Clouds

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Authors: Robin Jones Gunn
was as if she had cut loose his emotional moorings and sent him drifting out to sea without a sail.
    What tortured Shelly the most as she sat in the now-tepid bathwater and let her tears cascade down her cheeks, was the shame she felt. She left home two days after that emotionally destructive night because there was an immediate opening at the flight school. She had started fresh in Los Angeles, as if Jonathan had never existed. The only thing that haunted herwas her impulsive, aggressive kiss. Never would she have guessed she had that kind of fire inside her or the audacity to assault her best friend with such a misuse of her passion.
    She had asked forgiveness from God a hundred times. She had never asked anything of Jonathan. They hadn’t spoken since.
    The only communication she had had with Jonathan in the last five years was a letter he had written her that fall. The return address was Boulder, Colorado. Apparently Humboldt hadn’t worked out. She had read the letter only once, very quickly, then stuffed it back in the envelope and buried it in the bottom of her box of mismatched sheets of stationery. She had never taken it out again, and she had never written to him.
    Shelly pulled herself from the tub and placed her dripping wet foot on the fluffy yellow bathroom rug. Drying off quickly and wrapping up in her robe, Shelly went down to the garage and scanned the stack of boxes until she found the one she was looking for. She carried it up to her bedroom. Sitting cross-legged on the rug where the filtered light streamed in, bringing a chorus line of tiny, dancing dust fairies, Shelly tore off the packing tape and opened the box marked “Desk Stuff.”

Chapter Seven

 
    T
he old box of mismatched stationery was halfway down on the right side. Shelly pulled it out and dumped its contents onto the floor. The last bit of paper that fluttered out was the envelope from Jonathan.
    Shelly slowly ran her finger across his name and return address. She remembered how nervous she had felt the day the letter arrived. She had had some friends over and hoped none of them noticed the way her face flushed when she brought in the mail and saw the letter from Jonathan. Excusing herself from her friends for a moment, Shelly had gone into her bedroom, closed the door, and with shaking fingers, opened the envelope.
    Now, on this quiet Seattle afternoon, Shelly once again went through the motions of pulling the single sheet of crisp onion-skin paper from the envelope.
    Dear Shelly,
    Your parents tell me you are doing well and enjoying your new position with the airlines. I’m glad you’re getting to do what you always wanted to. This letter is only to wish you the best always.
    I found this poem by Michael Drayton while doing research for my English lit. class. I had to send it to you. He wrote it more than four hundred years ago, but when I read it, I thought it could have been written four months ago.
    Please know that I will always consider you my very best friend.
    Jonathan
    Shelly blinked back the tears and read the poem again that he had so carefully copied at the bottom of the page.
    T HE P ARTING
    Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part—
    Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
    And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
    That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
    Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
    And when we meet at any time again,
    Be it not seen in either of our brows
    That we one jot of former love retain.
    Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
    When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
    When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
    And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
    Now if thou wouldst; when all have given him over;
    From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.
    Shelly’s response to reading the poem this time was vastly different from what it had been that evening long ago in her California bedroom. That first time, she had taken great offense at the words. She imagined

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