Flash Fiction: Birthday Gift

You’re right. I could’ve used my own pen and paper. Me not sending her this could’ve stopped all the heartache Eleanor would experience on her birthday. I don’t blame her. She couldn’t have known my letter would send her into a tailspin but without an airplane. This unfortunate event happened twenty years from the day she turned ten. Hindsight is always better especially if you stand in front of the bowling pins and not behind them as her brother would say when something didn’t go your way. Your odds improve if all twelve are there and when the ball hits the pins, they stay in your lane is an added bonus. The problem is they strayed into the other lanes. This is what Eleanor realized on her thirtieth, thanks to her brother’s unsolicited comments after she read my letter. Well, actually it was two days after what should’ve been a momentous celebration and instead became a miserable event she disguised as a mere passing occasion, a fleeting moment, if you will. Eleanor had a way with words when she was in pain.

“How else was she to know,” her brother asked me one time during a family picnic. His flavor of the month girlfriend was invited that time. He had an unfortunate name of Heath. His terrible name doesn’t matter in the scheme of things except for me to point out how stupid his parents were to give him this identifier. By the way, I suspect both Eleanor and Heath are gone now, long buried in their expensive coffins, their skeletons hopefully undisturbed but this is only my wish. Their death would never bring me joy, but it would give me a little bit of peace. I’m not the caring husband or brother-in-law they saw me. Shortly before her birthday, I had mailed a letter explaining myself to her, detailing who I truly was without divulging too much, and giving her opportunity to respond. She erred in opening it later than sooner. I’m no expert on male and female relationships but I know this: had she opened it the day she got it, she would be alive today. The rest of her life might be with a missing leg or wheelchair bound but still breathing.

These types of human mysteries are only viewed as good for the survivors. The rest find it less comforting as they take their last breaths. As I followed Eleanor into the bowling alley, I couldn’t help but think how easy this assignment had become over time. Getting close to someone and gaining the trust of their loved ones was like taking oxygen into my lungs. To hell with how much I could engage and when I should disengage from the target. My eyes didn’t blink when they died. I watched them to make sure their eyes were glassy. When the means deviated as had this time, the final end only mattered. My daily routine was predictable up until I received a letter from Daphne. That looked a lot like Eleanor’s handwriting. It couldn’t be. Could it? Should I have used my own pen and paper? Probably.

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