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Mr. Fiction | Open Novella Contest By Agatha Rose Characters: 14118

Updated: 2018-03-02 19:44


"People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again."

Being depressed is like falling into a black hole that you can't climb out of. Depression is a wound that never heals. A wound in the back of your mind that can't be touched because it hurts too much. It's always there and never goes away. Constant pain, a constant reminder. Every thought is a battle, every breath is a war, and you will lose on both fronts if you give it a chance.

Depression is a serious thing but you're not entirely hopeless. There is a hope, there's a chance to win the battle. You can't win a battle, let alone a war, on your own, this is why you need your family and friends to help you in a lifelong fight to keep you from sinking. Reach out to others to help you get out of the black hole. You may not be able to climb out alone but you certainly can be pulled out by people who love you.

I reread the epilogue of my new book, Black Hole, displayed on the screen. It's a book that I wrote about Sabrina, a girl who lost her father. Instead of facing his own demon, Sabrina's father took his own life in front of his family, scarring his own daughter for life.

I'm a non-fiction novelist. Most of my stories are about people's experiences. I collect facts through research and interviews, then retell the stories through books. My stories, in turn, memorialize their contributions to life and highlight their suffering and pain. This way, they shall be remembered and hopefully, their story helps someone along the way.

Black Hole isn't my first book, it's my fifth. At the age of sixteen, Simon and Schuster took a chance on my book and published it, turning the experience of losing a friend in a car crash into a bestselling book.

The years have been good to me. Life is great. I have a successful career as a writer, I have two loving parents and one little sister whom I adore with all my heart. They are always there for me and constantly supportive of all my work. All in all, despite my independent nature and age, I lead a successful life by anyone's standards. There's nothing to complain about.

I tap the send button lightly, sending the manuscript straight to my editor, then stretch my body along the leather chair.

Today has been a long day for me. It all started with rereading seventy thousand words that I've written about Sabrina's story, leaving ticks here and there on parts that I wanted to change, and then tried cleaning the attic out but after rummaging through a few boxes, my back began to protest so I stopped and went back to working on the manuscript again.

Now that it's all done, I can finally have more time to finish my house cleaning. The clock on the wall tells me it's seven p.m., just enough time to clean up the boxes scattered all over the living room.

I quickly turn off my computer and walk into the living room through the adjacent door that connects my office to the other parts of my small yet comfortable home.

To be frank, noticing how many boxes are there makes me feel lazy. Yet again, if I'm not going to clean these up, who will?

I roll up my sleeves and take a deep breath, mentally and physically preparing myself for the task at hand.

God, I have a lot of things to do.

I start by simply separating things that I want to keep from things that I'd like to dispose of.

As music always brought me joy, I turn on some music on my phone. In minutes, I find myself humming along with the note of a beautiful classic directed by the amazing Johann Sebastian Bach.

Time flew when we don't pay attention to it. It's close to ten when I finally reach the last box.

This last box, unlike the others, is smaller in size and more colorful on the surface. Carefully, I lift the dusty cap and put it down on the floor as I sit there, cross-legged, on the grey tiled floor.

Most of the things inside are letters and correspondences from my family and friends, a bunch of holiday cards, and an old photograph of my sister and I standing in front of our parents' house in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

I take out the photo and put in on the table, reminding myself that I need to find a nice frame to put it on later. I return my focus to the letters, some were poems that I wrote during my teens. I pick up one and begin to read.

"Gosh, I was such a depressed lost soul, " I mutter to myself as I read several lines about how lousy life was for my thirteen-year-old self.

A strange envelope pique my curiosity, I can't remember ever receiving it. The blue color of the envelope remind me of the summer sky, clear and idyllic. There are no markings or any indication of who the sender is. Intrigued by the discovery, I tear it open.

Before I can pull the content out, a loud noise pierces my ears. The noise comes from the phone on the table. I throw the letters and all the other things back into the box and hurriedly answer the phone.

"Hi, Mom." I smile as I listen to my mom's chatter about Adam Levine and Behati's baby daughter. I plop down on the couch and turn on the TV, changing the channel to E! News and try my best to catch up with her.

This is our daily routine, talking about celebrity's life on the phone while watching it in sync, it almost feels like she is right beside me on the couch, sharing popcorn and pointing fingers, instead of miles away.

For quite a while, it makes me forget about the blue envelope.

* * *

A year later.

His name is Toby Sanders. A twenty-five years old guy, a successful horror novelist who went missing. Everyone thought he was doing his usual research, finding mysteries for his upcoming book.

Sadly it isn't the case at all as he turned up dead the next day in the lake one hundred miles outside the city. He suffered two stabs on the back before he was drowned.

Believing his story is interesting enough to be written, I run around to do my usual research about his life.

I park my car on the side of the road and kill the engine. In front of me is the orphanage where Toby used to live.

The headmistress, Sister Cecilia, finally agreed to the interview.

At first, she was reluctant to share any details, the latest news about Toby's tragic death has caused multiple reporters to show up, banging their door for answers. She clearly didn't need one more person inquiring about the life of Toby Sanders during his stay in Angel's Mercy Orphanage so when she finally gave me a call and told me the change of mind yesterday evening, I couldn't believe my own ears.

I grab my bag, sling it over one shoulder, and get out of the car.

Despite what we see in horror movies, Angel's Mercy Orphanage is a homey and grand place. Tall pines trees elevate from the ground in nearby the gate, forming a path that leads me to the front door.

The orphanage feels like a

nursing home and it doesn't have the creepy vibe I was expecting. The building itself isn't as tall as the building I live in New York City but the three sets of windows above the door tells me that it's four stories tall.

