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The postmaster plonked the mail into the slot in the door. Scooping…

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Watchful and worried.
The postmaster plonked the mail into the slot in the door. Scooping up his bag, he made his way to the rest of the houses.

At this last house, the mail had been rather normal -- credit card letters, random tickets for various concerts, and letters addressed to "Terry" from "Mum." In the very middle, however, laid an envelope that read: "To Terry." It had nothing else on it. No address, no return address. Only a name.

Dear Terry,

I know it’s been quite a while since we’ve talked due to, well, territorial issues, but I never got to properly say goodbye to you. Actually, I never got to properly say goodbye to anyone. I thought there would be so much time before now, but I suppose that just didn’t happen, did it?

I know that this letter sounds quite impossible, but I assure you, this is no joke at all. If you need proof, I know that your worst fear is of lobsters because you heard one screaming in a restaurant once. I am afraid of cockroaches and being alone. My middle name’s Hemangini, and it means “girl with the golden body.” Fair enough?

Before I go away forever, I want you to know that I love you. With all of my heart and soul that still lives on, I will always love you, in this world and in the next. Because I know that you’re the only one who would ever read any of my letters, I’d really like it if you told everyone else that we were ever close to. I know it’s a lot to ask, but Terry, if someone can keep our group together, it’s you.

Terry, I really am happy here. It’s for the best, and I want you to know that I am safe here. Everything is so careless. And you wouldn’t believe it, Terry, the stereotypes are right. Everything is so light. I feel uplifted just because of it. Even the tiniest bit of darkness can’t slip through. I don’t feel anything. …In a good way.

And because I may never get a chance to say another goodbye, I want to clarify that I really do love you. You were always my friend, and I will always consider you my best friend, through it all. I hope you know that I do have high hopes for you in the future, and I will always be watching over you. Know that even through the darkest of times, I’ll be with you, protecting you. Because that’s what friends do.

I can’t quite say what made me depart this world, but I do know that this was meant to happen. Everything will turn out all right because of this, and I know it. Keep calm. Be safe. Remember that in that little space of time between dreaming and awakening, that is where you will find me.

I love you, Terry Boot, and you will always be my best friend. Goodbye.

Padma Patil.
  • It was late when Terry walked up the path to his front door, something he had done for years, but today it was different. He noticed the way the people on his street had painstakingly put their front gardens together and he wondered how long they had spent deliberating over such mundane details as which colours to put together or choosing the different types of plants or flowers for the different seasons. He found himself listening to sounds he would usually have ignored or not previously noticed, like the blare of a car radio, raised voices from the open window of a house across the street, the sound of a baby crying. He also found himself noticing the slightest movements. He stopped to watch his neighbour’s cat sneak softly away into the growing darkness. It seemed important somehow to note all of these unimportant, unnoticed, every day details. What if I were never to walk down this street again? he thought as he let himself into the house he had grown up in.

    Terry stepped over the pile of letters lying on the rug. Closing the door behind him, he took off the black jacket he had worn to the funeral, his Ravenclaw tie and held them as he looked listlessly down the hall at the doors leading into various rooms. He stood for a moment like this, feeling numb, as though he were trapped in a nightmare and was waiting to wake up. Shaking his head, he flung the jacket and tie over the banister and headed upstairs, switching on all the lights before returning downstairs and switching all the lights on. His mum would have killed him if she had been there but he didn’t care. He couldn't sit in the oppressive darkness which seemed to weigh down on him. He needed the house to be full of light, perhaps that would ease some of the pain in his heart.
  • He noticed the letters again on his way into the living room. Picking them up, he flicked through them. Various letters addressed to his mum, probably bills, something for one of his sisters and a single letter addressed to him. At first he assumed it was from his mother except her envelopes were different and this wasn’t her handwriting. Besides, she would never use a quill. He stared at it for a long while. His mum had written to him often, she was currently away taking care of his Nan and despite calling him every day, she would also write to him. Perhaps she thought the double reminder would help ease some of his anguish. She also regularly called their neighbour, old Mrs Harrison, to ask her to check up on Terry. He could understand his mother’s concern, she knew he and Padma had been close, she had even cried when she’d heard the news but Terry had insisted she go and take care of her mother, who needed her more. Besides, Terry hadn’t wanted anyone around. He avoided his sisters when they were home and they mostly left him alone, not really able to console him.

