The mail was soggy from the unrelenting rain. Which was perfectly fine because it was mainly junk. The mushy birthday card that emerged from a drenched white envelope garnered a soft gasp. It was hers, of course, except she was no longer here. An hour later, the card was still on the counter, waiting to be read. Reluctantly, he flipped it open, wondering which cruel person—he refused to call them a friend—would inflict him so.
Dear Ned, it read. He looked at it for a long while, then checked the torn envelope. This month’s postmark, no salutation. Just his address. Which was why he’d opened it in the first place. If it had been addressed to her, he would have ignored it, like he’d ignored all the others. If it had been addressed to him… why was it addressed to him? His birthday wasn’t for months yet. He gathered his courage and started again.
Dear Ned, if you’re reading this, I’m gone. He stumbled to a chair, almost knocking it over as he sat down. He checked the clock, his watch, stared at the ceiling, trying to look anywhere but at the card in his hands. His hands were trembling. Why were they trembling? He leant back and closed his dry, hot eyes. He should have known. Should have recognised her long, loopy scrawls.
Dear Ned, if you’re reading this, I’m gone. It’s alright to cry. Death came quickly and gently, sneaking up on me like a shadow when the sun reaches its peak. There was nothing I could do and nothing you could do. No, there had been nothing he could do as she lay in Mt Miriam receiving treatment. Nothing but hold her hand and pray that she lived another day. And then the days had run out and he’d left that cold, white hospital alone.
Dear Ned, if you’re reading this, I’m gone. It’s alright to cry. Death came quickly and gently, sneaking up on me like a shadow when the sun reaches its peak. There was nothing I could do and nothing you could do. If you loved me, and I know you did, celebrate this day for me. Celebrate my birth, not my death. Celebrate the sun, not the shadow. Don’t let it eat at you like the cancer ate me whole. Happy birthday, Esther. Say it with me.
“Happy Birthday, Esther.” The words sounded empty in his mouth, as hollow as the rain tapping on the roof overhead. There were marbles in his mouth and cotton in his ears; his eyes were raw, burning flame.
“Happy birthday,” he whispered as he dropped the card into the trash. It tumbled lazily, missing the edge of the bin, ending up face down beside the bin, presenting her last message to him.
Dear Ned, I love you.
The mail was soggy, drowned in the salt of Ned’s grief.
Wrote this for a prompt like a million years ago or something.
Pulled up for filler purposes.
And also because I'm unlikely to use it anywhere else.