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A love letter from Berry Lake.

If you haven't read The Hope of You yet, this letter contains spoilers.

Dear friend,

I like to start off writing to you this way. Perhaps, it makes it easier to imagine we are lifelong pen pals. But it's not quite that either. When I think of you, imagine you, it's complicated, and at the same time, so very clear. I brought this piece of paper and pen down to the lake with no real intention other than to be close to you.

I don't know how people ever get to know one another. Or how we even truly know ourselves. We ask questions, engage, reflect, but if we aren't always honest with ourselves, how can anyone see us for who we are?

I promise I would not start off our first conversation all philosophical. I'd probably crack some cheesy jokes or ramble on about random trivia or baseball stats. I'd probably spend most of the time trying to learn more about where you’ve been all these years.

I'm sure you're missing your journal and story. I wonder if you're still searching for it. And I wish I could soothe your worries and assure you it's safe. I wish I could go back to that day and maybe, I don't know, perhaps sit next to you, and we could've grabbed two cups of coffee from the cart on the corner, and talked.

But everything was out of focus that day. I was missing Pops so much I could barely breathe. It kills me that I never got your name and that you'll never know what you did for me. People would think I'd lost all rational sense if I told them how I was feeling, connected to a person I'd never met just by reading her story and notes. Right? It does sound pretty fantastical. Something only Nora Ephron could make believable.

And so, I haven't told anyone, well, except my mom, but don't worry, I didn't tell her what your story said or anything, I just told her it broke my heart to know you were without it. And the thing is, there are days I was relieved you never claimed it, because how was I supposed to let go of something, someone, who had come to mean so much to me? I've always been a little selfish in that way. Going after and locking down what I want. And maybe it felt good to have this secret, a sacred haven where only your words and my thoughts existed. Like here on this lake, right now.

You'd probably hate me after reading this. I kinda hate myself when I hear what I'm admitting to you. Though I guess therein lies the safety of this letter, knowing you'll never read my confession. It makes it easier for me to write to you without filtering.

It's refreshing being this open. Hoping the words somehow extend beyond the page and carry on to find you in some other form. Just like how I believe Pops is always with me, even though I can't see him. I feel his love during early mornings in my kayak and stormy afternoons by the fire. I feel his laughter rumble beneath me on any bumpy trail and his scratchy kisses on the top of my head when I run my fingers through my hair. I feel his encouragement when I'm working on a story idea and when I'm stuck making a decision. And I hear his claps and whistles when the bat cracks as it makes contact with the ball.

 

The time I feel Pops most is when I lay in bed and look out the window at the stars.

My mom loves to read, but it was Pops who could tell a story, spin any detail into a tale. On the weekends, when I was little, he'd tuck me under the covers. I liked to be burrowed in my own cocoon, so he'd make sure I was secure. I knew it was almost time as his weight sank into his spot on the end of the bed and his Aqua Velvet aftershave clung to the air. Then he'd begin by asking, "Alright, my son, are you ready for an adventure?" With a steady hand on my leg and in his animated voice, we'd transport to turbulent seas, aboard pirate ships, under the night skies, off to discover the mysteries of the world. I'd fall asleep and wake up smiling.

I'm not sure if I smile the same, now that he's gone.

I'm about to run out of room on this paper, and I probably should wrap up my thoughts to you, too.

The thing is, I don't know your name, but I know you. I know what you went through losing your own father, and I know how it gets harder to find yourself. And I also need you to know, on the days I miss the me I was before I lost him, I come here, to your words and heart. I feel understood and less lonely.

Learning about you has brought me a new kind of smile, and it doesn't replace what I've lost, but it does restore something inside me, giving me a certain hope for the future.

You never know who you’ll cross paths with in this life and the profound impact they will make. For what it's worth, I'm grateful ours did.

Sometimes, I'm overly confident, and I'm okay with that because it also means I'm usually right about things. And you’re one of them. I have a feeling my friend that you are going places. People need to read your words, and when they do, I have no doubt you will capture their hearts the same way you have stolen mine.

I guess I just wanted you to know that someone tucked away in the mountains, sharing the same sky, believes in, and dreams of you.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day.

Love, Reed

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