When Mary was twenty-one years old, her husband proposed to her in this exact spot. It was a place few people knew about but Albert found it. It remained isolated, a hidden gem, without another soul in sight.
He’d just finished his medical residency and was putting Mary through law school…the first woman to do so in their small city. He believed in her when her own family didn’t.
It had been almost forty years since she returned.
Settling on the sand dune under the tree, she removed Albert’s letter. The last letter he wrote to her that his lawyer requested she read when she was ready to scatter his ashes.
At the place where he first said he couldn’t live without her.
My dearest Mary…
I can’t imagine you like this chore I’ve sent you on. I know you always thought I wanted to be buried. You should have remembered my issue with worms. Disgusting little things.
I want my ashes scattered at the place where I asked you to marry me because I want you to know how powerful that moment was in my memory.
That I meant it when I said my vows, that I loved you even when you left me, that I wanted you even when you married another, that I love you still…in this moment as I write the last words I will ever write.
Four decades ago, I told you that I couldn’t live without you and wanted you to be my wife.
There is no guilt to send you, no pain to share. I simply don’t know how to be without you. We spent twenty years together raising our kids. Life had a rhythm to it that it no longer has. I defined myself as your husband and the father to our children.
Our kids are grown – I’ve already written their letters – and no longer need me around. You’ve moved on with your life and it’s happier and more successful than ever before.
I wanted to say one final thing to you and then you can put all of this – and me – in your past.
You are now and have always been the most beautiful, intelligent, and exceptional woman I have ever known. A room lights up when you enter it and is darker when you leave. You are kind, gentle, and softer than anyone would imagine was possible for a hard-nosed DA.
You made me a better man. You made the years we spent together the most magnificent of my entire life. I don’t resent you for no longer loving me, I don’t blame you for leaving me for the man you fell in love with, and I wished you nothing but beauty and joy in your life.
One small thing though.
You carried on the affair for three years, Mary. You could have left but you did not. You never said a word about being unhappy.
You slept beside me. You looked me in the eye and told me you loved me – what you later confessed had been a lie since our twelfth year together. You had sex with me.
You had so many secrets as you slowly syphoned away my money, my happiness, and my will to live.
You are truly marvelous.
You are also diabolical.
For that reason, one of the last things I arranged was for you to read this letter on the beach – our beach. A place I knew you would go alone out of respect and a little regret for what you did year after year without hesitation or conscience.
I don’t wish you ill, Mary.
However, I do wish you dead.
All my love,
Jerking her head to the side, the sound of a gun discharging, held by a man she hadn’t heard approach, was her last memory.
© Shayne McClendon