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Friday, September 4, 1992
Dear James Winston Malone,
They gave me your name as someone who wanted to write to someone else who had a parent that was a rape victim. My name is Marybeth Lawson. I am twelve years old. My mother was raped and killed last March. I just started eighth grade this year. If you want, we can write.
Sincerely, Marybeth Lawson
Tuesday, September 8, 1992
Dear Marybeth Lawson,
I just turned thirteen last week. When will you be thirteen? I am in eighth grade, too. Writing's cool if that's what you want.
Later, James Malone
Saturday, September 12, 1992
I only want to write if you do. But if you do, I do, too.
Sincerely, Marybeth Lawson
P.S. I turn thirteen in January. I'm the youngest in my class because I started kindergarten early.
Tuesday, September 15, 1992
Okay, yeah, I want to. What classes are you taking? I have shop. I like it. I make things out of metal. Right now I'm working on a shelf for the bathroom wall for my mom's birthday. There's no medicine cabinet in there. We just moved and the place isn't all that great. I have art, too, and that's cool. English and the rest of that stuff I'm not so good at. I get okay grades, I just don't like 'em. Like who's ever going to need to know that that Shakespeare dude wrote about some guy who killed a king to be king and then had his wife commit suicide and then was beheaded? What kind of crap is that?
Sorry. You probably like that stuff.
Friday, September 18, 1992
I can't believe you're reading Shakespeare, too! In our school it's only the advanced classes who get it in eighth grade. Ididn't much like Macbeth, either, but I loved Romeo and Juliet. They were almost our age. Not that that means anything. I wouldn't be in love if they paid me a million dollars. I just liked that they were such good friends that they would die for each other.
Someday I want to have a friend like that. (I can tell you that because you're just a piece of paper in another city and I'll never have to meet you or anything. That's what they said in counseling.) You're in counseling, too, right? So your mom lived? You're very lucky.
Write back soon, Marybeth Lawson
Thursday, September 24, 1992
Yeah, I'm in counseling just like you, but I don't like it much. And yes, my mom is alive. It's just me and her. I have to watch out for her, 'cause I'm all she's got. But, in case you're wondering, I'm pretty good at watching out so if you ever need to say something, go ahead. I won't make nothing of it. I could kinda be your good friend from far away, if you want. If you think that's corny then just forget I said it. I'm sorry your mom died.
Write back if you want, James
Saturday, September 26, 1992.
I just got your letter. It's been over a week and I thought you weren't going to write back. I don't think what you said is corny at all. Why don't you like counseling? I think it's okay, it just doesn't seem to change anything. They say talking makes it better, but it doesn't. I don't want to talk about it. I just want to forget it. My dad quit already. He didn't like it, either. But he won't let me quit, yet. He's a great guy. I love him a lot. He can't help that he's so quiet and sad all the time now. I'm all he's got, too, and I try my best to take care of him. I've learned to cook some stuff pretty good, and I already knew how to clean. I ruined some of his white shirts in the wash but he didn't yell or anything. He just told me not to cry and went out and got more. He was always good that way. In the olden days he would've given me a hug, but we don't do that around here anymore. Does your mom? Sorry, you don't have to answer that if you don't want to.
School's okay. I was in cheerleading last year but dropped out this year. I'm doing gymnastics, though. I got my back handspring. I used to be too chicken, but I'm not anymore. My coach says that I could probably compete in high school if I want to. I don't know if I want to. My dad wouldn't have the time to come see meets anyway.
I like English. And math. Home ec is dumb. I already do all that stuff. But it's a required class to pass eighth grade so my dad said to just try to find something to like about it. I tried, but so far, nothing.
My dad's a manager of a company that makes computer parts. He golfs a lot. What does your mom do?
Write back soon, Marybeth
Tuesday, September 29, 1992
I came home from school today all bummed out 'cause I didn't make the baseball team and it was cool to have your letter here. I didn't really want to play baseball anyway. I like basketball better. I played that in my old school. But we just moved here to Colorado and I missed basketball tryouts. My mom says maybe next year. Your address says Santa Barbara, California. I looked it up on a map and it looks like it's right on the ocean. That's cool. I'd like to live on the ocean. My mom said it's a little town, not all rough and stuff like Los Angeles is on TV. I hope so and that you can be safe there.
My mom's a teacher. This year she has third grade. It's pretty cool. She likes kids and they seem to dig her pretty much, for a teacher and all.
Well, gotta go. Keep writing. James Malone
P.S. Yeah, my mom hugs a lotkinda too much but I don't really mind. I'd only ever tell you that, though, 'cause anyone else'd think I was a sissy or something. Sorry 'bout your dad.
P.S.S. If you want to talk about what happened to your mom, that's okay. Remember I'm just sorta a piece of paper.
Saturday, October 3, 1992
I'm sorry you didn't make the baseball team but I think baseball's boring. Guys just stand around while one or two throw and try to hit the ball and then there's a lot more standing around and stuff. Once in a while something exciting happens, like the time last month when that Brett guy from Kansas got his 3000th hit. They were playing my dad's team, the Angels, so I heard all the cheering. Anyway that kinda stuff only happens once in a while. My dad's really into sports. He watches them all the time now that Mom's gone. Mostly I hate them. Basketball's okay, though. It's fast.
No, I don't want to talk about my mom. I just want to forget. But it was nice of you to ask.
