Kindred Spirits

by Foster Trecost

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Madison:

            My name is Monsignor Monteroni. With much sadness I write with news of Katie's untimely passing. Your daughter had a special soul; she brought joy where there was none, gave hope to the defeated, and left a lasting impression on everyone she met.

            I'll never forget the morning she knocked on my door. It was raining and she was soaked. She asked my name and we talked till noon, the first of many conversations.

            She loved you both. I'm sorry to say she is gone.     

I Remain,

Msgr. Monteroni

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            “All the bottoms are taken.”

            In a room filled with bunks, this could only mean one thing. A young girl lifted her suitcase from the lower bed and swung it up to the one above. “I just got here,” she said. “I didn't know. My name's Katie.”

            The introduction was met with skepticism, then returned: “I'm Jess. Allow me to explain a few things.” The words came with an easy cadence that suggested Jess not only knew the ropes, but also helped hang them. “The church clears us out by ten, but we come back to the same beds. It's kind of an unwritten rule. Where you from?”

            Clearing out was a familiar concept and though Katie sensed a friend, she felt it best to filter the details. She settled on an abbreviated answer that lacked accuracy, but was technically still true: “Just a small town. Nowhere, really.”

            Jess had been around long enough to know there was more to the story, there was always more, and the rest would be told in time. “I bet you're hungry,” she said. “They give out soup down the street, I'll take you.”

            The two girls left the shelter and turned the corner, but got no further. Never before had Katie heard so many sounds all in one place. They landed like a stampede and she hesitated for fear she'd be trampled. “Don't worry,” said Jess. “I'll take care of you.” And that she did.

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            It was a warm afternoon, but a breeze blew. Nothing that gusted, rather steady and light, as if created by a box fan set to the lowest level. A scrap of paper danced past, followed by a plastic cup, each with its own melody, yet somehow fused into a single sound.

            “It feels good when the wind blows,” said the plastic cup. “It's going to rain.”

            “Let it,” said the scrap of paper. “I like the rain.”

            Not long after, rain began and fell through the night. Katie and Jess sat by an open window, talking and not talking. When a tear appeared on the outside corner of Katie's eye, it held tight for a few seconds, then journeyed south, marking its path with a faint, damp trail.

            “When were you supposed to go back?”

            “At the bus stop, my dad asked if he'd ever see me again. He knew I wasn't going back.”

            “What'd you say?”

            “I didn't say anything. No matter what, it would've been a lie.” She paused, then added, “I wish something would happen to me. Something quick, quick enough to be painless. Then I could stop feeling so guilty.”

            Jess's dark eyes darkened. “Be careful what you wish for.”

            “I still want to make them proud, but part of me wants them to suffer. I wish I could do both.”

            After a fitful night, Katie left the shelter and walked to the rectory. The rain continued and made it easier to look like she had been crying. A priest dressed in black answered the door and asked if he could help her.

            Katie stared from unblinking eyes and ignored the question. She did not need his help, only his name, so she asked what it was.

            “Monsignor Monteroni,” he said.

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            “It's a beautiful letter, Monsignor.”

            No response.

            “You're so brave to write her family.” The envelope was addressed to Katie's parents. “She'll be missed so much-”

            And that was enough. 

            “-Cut it out, Jess. You never know when to stop.”

            The scrap of paper quieted and handed a stamp to the plastic cup.

            Moments later, Katie loosened her grip and let the letter fall. Something quick, quick enough to be painless. It slipped through her fingers and fell to the bottom of a big, blue mailbox. Make them proud, make them suffer. She had found a way.