XOXOXO. That wasn't too many X's and O's, was it? Bay-Lyn reread the letter with a little thrill. At 17, this was the closest she had to a boyfriend. They'd been corresponding for over a year, keeping everything secret for now. Her aunt and uncle would throw a fit if they knew.
Bay-Lyn thought about that for a moment. Would they be upset? Would they care? They didn't seem to notice her much these days, so much so that it was the simplest thing in the world to hide incoming letters from him. She made it one of her "helpful" tasks to check the mail everyday and that was it.
She remembered their concern when the first letter arrived. It had to come through them. She was only 16, and they were her guardians. They'd asked her to sit as soon as she walked in the door, and she'd thought she was in trouble. After dropping her bag to the floor, she sat warily on the edge of a chair. William started, while Aunt Peggy watched Bay-Lyn closely to see her reaction.
"There's been a letter." William's tone and the look on his face showed that he thought the letter was bad news.
Bay-Lyn blinked. Her parents were violently killed six years ago. What kind of bad news could this be? No worse than being orphaned and forced to move in with relatives who - well, she couldn't complain about Aunt Peggy and William, but there wasn't a ton of affection there either. She remembered shrugging, urging him to continue.
"It came from the prison, dear." He always called her "dear". Like a principal who wanted to inject warmth into his life lessons.
Bay-Lyn, confused, looked at each of her guardians in turn. "Is he dead?" That had been her greatest hope for the past six years. After finishing a wreck of a school year newly orphaned, she had managed to pass fifth grade, and thereafter redirected the energy of her anger and grief into her studies. That, and collecting news articles about the trial and conviction of "Phil". She had drawn pictures and written stories for her therapist, putting Phil in horrible, painful situations. Torture, death, versions of hell or hell-on-earth.
The hate didn't die, but shifted to the side as she set her sights on college. Those therapeutic drawings and writings had actually helped her hone her skills in those areas, and she excelled at every subject she threw herself into. Then, "a letter from the prison".
"Not dead." William shook his head as Peggy's immovable face watched Bay-Lyn. "He wants to apologize. To you."
Finally Peggy spoke and Bay-Lyn noticed a manila envelope on the table in front of her. "You're a minor, so they sent his letter to us, to decide if you should see it." Bay-Lyn's face was bland, but her head was spinning.
William added, "Now, dear, we've read it and there's nothing inappropriate in the letter, we think. But you are an intelligent young lady, and we think you are mature enough to decide for yourself if you want to read his words."
"Can I think about it?"
"Of course, dear." Bay-Lyn rose to go to her room.
Later that night, after getting ready for bed she came back down to the living room where they were watching TV. "I want to read the letter."
William muted the TV and Aunt Peggy patted the seat next to her on the sofa. Bay-Lyn sighed. She would have preferred privacy, but she sat and was handed the letter. She'd intended to keep her face passive, but couldn't stop the silent tears. It seemed a sincere apology. Maybe the years had changed Phil. She still hated him for what he did, but... "Is it okay if I write a reply?"
Peggy nodded. "If you like. We'll send it back to the case worker. Just let us know when you've done it and we'll send it on."
And so it had begun. The man she hated, had every reason to hate and still, on some level felt the hate toward him inside her, she had grown to love. She added another "XO" and sealed the letter in the envelope.
Thanks for visiting my #AtoZChallenge! All month I'll be writing flash fiction, with the theme "Audience Participation".
Now it's your turn, lovely audience member. Do you have a writing prompt to suggest? Don't worry about choosing a letter of the alphabet, just leave me a word, a thought, a place, a concept... anything! and I'll add it to the list.
"XOXOXO" came from the prompt "paradox" provided by Anstice Brown of Curious Daydreams, in a comment left on my F post, here. It's an abrupt ending, and may actually need more, but I felt it was getting wordy. Hope you like it!