By Jessica Prescott
I opened the Word document and started typing, tears already stinging my eyes. “Dear Mrs. Knight …” It was eight thirty on a school night. My backpack was crammed with homework, but it would have to wait. I burrowed into the pillows and poured out my words, trying to see the bright computer screen through the watery blur.
I’d written hundreds of letters to this woman over the years. But this time was different.
Her name was Margery Knight, although the only name I remember calling her is Mrs. Knight. She was many things: wife of a World War II veteran. Mother of three children. Grandmother to countless more. My neighbor-across-the-street, in the wee yellow house. My first friend outside the family. Mrs. Knight was a devout Methodist and a perfect hostess. She loved jewelry. She ran a quilting circle. Mrs. Knight collected antique dollhouses and antique furniture. She had a spinning wheel (yes, a spinning wheel) in her living room.
When I was a little girl, I spent all the time I could in her home. Mrs. Knight had a way of making me feel special. She’d feed me special cookies—arrowroot cookies, if I remember correctly—and show me the little room where she kept her dollhouses. A sweet, musty smell pervaded it, the smell of old wood and softened fabric. We would sit there quietly, her mostly talking, me mostly listening, as Mrs. Knight described the history of each house. There was a sea captain’s dollhouse with a “widow’s walk,” a balcony where the mother doll could scan the horizon for her husband’s ship, which might never return. The tragedy duly impressed six-year-old me.
When I was eight, we moved away, leaving behind the magic yellow house across the street. I cried harder than I’d ever cried before, the day I had to hug Mrs. Knight goodbye. Determined not to lose my first friend, though, I began writing her letters. I kept up the habit for ten years or more, until college.
Margery Knight was past eighty when we moved. Her hands were stiff, her eyesight was fading, she didn’t own a computer, and she couldn’t write me back. This never bothered me. If anything, it gave me a greater sense of freedom—I could say anything I wanted, almost like a journal entry, when I sat down to type out a letter. Everything that happened to me, big or small, found its way onto the page. No matter what I wrote, I knew my friend would read it and smile.
But that cold February evening, as my keyboard clattered and tears trickled down my face, I knew Mrs. Knight would never read my letter. Not with mortal eyes, anyway. But I wanted to believe, somehow, somewhere, she could still hear me.
“I don’t want to say goodbye to you,” I told her. “But I needed to write this. I can’t let you go without telling you, for once, just how much you’ve meant to my life.”
At the bottom of the page, I took a deep breath, blinked hard, and typed the last thing I needed to say,
“Thank you, Mrs. Knight.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Prescott writes books under the name Katie Hanna and blogs under the name Charles Baker Harris (confusing, she readily admits). You can find out more about Jessica, her pet projects, and her obsession with Doctor Who at I’m Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read).