Letter to Rebecca

Dear Rebecca

I know it has taken me such a long time to sit down and write this letter but, unusually for me, I haven’t ever really known what to say. Perhaps that isn’t so unusual.
If you were here we could be having this conversation face to face but even if that were possible I don’t suppose we would.
Anyway, I have plenty of time on my hands now as I retired last month.
Apparently there had been a lot of talk on the island that I would take early retirement after what happened but that wasn‘t ever an option for me. In the end I did 24 years. I wrote to the head of education requesting they let me make it 25 but they refused.
People were kind and they gave me a lovely retiral dinner in the Lochside. In the speech they joked about having to lock the doors to keep me out. They probably weren’t kidding
It probably won’t come as a surprise that I am not enjoying it so far. To be honest I don’t really know what to do with myself.
I have arthritis and was told some time ago to do less at weekends. I already dreaded Friday evenings, when everyone else went home to their families. Now everyday is the weekend.
Mostly I find myself just sitting here at the kitchen table. I always loved the view straight out the window towards the cliffs. It is the reason I picked this house for us, and of course, it is all the more significant now. Amazing how being surrounded by water could mean freedom to one of us but a prison to the other.
I was planning on redecorating but to be honest I don’t want to. It would give me something to do but I’m not sure I want it to change.
Those old stools that we painted with the school paint are still around the table. You’re red one, the blue one, I still sit on the yellow one. I still have the green one but it is in the shed because I broke it trying to change a light bulb in the bathroom. My foot slipped and it kicked away from underneath me. I slipped a disk in my back and had to lie there until Archie the post came with the mail in the morning.
I remember you used always pat the stools saying how the glossy paint still looked wet.
That happened nearly three years ago now. I find it hard to believe how fast the time has passed when every day has felt so long.
Do you remember the first time I brought you over from Glasgow to see the house.? We came on the ferry got the bus to the village and then Macdonald brought us up the track in his Landrover. It was such an adventure for you. You kept clambering across my knees in the back seat, wearing your brand new little wellies, crawling from window to window in case you missed anything. I don’t think you had ever seen so much open space. You giggled so much when we went over the cattle grid. I thought we would be so happy.
But I suppose it was always my dream.
One of my fondest memories of your grandfather was him walking me up the ramp onto the ferry when I was a girl. I only stepped on the raised bits and never in between. If I did he would tickle me and say it was the sharks. We came every year for a week’s holiday until he died.
He would have loved to have come and visited us here. He might even have come to live with us if he had outlived my mother. She was never really one for fresh air.
I often wonder now if I was as cold as she was. These are the questions I want to ask but am glad you cannot answer.
We were so different you and I. I wished all my life to be creative and natural like you but I had to work to be good at anything. You probably don’t know that when I was a teenager I wanted to be a singer. It was how I met your father. He told me I had a terrible voice and should give up immediately. He made me laugh a lot. But he changed when things didn’t go well for him. He couldn’t pick himself up and dust himself down. That was something I always tried to show you. Perhaps it backfired.
I know the last time you saw him was heartbreaking. I didn’t want you to go but remember you were 13 and you insisted. We had a huge row on the way down to the ferry. I mentioned his drinking and you wouldn’t even say goodbye. When you came back with your beautiful blue eyes all red and swollen and still not speaking I knew I had been right. It broke my heart too.
There are so many moments I go over now. So many of them when I wished I said something different, or just said something. I used to hear you crying at night. Once when you were 17 I stood outside the bathroom at 2am for two hours listening to you sobbing and gasping and stamping your feet but when you unlocked the door I hid back in my room.
I was scared Rebecca. I didn’t know what made you so angry and sad, and well I suppose I was scared that the answer was me.
The day you painted the school walls haunts me. I said I had to make an example of you. But the island was so judgemental of me as a female head teacher. An outsider with a goth daughter to boot. They were always waiting for something to snipe at and I was furious with you for giving it to them.
Actually those giant birds were the most amazing paintings I had ever seen but the blood. The scene was disturbing Rebecca. I know you did it deliberately.
Getting into the car that night in silence like so many other times I couldn’t help looking at your hands. At first I thought it was the red paint. Then I realised. Your beautiful talented little hands were red raw from the scrubbing. As we pulled away from the gathered crowd I was glad you weren’t speaking to me. I was so ashamed.
There’s so much more. Every day I sit here going over it and staring at your last spot on the cliff edge.
I make myself walk there whenever I can but the arthritis is getting worse. One day I won’t be able to go at all and the closest I will get will be looking at it through the window. Despite all this open space another wall between us.
I’m so sorry Rebecca. I’m saying this out loud.

I love you

Letter to Rebecca


Joined January 2008

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