S. Harris #993765
Polunsky Unit (Death Row)
Livingston, TEXAS 77351
Dear Mr. S. Harris,
Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It's jam, not blood, though I don't think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn't your wife's jam the police found on your shoe.
The jam in the corner's from my sandwich. Homemade raspberry. Gran made it. She's been dead seven years, and making that jam was the last thing she did. Sort of. If you ignore the weeks she spent in the hospital attached to one of those heart things that goes beep beep if you're lucky or beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep if you're not. That was the sound echoing around the hospital room seven years ago. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. My little sister was born six months later, and Dad named her after Gran. Dorothy Constance. When Dad stopped grieving, he decided to shorten it. My sister is small and round so we ended up calling her Dot.
My other sister, Soph, is ten. They've both got long blond hair and green eyes and pointy noses, but Soph is tall and thin and darker-skinned, like Dot's been rolled out and crisped in the oven for ten minutes. I'm different. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Medium height. Medium weight. Ordinary, I suppose. To look at me, you'd never guess my secret.
I struggled to eat the sandwich in the end. The jam wasn't rotten or anything, because it lasts for years in sterilized jars. At least that's what Dad says when Mum turns up her nose. It's pointy, too. Her hair's the same color as my sisters' but shorter and a bit wavy. Dad's is more like mine, except with gray bits above his ears, and he's got this thing called heterochromia, which means one eye's brown but the other's lighter. Blue if it's bright outside, gray if it's overcast. The sky in a socket, I once said, and Dad got these dimples right in the middle of his cheeks, and I don't know if any of this really matters, but I suppose it's good to give you a picture of my family before I tell you what I came in here to say.
Because I am going to say it. I'm not sitting in this shed for the fun of it. It's bloody freezing and Mum would kill me if she knew I was out of bed, but it's a good place to write this letter, hidden away behind some trees. Don't ask me what type, but they've got big leaves that are rustling in the breeze. Shhhhwiiishhh. Actually, that sounds nothing like them.
There's jam on my fingers so the pen's sticky. I bet the cats' whiskers are, too. Lloyd and Webber meowed as if they couldn't quite believe their luck that the sky was raining sandwiches when I chucked it over the hedge. I wasn't hungry anymore. In actual fact I never was, and if I'm being honest, I only made the sandwich in the first place to put off starting this letter. No offense or anything Mr. Harris. It's just difficult. And I'm tired. I haven't really slept since May 1.
There's no danger of me dropping off in here. The box of tiles is digging into my thighs, and a draft is blowing through a gap underneath the shed door. I need to get a move on because, just my luck, the flashlight is running out of battery. I tried holding it between my teeth, but my jaw started to ache so now it's balancing near a spiderweb on the windowsill. I don't normally sit in the shed, especially not at 2 am , but tonight the voice in my head is louder than ever before. The images are more real, and my pulse is racing racing racing, and I bet if my heart was attached to one of those hospital things, all the fast thumping would break it.
When I got out of bed, my pajama top was sticking to my back, and my mouth was drier than probably a desert. That's when I put on my bathrobe and tiptoed outside because I knew it was time to write this letter. I can't keep it in anymore. I have to tell someone, and you're the person I chose.
From Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Copyright © 2013 by Annabel Pitcher. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.
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