‘The Letter’: a short story

The Letter

Nadine never expected to find anything at these jumble sales, but today was her lucky day. There it was, sitting on top of a pile of generic romances and autobiographies – a stunning copy of Jane Austen’s Emma, hardback and blue as the sky. She picked it up, and addressed the old lady running the stall outside her house: “How much for this book, ma’am?”

The lady smiled, a friendly smile full of memories: “Oh, Emma – that was my husband John’s favourite story, my dear. If you will cherish the book as he did, then you may take it.”

That evening, Nadine sat on her bed, ready to thumb through the old copy of Emma. She flicked through the pages, and out fell an envelope. She raised an eyebrow – based on the postmark, it was old, aged nearly fifty years. Handwritten, addressed to a lady called Alexa. Her interest was piqued.

She couldn’t resist it – she opened the letter and read the contents.

Dear Alexa,

I’ve known you all of my life, and I’ve always been able to turn to you in my moments of need. Well, I need help now like never before.

Mum and Dad have been pushing for me to get married, and they’re actually serious about it this time. Problem is, they don’t speak to each other – they’ve both set me up with someone, and now I’m stuck with two fiancées. Mum matched me with her friend’s daughter. You remember Sue from the bakery? Yes, her – her daughter, Evie, is an estate agent. She’s clever, and she makes me laugh so much. If I’d only met her, I could see myself living with her. But then, you’ve got Sam. She’s Dad’s choice, and she looks like Dad’s choice, if you get what I mean – she’s stunning, she really is. Blonde, like a piece of art, and she knows it. We had a great couple of nights together, but where do we go from there?

You see my issue, Alexa. I had a great time with Evie, but was it love? I had a great time with Sam, but will the attraction fade? And, no matter what I do, I’m stuck. If I choose one, I break off the engagement with the other and I break her heart. If I choose neither, I annoy my parents and I break the two women’s hearts. It’s a no-win situation, an impossible choice, and here I am, forced to choose.

I need your help, Alexa. You’ve always known what is best for me. You’re my best friend, and your advice is always right.

What should I do, Alexa?


There was a second piece of paper in the envelope, a reply from Alexa. It was short and simple, and yet it said so much:

Follow your heart, John, and you’ll make the right choice.

Nadine had been thinking about the letter all night, and it had kept her wide awake. She expected one great romance, and she’d found another – but how did it end? Who did John choose?

It was that question that brought her back to the house that next day, saw her rap on the door and search for words as she realised she had no idea what she was going to say.

The older lady opened the door.

“I don’t know if you remember me,” Nadine rambled, “I was here yesterday. You gave me the book.”

“Yes, of course, my dear. Is everything okay?”

She produced the letter, and handed it to the lady, who opened it and started scanning it.

“I found this – it belonged to your husband. I read it, I hope you don’t mind, just to see what it was. But now I need to know what happened – what’s your name, ma’am?”

The lady finished the letter, and smiled, memory-filled tears in her eyes:

“It’s Alexa, dear.”


This story is part of a brand new Creative Writing series within the Boar Arts section! If you want the opportunity to feature in the new creative section of the Boar, you can submit pitches to arts@theboar.org. 

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