Dear John

By Laura Schiller

Based on: The Blue Castle

Copyright: The heirs of L. M. Montgomery

Dear John,
I see it all now that you're gone.
Don't you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress cried the whole way home.
I should've known ...
- Taylor Swift, "Dear John"

Cecily Gay found it difficult to tell John Gibson that she was expecting his child. Sitting at the same rickety desk where she had done her homework as a little girl, trying to ignore the reek of cigars which infested her father's house, she must have begun a dozen letters and thrown them away again.

"He don't deserve to know," Father would say, spitting out the side of his mouth in indignant rage on her behalf. "Little bastard. Taking advantage of an innocent girl like you … "

She had been innocent – there lay the sting. Innocent and hopelessly naïve. How could she not have known that the things she'd done with her lover in the backseat of his car or his hotel room, the beautiful, exciting things that gave her so much pleasure, would be what landed her with this? The absence of her monthly bleeding, the nausea, the strange feelings that Dr. Trent had brusquely pointed out as classic symptoms of early pregnancy. She was pregnant. Unmarried. Ruined.

"Why didn't you tell me, Father?" she had exclaimed, once they were out of the doctor's office and back in their car. "Why didn't you tell me where babies come from?"

She was not one to raise her voice, but on that occasion she had shouted. Why, everyone said that Roaring Abel Gay had been a "notorious lover" before marrying Mother. She was not as ignorant of the rumors as everyone believed. He must have done … that … with Mother, and many other women besides (a thought that Cecily did not care to contemplate). And to leave his own daughter in ignorance like this!

"I'm so sorry, Cissy," he'd said, close to tears (being in the emotional stage at the time). "I ought'a told you long ago … or had someone tell you, like the housekeeper did when you started your time of the month. I thought she'd told you everything. It's a woman's matter, you know … thought I had no call to interfere. But I see now I've failed you, little one. Damn fool that I am. Forgive your old man, won't you?"

Cecily always forgave Father – for the drinking, the cigars, the bawdy songs, the house he never got around fixing, the disreputable housekeepers, the tarnished family reputation. She had to, or she couldn't have lived with herself. Didn't the Scriptures say to honor one's father? Besides, he really was a dear, jolly, warm-hearted old soul under all his bluster. His reaction to her news proved it beyond a doubt. Plenty of men would have disowned their daughters for falling into the predicament in which she found herself, but not Father. His home would always be open to her.

But the question remained: how to tell John?

How could you do this to me? Don't you think nineteen is too young to raise a child by myself?

Too angry.

Don't you know I cried all the way home for missing you? Come back to me, my love.

Too desperate.

You paint me a blue sky, then go back and turn it to rain.

Too flowery.

I should never have met you. I should never have gone to work at that hotel. Father told me I was mad to go so far from home, and he was right.

Too bitter.

In the end she resorted to the bare facts: Dear John, I am having your child. If you ever want to see us, you can find me at this address. Yours sincerely, Cecily Gay.

/

He came – tall, dark and handsome as ever, but with a weakness around the mouth and chin she'd never noticed before. Fidgeting in a chair on the back porch, talking distractedly about his career plans and his family's expectations, and making it abundantly clear that he was sitting in that old wicker chair from motives of duty.

"You don't have to do this alone," he managed to say, smiling as if his teeth hurt. "We can get married if you like."

Here was the same man who had once kissed her passionately and told her he could not live without her. The spark was gone from his brown eyes. Cecily wondered if he had changed so much in the past two months, or if she had. Was she no longer beautiful? Was the morning sickness taking that much out of her? Or had he simply forgotten her as soon as she was out of his sight?

"No," she said, getting up from her chair with more dignity than she felt. Inside, she was crying; outside, her soft, pretty face had turned hard as a stone.

"No, John, I will not marry you if I like. Not with you asking like that."

"How the dickens should I ask, then?" He scowled up at her from his chair, refusing to move.

"As if you meant it." She couldn't quite keep the bitterness out of her voice. How she had hoped that this meeting would end with the promise of a happy ever after! But not like this … not when he didn't even mean it.

Now he bounced up with indignation. "Look, Cis," throwing up his hands, "I'm only trying to do right by both of us! I can't leave you to raise it … him … her? … all by yourself, now can I?"

"Yes, you can. Father will support us."

"That old – " John bit back something uncomplimentary, turned away from her, and raked one hand through his sleek black hair. The same gesture she had once found so endearing.

"Yes, I suppose he would. But people will talk – especially in a backwater like Deerwood. Are you up for that?"

"I'm not a china doll, John." That had been one of his pet names for her, fragile and sheltered as she was; but it was no longer true, if it had ever been.

"What do you want, then? You know I don't have much money, at least not of my own. My Dad will have fits if I ask him – "

"No, thank you." She held up a hand to interrupt him. "It's kind of you to offer, but … no. I want nothing from you, John Gibson. At least nothing you can give."

/

Three years later, Cecily wrote one last letter to the man she had once loved. Their son was dead and she was dying, but she did not tell him; she no longer felt like hurting him or making him feel guilty, though once she might have. She felt it was important to burn her bridges, so to speak; to meet her Maker (and Mother and the baby) with a clear conscience, unclouded by the anger of the past.

Dear John,

I understand now. I'm sorry I was short with you the last time we met. If I was too young to be a mother, so were you to be a father, but it doesn't make you bad. I never wanted to trap you into marriage, not when you didn't love me anymore. It seemed a worse thing to do than the other.

I will always remember our best moments together: bringing me lilies, rowing down the lake, holding me close the night of that thunderstorm. I will never forget you, and neither will your son.

I wish you every happiness.

Love,

Cissy