As I set pen to paper I wonder why I never took the time to teach you how to read after I discovered you couldn’t. I suppose it was always in the back of my mind and I suppose, also, that I always expect to have the time to do it.
So much changed so quickly when you went into your sleep, and how could any of us have known?
I am writing this now because, of everyone who was hurt by the events of the past two months, you are the one that haunts me the most.
The first thing I did when everything was said and done was open every window in the house and clean. I’ve scrubbed the whole building, from the rafters in the apartment to the floor in the Gangplank, though in truth it was hardly in bad shape. I’m told Tenk ordered it cleaned after seeing me, and he saw to it they did a passable job. Still, cleaning it all out gives me a feeling of control, as if perhaps I can scrub out His presence from my life, re-write history. As if, if I can just get that last speck of dust out from some corner none of it will have ever happened and I shall turn around to discover you and Maggie teasing each other by the hearth, hear the sound of Kaylee pounding away at some machine in her workroom, maybe Gus will even waltz in and kiss me on the forehead. I’ll have my eye and leg back, my head will be blissfully empty except for a particularly sarcastic cat.
He will have never existed.
None of it will have ever happened.
But he did and it did and of all the people involved, you are the one I cannot apologize to, or even make a proper explanation. You see, once I made a very silly promise to Pip in which I said I should always care for him and his kind as if they were my very own, because he had been so ill treated by Mr. Underby and because I loved (still love) him very much. What I am trying to say to you, what I need you to understand above all other things, is that when I made my choice I did not do it to save myself. Please know, if you cannot know or understand anything else from this letter that I should have given myself in your place in a heartbeat. Without hesitation would I have taken each of those bracelet’s from your wrists. The years would be a small price to pay for a friend’s freedom.
But it was not just you and I caught up in his terrible net, it was everyone we loved. It was the whole city. He truly did mean to make me his bride and take me with him all our long days, I saw his plans and they were madness. The closer he brought me to him the more terrible the things I saw, so that I found myself retreating within, pushing away those parts of myself that were giving in to what then felt inevitable. The tiny part of me that remained me had to hide away from the madness or risk losing it completely. Sometimes I could push through the madness, when he was distracted perhaps, and then I could try to pull away from him.
Now, in the days since he was defeated, I am able to piece together better what happened, though I still do not understand much of it. Something he did to me was directly connected to you, though, because as soon as I laid eyes on you it was as if a hot knife cut through all the horror in my head and allowed clarity. I have heard that hypnotists can sometimes do such things, bind away memories until the person handles an object again or some-such, I must assume this was part of his trick. In light of this, I suddenly understand better why the parts of me that were won-over by him were so keen on keeping me from the Gangplank and why the small part of me that was still me, hidden deep within, was so keen to get to the Gangplank.
We tease fictional characters, don’t we? When they must choose between the greater good and someone they love. We say that it is so clear, so clean-cut. Obviously the greater good must be served, for the better of everyone we love and not just one person. But, oh, Pocket, how can you know what it was like to hold your freedom in my hands, to know that with one word I could release you, but to also know that to do so was to doom the entire city? To rain down horror after horror until it was rubble and dust and salted earth. Intellectually the choice is obvious, but it was not easy.
It was not easy at all, my friend.
Even now, you should know, I am not free of him. He calls me with a soft, insistent song. I see him sometimes in my dreams, but I promise I won’t go to him. Not yet, not until you are free. Then maybe in ten years, in twenty, in thirty, in a hundred (I have many years left to live yet, thanks to Grendel) I’ll give in. I’ll answer his call and go to him.
But not yet, it is the one small kindness I can give to you, I hope, to keep your master locked away from you is the closest to freedom I can give you.
I keep a bowl full for you and the hearth clean,
All of my love,
Star pulls a clean piece of paper from the desk and makes a second copy of the letter which she folds up and tucks in her journal. Then, checking to be sure that she is alone, she sits on the hearth and reads it to the flames before feeding it beneath a log, watching the paper flare up and curl-in on itself. She sits a long time, watching the flames crackle. Kaylee lets herself into the room, carrying a pipping pie from the bakery, watching Star with concern.
“You all right?” She sets the pie down, cutting into it.
“Yep, just thinking,” Star smiles suddenly, “How did it feel to kick him?”
Kaylee grins, looking relieved, “Best damn feeling I’ve had in weeks. I only wish I’d had the chance to stompy his hat like I did Underby’s!”
Star laughs, “You stomped Underby’s hat? Best tell me THAT story.”
The two sit down to share a slice of pie and, for the first time in weeks, Kaylee starting to tell about the arrest of Underby, the house has laughter in it.