One step closer. 

Ryder stared at the letter. And stared. And stared some more.

There was just one thought in his head.  She saw it. She saw Adrian dying. She was there. Suddenly it became very hard for him to breathe properly. He kept the letter back carefully into the already read pile and got up from his bed. He started pacing the room. His letter friend had seen his best friend die.

The first emotion that gripped him was anger.

A long time had passed since the incident. If she had known, why on earth hadn’t she gone to the police? Everyone knew the police couldn’t make an arrest because the car which had been found to have traces of Adrian’s blood on its front portion had been recovered from a car dump and had been stolen on the evening of the accident.  If she had seen Adrian being hit, she should also have seen the one who had been driving it.  Why didn’t she help the police to punish the killer?

But then he took a deep breath and calmed himself. There might have been many different reasons why she didn’t go to the police to help them, one of them being the fact that it was too dark to see anything. According to the investigating officers it had been almost around midnight.  They were right in that. Adrian had left Ryder’s house at around 11:45 that night. He remembered that clearly. After all, that was the last time he saw his best friend alive and well.

He closed his eyes, the image of Adrian’s dead form lying still inside the open casket clear in his mind.

He fisted his hands. God, when would the memory stop causing so much pain? He wished the memory would fade. He didn’t want to remember it. She was wrong. She was wrong about the fact that he was strong. He had cried himself to sleep months after the incident. She didn’t know that. But she was right about the suffering. He had suffered. Very deeply so. Those days after the accident had been like hell. He never wanted to relive them.

He couldn’t think clearly. He needed to clear his mind. He walked to his closet and brought a fresh pair of clothes and headed to the bathroom. He needed a shower. It was his place to think properly, weird as it might seem. The hot water spraying from the shower helped him focus. Once he was standing under the shower he went back to thinking about his letter friend.

She had been badly affected by the accident as well. Her letter proved that fact. He didn’t doubt her. She wasn’t lying to him. Yes, he had been angry, but that was his initial reaction. As he calmed down he realised that even if by chance she had seen the driver of that car, she must not have been able to recognise his face in the shock of seeing a person dying.  Or she hadn’t noticed the driver at all. Her focus must have been totally on Adrian.

She must have had nightmares for a long time after that. He had nightmares when he didn’t even know how the car hit his best friend.  She must have suffered a great deal more having witnessed the actual thing. If this affected her so badly, the thing that had happened to her must have been much worse.

God! What did she have to go through?

Ryder wished he knew about her identity. His urge to find out who she was grew and grew. He was happy that her parents took care of her. He was glad they didn’t let her succumb to fatal urges. If they hadn’t saved her, he would never have had the chance to meet her. In his mind he had drawn this image of a really strong, sensible and beautiful girl. He tried to match them with all those whom he suspected. But that didn’t help. He just couldn’t put a finger on any of them. He would have to hurry with all the other letters.

Ryder turned off the shower and dried himself. Having put on fresh clothes he exited the bathroom and walked to his bed. Five letters and he would know who she was. Five letters and he would know what had happened to her. Five letters and he would know who killed Adrian, if she knew who it was. He sat on the edge of his bed and looked for the letter with the words ‘February 2016’ on it.

As he looked for the letter he wanted, he remembered something, a memory to be precise, a memory of one incident that happened a few months after Adrian’s death. He had been sitting under a tree during lunch, staring off into space and trying to forget the pain of losing a loved one. Many students were scattered across the ground, laughing, chatting and having a merry time. Ryder had been really jealous. Why did his friend have to die? Why was life so unfair?

He had been planning to get up and get the hell away from school when a girl approached him, Elena to be precise. She didn’t smile or anything. She just walked straight up to him and dropped down beside him on the grass. Ryder hadn’t even spared her a glance but he had been aware of her every movement. Elena wasn’t the talkative sort. So it wasn’t a surprise that she wasn’t trying to start a conversation. But the thought that puzzled him was why she came here. She could have sat somewhere else. She had plenty of friends.

They both sat there, quietly, looking at the sky. Just once or twice Ryder felt her turning her head to look at him and then she would turn back at the sky. When the bell signalling the end of lunch rang,

Elena suddenly stretched out her hand and put it on his hand and softly said, “If you ever need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to come to me.”

Ryder had been so surprised that he had actually forgotten to snatch his hand away, which was his usual reaction when someone did that. But that was it. No explanations, nothing.

He had thought about this for a long time after. Everybody and thrown him sympathetic looks but Elena was the only one who had made some effort to actually comfort him. Ryder came back to the present and thought about the previous letter.

She had said something about wanting to comfort him. So could it be Elena? Had he finally figured it out? But was the solution that easy? He didn’t know. So it was best not to jump to a conclusion at the moment. Having spotted the letter marked ‘February 2016’, he snatched it up and tore the envelope open. He had to hurry.

Graduation Ceremony was just a few hours away.