Do you know who she is?
The first thought that struck Ryder as he put down the fourth letter was that he had seen her at the jewellery shop. He immediately went back to that memory and tried to remember the people he saw. It wasn’t humanly possible to remember the details of something that had happened almost six months ago. But he still tried.
Now that he had two people in his suspects list it made it slightly easier for him to recall things. He tried to remember if he had seen Layla or Lauren at the jewellery store. At first all he could gather were fragments of memories but as he concentrated a bit harder the blur started lifting and to his surprise he realised he had actually seen both of them at the store. Now how would he figure out which of them was the one writing the letters?! He shook his head.
This wasn’t helping at all. He took a deep breath and tried again. He started from the beginning. He had planned to shop for Christmas that day and had made a list of the people he would get presents for. The list just consisted of five people. His mother, father, little brother, his dog and Carol. He had decided to give her a present secretly that Christmas. It was for Carol that he had visited that shop. He had wanted to buy her something beautiful and unique. The moment he had laid eyes on that bracelet, he had known it was the perfect gift for her.
But unfortunately he hadn’t had the courage to give it to her. So he had ended up gifting it to his mother instead. He had berated himself continuously for being such a coward, but what was done couldn’t be reversed.
He realised he was losing track. So he went back to thinking about Layla and Lauren. He had met Layla as he had been scrutinising the bracelet after he had spotted it.
She had been right behind him when he turned around. She was so close that they had almost bumped heads.
Ryder now remembered it clearly. It had struck him as an odd thing at that time too. It almost seemed as if she had been spying on him. But he had brushed it off and thought that she had been looking at the other bracelets. But now that his letter friend had confessed about her aversion to bracelets, Layla’s act seemed suspicious again. If she was indeed the one writing the letters then she would not be able to stomach the thought of a bracelet. That would mean that she actually had been observing him. But he couldn’t be sure she was the one. Layla had not said anything to him when he had turned around and caught her looking at him. She had just given him a small smile and a wave and then hurried to the counter to pay for her items. But the girl in the letter had also not mentioned anything about an actual conversation.
So he switched to his memory of meeting Lauren. He had been standing in the queue at the counter and heard the person behind him dropping a few things. He had immediately bent down and picked them up and turned around to give them to its owner. That is when he came face to face with an embarrassed Lauren. She had shyly accepted her belongings and mumbled out a soft thank you. Ryder had nodded his head and turned back around, that was the end of it.
As he thought harder, he realised he had met another girl there as well. He had been about to exit the store when he almost bumped into the girl exiting the store beside him. As he had turned sideways to apologise, he saw it was Elena Charles. As he remembered this detail, he sat up in attention. Another girl he went to school with! She was in his grade and was Evelyn’s cousin. He mentally ticked out points.
Same school, same year, a studious one who often when to the library and almost lived in his neighbourhood because he would see her often whenever he passed Evelyn’s house. She practically lived there. An important detail that he had missed out at the Diner was that, Elena worked there as well. She had joined last year when one of the waitresses left the town for college. He had totally forgotten about that! Ryder groaned. It looked like his list of suspects was increasing. First Lauren, then Layla and now Elena.
He had immediately apologised for bumping into her but she had waved it away with a smile. Then she had called out a “bye” over her shoulder and swiftly walked on to meet Evelyn who he then noticed was standing outside the shop talking Carol Winters.
His eyes had widened and he had quickly looked down towards his shoes. Then he had made a hasty exit in fear of being recognised. There was no way he would have been able to talk to Carol normally with her gift in his hand.
Ryder pulled at his hair in frustration. These memories proved absolutely nothing. According to the accounts of his letter friend, both these girls had acted similar to the girl in the letter. How on earth would he find the right one? And now he had found a third one, who fit in with all the points highlighted by his letter friend. This was proving fruitless. So he changed tracks. He thought about the skittles in his locker hoping that memory would help. His letter friend was right. He had been ecstatic to see the skittles. But he hadn’t wanted to befriend anyone at that time. He had vowed to stay alone after what happened to his best friend.
Even though he had really wanted to know who had taken the time to notice his likes and dislikes, to make him happy with a present. But for that he would have to talk to the person. He would have to be a good friend to her, now that he knew it was the girl in the letter who had given it to him. Oh how he wished he had followed his heart and kept the skittles. It would have given him a chance to get to know her. He could have helped her get better in real, instead of her having to do this through secret letters.
What boggled his mind was the fact that he kept meeting the same girls he suspected. Was it a coincidence? It had to be. His letter friend was just one girl. The others were just there. It seemed as if even fate wanted to make things difficult for him. It was as if his fate knew that he would have to recall these memories and sort through them to find clues. It was annoying, really.
But like all the other times, his letter friend had not disappointed him this time either. She was as accurate as always in her observations. It was true that he hated parties. She was right that he had wanted a car. She was also right about his aversion towards shopping. The best part was she had the ability to read his expressions like an open book. She had described his emotions at the jewellery store and she had hit the nail right on the head. He really wished he could hug her right now. Nobody had ever cared about him like this. It really moved him.
He thought about her peculiar phobia of bracelets. A strange anger started building in him. The thought of someone hurting his letter friend made him want to punch something. This thought took him completely by surprise. When had he start getting this protective feeling for her, he didn’t know. But now that he realised it, he wished he could have protected her from her nightmares. Whoever this “he” was, the person had caused a lot of pain to her. He wanted to cause that same amount of pain to the culprit once he knew who she was and what happened to her. No, he couldn’t waste anymore of his time. He would have to find out soon. The faster he uncovered her identity, the better his position would be to protect her from any evil.
He quickly tossed the previous letter into the pile of letters he had read already and picked out the next one. He swiftly tore open the envelope and started reading the fifth letter.