One of my favorite bands in the whole wide world is Mumford and Sons. This short story is inspired by their song "Sigh No More". (Links to the lyrics and the music video.)
The letter was in a crisp envelop, scented lightly with musk. She held it to her lips, her mouth searching for the warmth of his hands. The paper felt unnaturally cool. Gently, she slipped a finger under the sealed flap and broke the wax “B.” As if the single sheet of parchment contained inside might burst into flame at any moment, she pulled the letter out.
The words scratched in haste on the paper showed bold and dark, like the man who wrote them. She was afraid to read it, knowing what it must say, since he was gone now, though no one had expected him to leave. A sigh fled from her mouth, equally heavy and light, all together resigned, as her eyes were drawn down to the letter’s opening salutation.
I find this hard to write. I want so badly to throw this pen across the room, dash the ink across the wall, toss the paper into the grate. But I owe you. You deserve a good-bye, an explanation. I am going to try to give you one as best I can, though I doubt anything I can say will truly give you want you want.
We have known each other for many years. We have listened to our mothers cluck over us, reminding us of summer swims in the river, naked as newborns, battles with rotten apples in your father’s orchards, and sledding parties over school breaks. They would tell us that we had, “Always been together. And wouldn’t it be nice if it stayed that way?”
Though I care for you a great deal, I want more than “nice” for my life. This is something you have always known, and I think it has frightened you, because “nice” was always part of your plan. I am not ready to settle, and I were, I’m not entirely sure it would be with you. That looks so cruel on paper, but know it is meant with the most sincere and caring intentions (I feel like such a cad for writing this—it makes me feel and look vile, but there is no help for it; you deserve honesty above all else, Lorelei).
Love is something that, perhaps, we have for one another, but it is not the kind of love, if fulfilled, that will lead to beauty and freedom between two people, but enslavement. Me, enslaved to your notions of what our lives ought to be (and I know you have notions on all that), and you, enslaved to the fact that I will never quite mold to what you expect me to be.
We are young. Too young for this sort of permanency. My spirit is far too flighty. I am leaving everything. I know this will break your heart, my parents, yours even, too, but I think it is the best arrangement for all. I have not seen much of this world, though I have spent nearly twenty years in it. I think, maybe, you could do the same, in your own way. We could, someday, find each other again, and maybe then things will be right between us, and if you can find love for me in your heart still, we can have one another (though, I suppose after this letter, you’d just as soon have me drowned in the sea than have to see me again—and I couldn’t blame you).
I wish for you everything. I hope that if I could not give you the life you had hoped for, that another man will (and do a much better job at it).
Do not think on me any longer.
And please, do not hate me too much.
It seemed before the letter could even finish it words it fluttered to the dusty ground, clouds of bronzy dirt puffing up around the quick steps of Lorelei as she rushed to the river.