Aspiring History Challenges Protagonist
The Letter as a Young Man
Kamila Zeman Miller
She held the letter tight, crumpling the heavy paper, afraid to destroy it, afraid to keep it. Her slippered feet pressed deep into riverbank mud. Icy water and colder air chilled her.
Get rid of it.
Keep it. You have to give it to someone important. They have to know.
She thought she’d be worried about the future, but mostly she worried about history, how the letter would be remembered if it survived the night. Would it even matter a hundred years from now?
The letter wanted to live. It seemed to be a handsome officer in a black uniform rather than parchment, and she didn’t want that young man to die. He looked noble and honorable but his heart beat with a dark rhythm, necessity’s music. Rather than fear what he might do, she felt drawn to that practicality and how it mingled with good intentions. The letter’s soul aspired to create, to become, as so many beautiful souls had always wanted to be.
Let him live.
Why did she have to hold a pivotal point in history’s making? And why couldn’t it be on a warm summer night with all kinds of time to muse?
She could freeze to death without ever knowing which was the right way to go.
Just fling it into the river. Maybe someone will find it. Then it won’t be up to me.
She started to fling it, but she couldn’t force herself to let go. His spirit called to her. Hold me. Send me to my future, to glory.
Glory. The war had glory enough.
She flung it. It spun on the water’s surface, lit by moonlight.
She plunged after it into the river. The shock of cold shrunk her breath into tight gasps as she struggled to swim with her nightgown flowing awkwardly around her body.
She grabbed the letter, plunging it under the surface while paddling toward shore again and again. When she reached shore, shivering, she opened the heavy folds. The ink was running, fading. She’d lost him, not to choice, but indecisiveness.