He had not been expecting a letter. With the immediacy of e-mail and text messages, why would she send a letter? He admired the narrow white envelope before opening it. She had clearly taken care in selecting a 41-cent stamp portraying Bette Davis, wearing a fur coat, holding a cigarette in her gloved hand, and seemingly looking straight at him with her trademark intimate intensity. He recalled them watching All About Eve last winter-his third time seeing the movie, and her second. He had delayed sending the DVD back to Netflix for a few weeks in case they wanted to watch it again. Three nondescript 1-cent stamps rounded out the postage due on the envelope.
The postmark, dated August 3, indicated that she mailed the letter from Minneapolis on Monday. Why was she in Minneapolis? He had thought that she was going to upstate New York to visit her parents before meeting him in Washington, D.C. next week. Was she staying in Minneapolis, or just passing through? She had not expressed any interest in traveling since graduating from college last spring. She never had even been west of Chicago before. Two weeks ago they had been looking at apartments to lease in the D.C. suburbs, anticipating starting the next stage of their lives as young professionals in the dynamic city. They knew that they just had entry level jobs, but he was excited about working on Capitol Hill and she had the opportunity to work on issues she cared strongly about. Once they got settled, perhaps they would more seriously consider getting engaged.
He recognized the graceful, looping handwriting that spelled out his name and address, but had never realized how feminine and youthful her handwriting appeared. It left a softer impression than her witty, sometimes sarcastic, ambitious personality. From these few moments looking at the envelope he realized how much more personal and intimate this letter seemed than the frequent e-mails they had exchanged daily until last week, just days before she mailed the letter. But why didn’t she include a return address?
He turned the envelope over and pried his finger through a small opening in the sealed seam, tearing the edges more than he had intended. He felt like he was spoiling the care she had taken in stamping, addressing, and sealing the envelope. Nonetheless, even before reading the letter, he knew that he would save it in his desk drawer beside tickets to Jersey Boys, their first Broadway musical together; a menu from the fondue restaurant where they celebrated her birthday; and the clipping from the Syracuse Post-Standard, her hometown newspaper, announcing her graduation with honors from Columbia and her prestigious fellowship at the Department of Labor.
He slowly pulled out the single page, folded precisely into thirds. Opening it, he glossed over the Marquette Hotel logo on the stationery and read the now familiar handwriting.
I will always fondly remember cuddling with you on the sofa, sipping cheap wine and watching “All About Eve.” Your eyes glimmered with anticipation during the scene with Margo and Karen Richards sitting in the car, waiting for Lloyd Richards to get gas. You could barely contain your enthusiasm in telling me how only Bette Davis could pull off that scene with such aplomb. I bought this stamp as soon as it was released, knowing there would come a time to use it.
I drove all day Saturday and Sunday, finally stopping here for a night’s rest. I hadn’t planned to go so far, but I needed some time to think by myself. By the time you receive this, I’ll probably be in Seattle or Portland. Or maybe Montana, I’ve always wanted to spend time in the mountains.
I’m sorry not to tell you earlier, but I haven’t had my period for over three months. I bought a test last week, knowing it would be positive before the + appeared. Someday you will make a great father, but you’re too young and have too much potential to be held back with the responsibilities of a family right now. So am I, but this drive has made me realize that my priorities were wrong. I can make a new life as a single mother out west. I would have enjoyed living with you, trying to make a difference in D.C., but I know raising this baby right is even more important. We’ll be fine.
Someday maybe I’ll head back east, and we can catch up over fondue. But in the meantime, don’t linger over me. Work hard, keep your principles, and find someone else who can share your passion for Bette Davis.