    Sitting down on the couch, Terry dropped the other letters on the coffee table and opened the envelope addressed to him. The first sentence baffled him, he thought perhaps it was Michael or Anthony but he had seen them during the day and he was quite sure that they would have talked to him at the funeral if they hadn't been overcome with grief, rather than sneak a letter through his door. He continued to read, his eyes moving over the page slowly, stopping every so often as a puzzled look settled across his features. He drew in a sharp intake of breath as he came to the second paragraph. The room suddenly felt cold and dark. His hand trembled and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. He didn’t know what to think as he turned the letter over, examining every inch of it. He then picked up the envelope, examined it closely for some sort of clue. This is definitely a prank he thought, feeling angry and disgusted as he read the letter again. Without thinking it through, Terry got up and left the house, running towards Mrs Harrison‘s door. He rang her bell and when she didn’t answer, he impatiently pressed his finger down on the button, listening to the sound echo across her house.

    The old woman finally opened the door, hesitantly at first but when she recognised Terry she offered him a smile and asked if he wanted to come in. He declined her offer and asked instead if she had seen anyone approach his house during the day. She told him she had only seen the postman in the morning. Terry, without a response or explanation, turned from her and ran down the street. Turning the corner, he kept running. The sorting office’s only a few more streets away he thought as he ran, clutching the letter in his hand. It was cold for autumn and as he reached his local sorting office rain had started to fall.

    Terry knocked on the heavy red door. When no one answered he angrily kicked at it repeatedly, yelling for someone to open it. Eventually a tired looking man with thinning grey hair and pockmarked skin opened the door.
    “What’s your problem? Bugger off before I call the police” he said gruffly.
    “I need to know how this letter got to my house” Terry asked desperately.
    “The same way all the letters do, now sod off”
    The door slammed in his face. Terry stared at it and was about to knock again but decided it was pointless. He turned around and walked away. He knew if he lingered someone would probably report him to the police for being drunk and disorderly.
  • Terry walked aimlessly, losing track of time, completely unaware of where he was going. Eventually he forced himself to sit down on a street bench covered with graffitti. The streetlight above cast its eerie amber glow over him as he read the letter again. He didn't even realise he was crying, his face was wet with tears and the autumn rain and while his hair and clothes were drenched, the letter in his hands remained dry. He couldn’t explain where the letter had come from, or why, but he finally allowed himself to be convinced that it didn’t matter how it got to him, what mattered was that he had received it. That Padma had loved him and that she was right, he had to try and maintain the friendships they had formed over the past seven years. Getting up, he searched for a street sign and realised he was closer to Michael's house than Anthony's.