Santa Barbara's cool. I used to love it here. I wanted to move after what happened, but Dad couldn't because of his job and anyway, it wasn't like moving was going to make the memories go away. You got to, though, huh? That's cool. Sometimes I think life would be so much better if I were someplace where no one knew me or about what happened. I hate that kids at school sometimes look at me strange because they know. Like they feel sorry for me but no one talks to me. My dad says it's because they don't know what to say.
I used to have a best friend, Cara Williams, but she's hanging with some other kids now. I think I made her feel too weird 'cause I cried a lot in the beginning. I don't cry at all anymore. She still invites me to stuff, but I think it's 'cause her mother makes her. Anyway, she's still nice. I just don't want to be best friends anymore. I have to take care of my dad and do stuff here at home. And besides, all anyone ever tells me is, it's okay. It's going to be okay. And it's not, you know? It's not okay.
Sorry, I didn't mean to sound nasty or anything. I made sloppy joes for dinner tonight. My dad's golfing and there's no telling what time he'll be home and sloppy joes can sit on the stove till he gets here. My mom used to do stuff like that. Tonight I might babysit for the little girl next door. I do that sometimes while her parents play cards with their friends. They're home, but I'm fully in charge of Wendy. She's a year old and adorable. Plus they always have good snacks, like pizza rolls and I get paid. I'd do it even if I didn't, but I'm saving for a new bike.
Well, bye for now. Marybeth Lawson
Wednesday, October 7, 1992
Don't think I'm weird or anything and maybe I shouldn't say this, but I'm glad we're writing. I hope you are, too. My mom asked about you today when she saw that your letter came. She said to say hi. Don't worry, she doesn't see your letters and I don't tell her what we say. She's cool, though. She doesn't ask, except about how you are.
We went to court today. They changed our names. My mom and everyone said to do it. It's kind of like you said, people won't always be knowing about the past this way and we can live our lives here with all the new people who never knew us before. But they didn't know me by my name anyway, 'cause my mom wasn't married to my dad yet when she had me and so my name was different from theirs. I just don't think it's all that cool. I mean, it's like I have to pretend now. Like the old me was too rotten to live. Maybe, like Mom says, I'll understand when I'm older. I guess it's cool that she and I have the same last name now, instead of me having her maiden name. But anyway, if it's okay with you, I still want to be James Winston Malone here. That's who I really am and now you will be the only one who knows him. Unless that's too weird, then we don't have to.
See ya, James Winston Malone
Saturday, October 10, 1992
Dear James Winston Malone,
Of course I'll call you James, still. It doesn't really matter what we call each other, does it? I guess you'll get your letters if I address them that way. If you don't, I hope you write and tell me who to write to. But if you don't, you won't even get this anyway so, oh, well, anyway, tell your mom I said hi back.
Hey, I know what, why don't you call me something else, too? Then, with you, I can just be any old girl, 'cause unlike you, I'd kind of like to not have to be me anymore. I'm so sick of all those looks.
Anyway, how 'bout if you call me Candy? I'll be Candy Lawson. 'Kay?
My friend Cara likes a boy in the ninth grade. She saw him at the JV football game last night. I think she's dumb. I don't want to start liking boys for a really long time.
Well, I gotta go. My dad's golfing and I'm going with the people next door, the Mathers, they're Wendy's parents, you know the little girl I babysit, anyway I'm going with them to see Batman Returns. It's at the dollar theater. Have you seen it? Cara saw it this summer and said it's really cool.
Write back soon, 'kay? Candy Lawson
Saturday, December 16, 2006
It's going to be a hard Christmas for both of us. Would that I could send a hug through a letter, my sweet friend, for you would surely have one now and anytime you opened an envelope from me.
Hard to believe that our parents both passed in the same year. And so young. I guess it's true that someone can die of a broken heart. I watched Mom slowly dwindle over the years, losing whatever zest she'd once had for life. It seemed as though she had the energy to see me raised, but once I left for college, she had no reason left to live.
Much like you say it was for your father.
In answer to your question, no, I won't be alone for Christmas. I was very glad to hear that you wouldn't be, as well. I picture you surrounded by people you care about.
I agree with what you said about heartthat it is the only true source that we can trust to guide us through life.
At the same time, the whole heart thing has me perplexed. If it's damaged by life's trials and tribulations, how much can we trust it? How much does it control us and how much can we control it?
Will I ever be able to open up and fully feel my heart, fully give it, or did the "incident" irrevocably change my ability to experience love on the deepest levels? Will I always be as I am now, moving through life without ever being fully engaged? Is there something I'm doing that keeps me trapped? Am I sabotaging myself? Or is this just the inevitable result to what happened when we were kids and a way of life for me that I can do nothing aboutmuch like if I'd been in a skiing accident and lost a leg.
Tough questions. I look forward to your thoughts on this one.
In the meantime, know that I will be thinking about you through the season.
Stuffing the letter she was reading into the writing desk drawer, Marybeth turned, smiling as a spry, little woman came through the kitchen into her living area, petting Brutus, two hundred and ten pounds of flesh and fur lounging in the doorway, as she passed.
"Hey! I didn't expect you until later." Jumping up, Marybeth stepped over the two-year-old mastiff and hugged Bonnie Mather, her surrogate mother from the time she was twelve.
"My garden club luncheon finished earlier than I thought the speaker canceled."
"Well, come on in. The cookies are cooling, but I should be able to frost them if you want to wait." She'd told Bonnie she'd bake six dozen cookies to take to the soup kitchen.