I raise my hand, about to knock on the door, when it suddenly swings open. A nun in her sixties comes out with a clutch in her hand, I quickly take a step back to give her a way instead she stop and stare at me for a full minute before saying, "Juliet, is that you?

I honestly don't know which is creepier, that she stare at me with her narrowed eyes for a period of time or the fact that she only miss one letter of my name. Nonetheless, I try to be pleasant and greet her back. After all, I need the information they have for my next book. "Good morning. My name is Julie. A pleasure to meet you."

"Juliet, " the older lady insists. She raise one hand to cup my face.

Instinctively, I grab her hand with my own. "It's Julie. Julie St. Matthews."

She shakes her head so firmly I'm afraid she might hurt herself. I look past her, searching for a possible help.

"Your name is Juliet Matthias." She drops her clutch and grabs both of my arms. I restrain myself from pulling my arms away, knowing she might fall without my support. "Juliet, it's been a long time since last time I saw you."

I know it's a lost cause but I try to reason with her one more time. "I'm sorry, I think you're mistaking me for someone else. I'm Julie St. Matthews, not Juliet Matthias."

She cries, "No!" while shaking my body further. She keeps telling me, "You're Juliet! Your name is Juliet." As if by saying it multiple times, I will eventually agree with her.

Just when all hope seems but lost, another nun comes to my rescue. "Sister Margareth!" She bend down and takes the crutch. Turning to me, she looks guilty when she says, "I'm so sorry, Miss."

Without another word, she takes Sister Margareth's hands off my arms, which is quite a sweat since she's holding on to me so tight, and finally manages to escort the older nun away.

Even when I can no longer see them, I can still faintly hear Sister Margareth's words like a chant as she keeps telling the younger nurse that I'm Juliet Matthias and I need their help.

Honestly with all the commotion, she makes me wonder how this girl, Juliet Matthias, really looks like. My thoughts, however, are soon interrupted as another nun in her late thirties comes out.

Her face shines brightly, almost as bright as her hair which is hidden beneath her veil but I can see a few strands loose up from their tightened buns on the back of her neck.

Offering me a warm smile, she greets me, clearly knowing who I am and why I am here. "Ms. Matthews, welcome." She motions me to follow her.

The front room from where Sister Margareth comes is a living room with three sofas and a small table in the middle. There are fresh red roses placed in a vase made of glass on top of the table, giving me the impression that they probably grow rose bushes somewhere in their garden and just cut the flowers this morning.

She leads me to a wooden door and holds it open for me. A huge space with one blackwood table and three chairs tells me that this is the headmistress office. It looks nothing out of the ordinary, just like any other office I've ever walked in except for the huge statue of a crowned lady in the corner of the room.

Taking a seat across from her, I express my gratitude for her willingness to do this. "Sister Cecilia, thank you for giving me this opportunity, I know how busy you are."

Sister Cecilia smiles, she is the type who always has genuine smile on her face. "You are thanking the wrong person, Ms. Matthews."

"I beg your pardon?"

"After I declined your offer, Sister Margareth was the one who convinced me to change my mind." I am floored. I can't believe that I have the crazy nun to thank for this opportunity. Maybe I should be able to guess it, she was probably thinking I'm Juliet who needs her help.

"Nonetheless, I am grateful, " I carefully answer. I open the zipper of my bag and take out a voice recorder, my journal, and a pen. "Do you mind if I record this interview?"

Again, Sister Cecilia offers me her smile. "As you wish."

I start with the basic questions, like when was Toby last here, how old was he, when did he leave the orphanage, all the necessary details. Sister Cecilia opens the records, which the orphanage kept in a huge book. The list of all the children are written by every headmistress who ruled the orphanage during the period.

From there, I notice that Sister Cecilia is new to the job, she's only here for just about ten years now. Toby was twenty-five the day he was found dead, so clearly, Sister Cecilia wasn't here when he was first accepted.

We searched through the records to find that Sister Margareth, the creepy nun, was the one in charge at that time. I quickly copy down the information about Toby in my journal. Notwithstanding the book looking old, the information served is detailed and methodical. It goes into great detail and even includes the physical condition of each child. It's written that Toby had a birthmark on his lower back, near his tailbone, a detail I don't forget to take note.

"Do you have any photos of Toby when he was a child?" I ask Sister Margareth once she places the book back into the drawer.

"Well, let me see, " she walks to the aluminum steel cupboard and opens its drawer. It takes her more than five minutes to search and I'm very tempted to help her, except that I have no idea what she is looking for.

After a while, she finally finds what she was looking for as she exclaims, "Oh here it is! Nineteen ninety-five." She hugs the huge album and put it on the table.

We flip through page after page of pictures until we find a photo of all the children standing in front of a house. I immediately realized it isn't the same house as the one I'm in right now. "This photo, " I point at the photo on the left page. "This wasn't taken here, was it?"

"No, " Sister Cecilia shakes her head slightly. "It was the old building. We only moved here ten years ago, right after Sister Margareth stepped down and I took over her responsibilities."

I scribble this information down in my journal, mentally noting to do more research about the old building and possibly paying a visit if need be. "May I?"

"Of course. Go ahead, my child." Sister Cecilia lift the album and hand it to me. "Be careful, it's quite heavy."

I carefully put it down on my lap. I take a photo of the original picture of young Toby. As I go through the pages, looking for other photos of him, I stumble upon one photo that nearly takes all my breath away. It's the exact same photo I found a year ago: a photo of me and my sister, Stella.

"Sister, " I grab the album and show it to her. "Who is this?"

Sister Cecilia takes a closer look and narrows her eyes to help her see it better. "The girl on the left? That's Juliet Matthias."

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