    The rain had finally stopped falling when he reached Michael's house. No one else was on the street as Terry rang the door bell. Michael’s dad eventually opened the door. From his dishevelled hair and the missing slipper, Terry realised how late it must have been.
    "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you" he said, realising how pathetic he must have sounded.
    "Terry? Are you alright?" said Mr Corner.
    "I need to see Mike" replied Terry.
    Mr Corner looked at him a moment as though he couldn't quite believe that Terry was standing in front of him. He finally spoke, "look at the state of you. How long have you been out there?" but before Terry could respond, Mr Corner had pulled him into the house and was saying "never mind that, come in and get yourself warmed up".
    He lead Terry to the living room, switiching on the light and turning on the heater. By now, Michael's step-mother had joined them and Terry began to apologise for disturbing her and the family.
    "Nonsense. I told Michael he should have invited you over after the funeral. You need to get out of those wet clothes. Fetch him some of Michael's clothes will you, dear?" she said, turning to her husband who nodded and left the room.
    "Sit down and get yourself warmed up, I'll get you something to eat"
    Terry did as he was told, feeling grateful that they hadn't asked him too many questions.
    He hadn't even realised how cold he had been until he pulled on the dry clothes and sat beside the heater, eating the lasagne Michael's step-mother had warmed for him.
    "I need to see Mike" he said as Mrs Corner cleared away the dishes.
    "He’s asleep, Terry. You can see him in the morning" she said.
    Terry got up and headed out of the living room.
    "Where are you going?" Mr Corner followed him out into the hallway.
    "Home. I'll come back tomorrow. I'm sorry, it was stupid to turn up like this, I didn't mean to disturb you. I just thought...I needed too..." Terry tried to explain but he couldn't get the words out.
    "You're staying here tonight" Mr Corner finally said.
    "I can't. I left the lights on" Terry said.
    "I'll go over and turn them off" before Terry could protest, Michael's father continued "and I'll call your sisters and your mother and let them know you’re staying here tonight"
    "Thank you" Terry smiled weakly.
    "You can sleep in Andrew’s room, he’s away at university. Go on up, you know where it is" Mr Corner said, pointing towards the stairs.
    Terry thanked him again and made his way upstairs. He hesitated outside Michael’s closed door and was about to knock but decided it would perhaps be better to wait until the morning. He continued towards Andrew's room and collapsed on to the bed. He turned on to his back and stared up at the ceiling before getting up and moving over to the window to look out at the street.
  • He still had the letter in his hand. He unfolded it now and read it again, repeating the lines in his head. He wanted to memorise it. It was part of her and he would never forget her, not for as long as he lived. He thought again about knocking on Michael's door. He doubted the other boy was asleep. He knew Michael and Padma had had a strange friendship and he had been convinced at one point that one of them might have liked the other more than merely as a friend. Terry made up his made and despite feeling guilty for disobeying Mrs Corner, he left his room and knocked lightly on Michael’s door. There was no response but Terry opened the door anyway.

    Closing the door behind him, he found the other boy sitting on the floor. A candle burned on the bedside table, casting pale shadows across the room. Michael didn't look up. He continued to gaze down at a photograph he was holding. Terry noticed there were various photographs and letters lying on the floor around where Michael sat.
    Terry waited. Michael finally looked up and briefly met Terry’s gaze.
    "I’m sorry, but I had to see you" Terry said as he walked over to where his friend sat. He noticed Michael's eyes were red as he sat down beside him. Picking up some of the photographs closest to him, Terry looked at them.
    "What do you want Terry?" the other boy finally spoke.
    Terry turned and looked at Michael. He couldn't make out his expression.
    "I guess I didn't want to be alone" Terry said as he handed Michael the photographs he had picked up. Michael didn't say anything in response, instead he handed Terry the photograph he had been holding.
    Padma smiled up at him.
    "She looked amazing that night" Terry said as he remembered the ball during their final year at Hogwarts.
    "She’s not really gone you know" Terry continued, passing the photograph back to Michael. He watched Michael for a moment who seemed as though he was barely containing the sadness and grief that Terry was sure he was feeling. Terry decided he wouldn't show the letter to Michael, not tonight, not with the state he was in. He would show it to him eventually but this wasn't the right time.
    "As long as we remember her, she’ll never really be gone" Terry said.
    "Stop. Terry...please. Just go away" Michael finally spoke, his voice breaking with emotion.
    "Ok, but before I go, I just need to tell you..." Terry stopped, and took a deep breath to control his voice. He was hurt by Michael's response but he knew that he hadn't meant to be malicious.
    "You're not going to believe me, and I'll explain it some day, but she’s safe, wherever she is, she's happy. And she loves us. And, we will see her again. Some day" he stopped, and gazed again at the photograph in Michael's hands before continuing, "...in that little space of time between dreaming and awakening, that's where she'll be"
    Terry didn't meet Michael's gaze this time, he got up and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.
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