Jane walked through the gallery smelling like a leftover tragedy and went to her grand mother's room. She knelt on the floor and lifted the lid of a glass jar kept in the corner. Letters tied with jute threads, dried roses and old photographs filled the jar to the brim. Some colourful handmade greeting cards, a friendship band and even a few empty chocolate wrappers were concealed in that pile. Jane carefully removed the jar from under the bed. This was her safest hiding place. As her grandparents were quite old and weak they could never reach under the bed. She quickly took the jar to her room so that she could reminisce the bitter sweet moments as she went through the contents of the jar and cry over them.
This had become a routine for her from the last few months. After returning from college, she would isolate herself from the world and take solace in the memories. She had read the letters almost thousand times. Henry was definitely a Nicholas Spark, when he wrote to her. In this era of Facebook and Instagram, they had maintained their pious connection in the most old school way possible. They had met 4 years back at a museum in London called the Keats House. A chanced encounter between the two literature fans had started something that was going to last for years. What initially started as discussion on English literature led to their whole day together. Though Jane had come with her school buddies, she stayed back. They spent a wonderful evening together before catching their respective buses from Victoria.
Jane was from Bath and Henry from Birmingham. He was a few years elder to her, but there literary age matched. Their love for English made them do something very odd. Instead of exchanging numbers, they exchanged addresses while departing. They wanted to be penpals and this insane idea started a long series of letters. They didn't know when the initial friendly letters were slowly replaced by love letters. The exchange of friendship band was substituted by heart shaped greetings. Henry even hoped down to visit her thrice. They spent full day together every time and those were the best moments of her life. By the time, Jane started college, she became sure that Henry was her soulmate. She had saved even the wrappers of the chocolate they had shared on his visit or the red roses he had bought for her. She was head over heels in love with Henry. He was now teaching literature at the Birmingham University. She would also try for a job at the University after graduation and then they would have a happily ever after.
But, then tragedy struck. His letters stopped suddenly a couple of months back. She waited and waited. Even her anxious letters weren't replied too. Now owing to their stupid pact, she neither had Henry's phone number nor knew his last name to be able to contact him on facebook. She just had a few photographs of them together taken during his visits to which she clung for life. She was getting depressed with each passing day and spent hours worrying about him.
Today was one such day. She couldn't take it any more. The anticipation was killing her. Early next morning, instead of going to college she took the first bus to Birmingham and reached the address which was by heart to her by now. As soon as she closed the door of the cab, she heard a playful shreik of a child. When she turned around, she saw a girl in her early twenties rushing to the kid. As she picked up the baby, their eyes met. There was a melancholy in her eyes, which reflected in the form of dark circles on her pale face. She looked worse than how Jane was feeling. But still she gave a kind smile and enquired with Jane whether she had come from the University, while ushering her into the house.
Henry had never mentioned any relative living with him and hence Jane was slowly trying to comprehend the situation, when her eyes caught the memorial on a piece of paper lying lazily on the table with Henry's name on it. He was smiling brightly in the picture with the birth and death dates written below it. She was on the verge of collapsing when the sad lady started talking about how her husband had contributed so much of his life to the university. He never had time for her or their two kids but always was absorbed in his research for the University. Jane had not only lost the love of her life to death but more importantly to a stranger who she didn't even know existed. Henry had not only lied about being married, he was much more older than he had told her. Even though Jane's world had shattered, she didn't have the heart to ruin the memories for the widow, who was still recovering from her loss. At that instant, Jane stood up and affirmed that she was from the University. She gave her condolences and asked if there were any letters addressed to Henry from Bath during the past months. She said she wanted them as they were official ones and need to be taken care of. As soon as Jane was handed the sealed letters, she murmured her good byes and rushed out.
She cried all the way back to her home. Although Henry was not honest in love, she had loved him dearly. For him, she was just an assignment to improve his letter writing skills or a teenager to fool around with. But, the cruel Henry had indeed taught her love. What she had felt was real. On reaching home, she went down to her grand mother's room, got the jar and burned everything inside it. As the flares laughed at her, she cried to her heart's content. This was the last time she was crying for him. She was now free from the shackles of love.