The walk to the mailbox was never a pleasure for Carrie. There were no letters from friends or a note from home. Not even an invitation to one of those dinners where they gave you free food in exchange for a too-long marketing presentation about a timeshare she could never afford. She wondered if anyone had invented a combination mailbox/trash-can since most of her mail ended up there anyway.
There it was, the long white envelope of death. Carrie knew what it said before she ever opened it. Even so, she still held her breath like a little girl waiting to see Santa. She slid her pinkie under the flap and tore it open. Her eyes skimmed the page dimming as she read the all too familiar words.
“Thirty-three ‘we regret to inform you’ in less than 60 days. This could be some sort of record.” As painful as it was, this was the only mail she kept.
The breeze picked up speed and shifted directions. It would be raining soon. Carrie sat on the porch swing and watched the thunderstorm building in the distance.
Darren was right. Darren was always right. He was older and smarter and had a good head on his shoulders. She had listened to these accolades most of her life, but especially since her father died her senior year in college. Darren swooped in and carted their Mom off to his place in the city. He saved the day. Again.
It was no wonder he was successful in business. He was cutthroat and a bully. Dad always saw it but Mom never could. When she died only a year later, Darren was named executor and in charge of Carrie’s distribution from the estate.
Luckily, Dad’s sister – Aunt Irene – could see the handwriting on the wall. She deeded her small cottage and it’s adjoining two acres to Carrie and moved into a small condo in Florida insisting she never liked the place anyway. Otherwise, Carrie would have been 25, on her own with no place to live.
There was no mortgage and the sales from her small organic garden kept her afloat. She often felt like giving up, but her father’s words always kept her going. “You’re going to be a great writer someday”.
Someday? After 33 reject letters from 33 different sources, she was beginning to doubt it. She had completed a book she loved but finding an agent and a publisher these days was tough. She thought about self-publishing but Darren made sure that would not happen.
”I cannot let you spend your inheritance on such frivolous pursuits, Carrie. This is why Mom left me in charge. It’s time for you to grow up and get a real job.” She could not manage her share of the estate until she turned 30. That seemed so far away.
Carrie filed her new reject in the filing cabinet, the folder already bulging. Why was she keeping those stupid things? As she closed the drawer, another folder caught her eye. It was simply labeled “Dad”. She pulled it out and opened it, seeing the letters her father wrote her when she was away at school. He challenged her, asked the rhetorical questions designed to inspire her. As she read them, they made her think deeply about her life and her opportunities – even if they had not done so before.
“Damn, I miss you. Your positive outlook. Your reassurance. Your inspiration.” She stared at the folder. “Why did you have to leave me?”
Over the next few months, Carrie buried herself penning a response to each of the 60 letters. It was therapeutic and made her feel less alone.
As the autumn leaves reached their full color, Carrie walked to the mailbox as she had done almost every day since she moved in. Another letter from a publisher, but this one felt different. Thicker somehow. Her palms were sweating as she tore the envelope open.
The publisher loved the proposal she sent them. The samples of the letters and the responses she had written to her father were compelling. They wanted to see more. They wanted her to work with an editor.
No matter what happened from here, she knew she had found her voice and her way. She now understood why she had received 33 reject letters. For the first time, she had been brave enough to leave her heart beating on the page.
She smiled pressing the letter to her chest. “Daddy, everything is going to be okay.”