*Sorry again for the late post. I haven't had a day off for over a week until today and didn't have the energy to write. See you all again on Friday at the normal time!*
Of course, Holly was the person I went to about my Michael dilemma. She'd known Michael even longer than I had. They'd gone to elementary school together, although they hadn't necessarily been childhood friends. I knew I could trust Holly to give me her opinion without letting emotion into the equation. I knew Kate still loathed Michael and didn't trust him. I knew her answer would immediately be to destroy the letter without reading it. Holly would at least help me weigh the pros and cons to the situation. I called her up and she promised to swing by my apartment later in the afternoon before she had to head to her second job.
I spent the afternoon alone with my thoughts. Michael and I had met in junior high school when we were only 12 years old. I had moved to the Midwest with my parents that previous summer. Michael and I met in our eighth grade Spanish class. Our seats had been assigned alphabetically by last name. Mine is Bradley and his is Brandon, so naturally we were seated together. I thought he was fun to talk to and we'd been friendly throughout the school year. All through junior high and high school, our lockers had been next door to each other. We had numerous classes together. Looking back, there had always been a friendly flirtation between us.
Michael had the same girlfriend, Corinne, all through those years. I'd always admired their relationship. Most kids in high school dated around. There were always breakups, makeups and drama to be found, typical of high school.
After graduation, Michael and I lost touch for about a year. He'd actually shown up at the restaurant I worked at to visit my coworker, Chris. We'd gotten to talking and I found out he'd split up with Cori a few months prior. We agreed to hang out, which turned into a date. The first date led to many more and we'd quickly fallen in love.
Can you remember the first time you fell in love? I can. It wasn't Michael, though. It had been my high school boyfriend, Alex, whom I'd lost my virginity to. We'd gone through that obsessive, infatuated state and that state never really ended. There was a lot of passion there. We loved each other madly and argued viciously. We were too alike and too different all at once. Being with Michael wasn't like that. It was always comfortable and natural for us. Some friends had joked that they always figured we would end up together.
Michael was my first grown up relationship. We spent mostly happy years together. I still can't pinpoint when things changed. I'd been pushing for an engagement for awhile. That's what couples do, right? They date for awhile, live together a few years and then they get married. I'd wanted that desperately, but looking back, I only wanted it because I thought it was the way things were supposed to be. Michael and I had grown apart. I know now that we've both changed but his change had been for the worse.
I pressured myself to really think about the last year of our relationship. We'd been distant and strained, but I still don't know if that was because Michael was secretly depressed or if the depression came after.
I was napping on the couch when Holly arrived. She fussed over me, asking rapid fire questions. Have you been eating regularly to prevent feeling faint? Have you been resting? Are you in pain? Do you need anything? It was sweet, really. She's a good person with a huge heart. We talked a little about my accident, we chatted a bit about what a jerk Eric turned out to be, she mentioned organizing my baby shower. And finally, the talk turned to Michael.
I was careful about what I revealed. It wasn't my place to talk about Michael's mental health or hospitalization in a psychiatric facility. I kept my statements vague yet touched on the idea that Michael was striving to improve himself and felt that writing me a letter would be therapeutic.
"Well, Emma, what do you think is best?" She asked.
"I think, no, I know I want to read it. I want to satisfy my curiosity and see what he has to say. I feel like I need some insight or closure or an explanation for his crazy behavior." I trailed off.
"But I'm not sure it's a good idea. Reading it could be stressful. It could just be a hateful letter blaming me for his problems. It could be an attempt to win me back, which absolutely won't happen. It could be a tactic to get me to drop the lawyer talks so he can fight for parental rights. Honestly, it could be anything!"
"Hon, you're right. It could be any or none of the above. My opinion? You should read it but take it with a grain of salt. If it gives you peace of mind to see what he has to say, go for it. If it turns out to be a nasty letter, give a copy to Rebecca. It could help you ensure custody and the right to allow him the relationship with your child that you see fit." Holly spoke diplomatically.
"I hadn't thought of it like that. You're totally right. Either the letter helps both of us heal or it helps me protect myself and my daughter. I'll call Melinda and tell her I've made up my mind."
Holly gently hugged me goodbye before leaving. I think our conversation gave me a new perspective.
Melinda was eager to bring me the letter and check in with me for a brief visit. She looked older, somehow. I hadn't realized just how much of an impact this Michael situation has had on her. She informed me he'd be leaving the hospital within 24-48 hours and would ideally be staying with them for a little while. I thanked her for the update and she promised he wouldn't be bothering me. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying something snarky.
After she left, I sat down to read the letter. I was surprised to find two more envelopes inside, along with the short letter. Each envelope had my name and instructions not to open them until a date listed two weeks from today. It struck me as odd, but I assume he had a reason.
The letter was short.
"Emma, hopefully you've agreed to accept these letters. I'm sure my parents have explained everything to you. I'm so sorry for all I've put you through. You didn't deserve that sort of treatment and I'm ashamed of my actions. Therapy has been really beneficial for me and I've come to accept why you left and the reality of our situation. Someday, I hope you'll find it in your heart to forgive me."
The letter was simply signed "Michael". It was anticlimactic, really. Just a generic apology letter. I felt better having read it, though. I put the other letters away in a drawer. Despite my gnawing curiosity about them, I decided to respect his wishes and open them on the date he'd instructed.
I was still feeling worn out and went to bed early. I was plagued by nightmares and fitful sleep and awoke with a pit of unease in my stomach.
I spent a few hours of the day working and it helped me feel better and more normal somehow. Kate and Dale came by to have dinner with me and to watch some movies on Netflix. Again, I fell asleep early.
I was awakened around 3 am by my ringing phone. I fumbled around for it with a growing feeling of dread. There are never any good reasons for a middle of the night phone call.
My heart may have stopped when I saw who was calling at this late hour: Melinda.