over his head, it was discouraging. But he wouldn't give up. I wanted to start our business plan, map out details. I wanted him to chase the secret dreams he'd written to me about in Letter 37. That we'd revisited in Letter 85, and Letter 122. I wanted him to grab onto his full potential. But all he wanted… was work. Something to bring in money, something to show my family, show me, that he was capable of more than writing letters. I was willing to wait. I wanted to save his spirit. But he needed to save his pride.
Our days were filled with quiet holds, and comfortable silence. It was almost as though we’d run out of words. And I guess 156 letters will make you feel like you have. Our only noise… was the nights. Our nights were filled with passionate sex, moans and screams and grunts and whimpers. Begging and promises and sighs of completion. It was the best noise. But it was the only noise. I tried not to be afraid of the silence. But while he reveled in the comfort that the silence of home was better than the noise and violence from whence he’d come, to me, the silence only represented--alone. A lone woman hoping for a miracle in her mailbox. To me, the silence was him not there, and I had trouble seeing it any other way, even though I was seeing him, with my own eyes.
He didn’t leave the house except to look for work, and wouldn’t let me give him a homecoming celebration when I asked. For him, the reason he’d been away didn’t warrant a celebratory welcome home. I, was worried. I didn’t need his guilt. I needed his confidence, his happiness. I needed the man who told me he’d be back to lead our household in Letter 47, the man who promised in Letter 99 that he’d walk with me down by the water and shout to every passerby that I was the love of his life. I understood where he’d been. I knew it was a place where joy was hidden, rationed. I knew why he’d put it away. I knew he’d had to… for survival. But now he was home. And I wanted the joy he’d managed to hold, so we could create more. I needed it. But he barely gave me a glimpse. It was as though he was keeping it close to the chest. It was as though he was afraid he’d lose it again.
“Let’s go out to dinner,” I said as I came into the living room. He was on my laptop, searching through dozens of job posts like he did every day. I walked up to him, and he stopped, turning his attention to me. He rubbed my thigh, kissed it through my leggings. He shoved the chair back and pulled me into his lap. I straddled him, rubbed his chest. Our lips met, and I pressed closer. We opened our mouths and our tongues danced. I sighed, rubbed his head and ears. I pulled back, smiled.
“Why you wanna go out, huh? You know we need to save money, Ree,” he said, his voice quiet, gentle. I frowned.
“We can afford a dinner out, baby. It’s just one,” I said, pouting. He laughed.
“We can afford it when I’m working.”
“No. We’re good now. And I want you to get out of this house. I want us to have some fun. I want you to see… what you’ve been missing,” I said. He sighed.
“Only thing I was missing was you, Ree. That’s the only thing about my life that I missed. You’re the only thing I need,” he said back.
“In your first letter, you promised everything would be normal when you came home. Letter Number One. You started out making promises. And that was your first one. You said nothing would change. Letter Number One. You gotta prove it to me,” I said. He sighed and stared at me. There was so much love in his eyes, so much hope, but so much fear. I wondered what he was so afraid of, but I knew it wasn’t the right time to ask. Then, he smiled.
“Okay,” he said. I grinned and threw my arms around his neck, kissing him. Later, we went to dinner. We strolled by the river, we kissed and laughed and held hands. It was just like Letters 62 and 99 said it would be. It was just like I imagined and wanted. It was everything.
A month passed. Two. He didn’t find a job. He grew unhappier, more afraid. His joy seemed like it was permanently tucked away, hidden from me forever. The film of sadness over his eyes seemed thicker, more impenetrable. I didn’t know how to reach him. We fought, because he wanted to stray away, go back into making money in the same way that had him writing me those letters in the first place.
“Ree, it’ll just be for a little while. I just want to take care of you!”
“I have 156 reasons why it’s a bad idea. I have 156 letters that you wrote! You said in Letter Number One that I would get you back, but you also said you’d never leave again. You’d never make me doubt you. YOU said that!” I yelled back. He stood there, in front of me, nostrils flaring with his anger and frustration, balling his fists.
“You don’t understand,” he said, his voice quiet. And I knew I didn’t. I knew I had no idea what it was like to be him, be a man, in this world. I had no idea what he was going through. But I knew what I’d been through without him. I knew I didn’t want it to happen again. I knew we’d never survive it. I knew my heart couldn’t take 156 more letters. I started sobbing. He turned away, sighed deep, walked out the door. I cried myself to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, he wasn’t beside me. But there was an envelope. I sat up, opened it. He’d written me. Not a letter of apology, not a letter of promises and angst. It was a letter… of our love. He spoke of meeting me, of speaking to me for the first time, of knowing our hearts would connect. He spoke of what we were and could be, and never mentioned the 156 weeks he’d been away. It was a letter of our life, and not his absence. It was a new beginning.
When I got downstairs, he was sitting at my laptop, perusing job posts like he did every day. My 156 letters were stacked beside him, with the shredder set up next to him on the floor. He looked at me, smiled. I smiled back. I held up the envelope.
“What’s this?” I said to him. He took the first letter from the stack, put it through the shredder.
“It’s Letter Number One!” he said, “the only Letter Number One. And there’s more to come.”