My dearest Laura,
This letter will only find itself in your hands in case something bad has happened to me, that is the way I have arranged things. It happened, it seems, I don’t know how of course but I have my suspicions, and I can no longer postpone the answers I must give you.
I was a coward. During your entire life, I raised you, but I showed cowardice. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that in me, my daughter, but it’s true. I was hesitant to tell you the truth, and since I’ll never get another chance to redeem that, I’ll do so now.
For starters, let me explain some aspects of your life. I never allowed you to leave the island, not because I was afraid for my safety or yours, but because I was afraid for the safety of every islander. I know, it doesn’t make sense, it sounds wacko, as you would have called it and banged the door shut in my face.
Alas, it’s the truth.
Ikaria is a blessed place while at the same time being a cursed one. Blessed because it gave life to a creature as wonderful as you, cursed because such beauty cannot be left to stand, nature has to find a way to counterbalance it.
You always used to say that rain makes you feel sad. My lovely daughter, it rains because you are sad, not the other way around. It sounds wacko, as you’d say, I know. But it’s the truth. I bet that as you read this letter you are crouched on a pillow, up on your favourite spot atop the ledge of the highest window, surrounded by your cats and listening to a sad song that reminds you of me. I bet the weather is moody, the clouds are grey, and a storm is forming in the horizon. I bet that despite you’ve stopped telling me since you’ve entered puberty, you regret not telling me you love me.
Don’t worry, my daughter, I know.
I apologise for all I’ve had to do all these years. I could never let you leave the island. You’ve hated me for that, I know. I couldn’t let you when, despite your hydrophobia, you ran away with that young fisherman and stole his father’s fishing boat, so I moved heaven and earth to track you down with the other Ikariots. They may not know much about us, but the little they do know is enough to mobilise them.
Laura, it wasn’t your fault. Nor mine, dammit. Untold generations ago, they offered the firstborn daughter to the waters. I didn’t believe the fairy tale, I thought it was for kids. When I saw the waters swirling around your mother in broad-daylight when we went to the beach and my mother-in-law screaming at her, ‘You’re pregnant and didn’t know?’ then, I believed. I saw with my own eyes the waters turn to snake-like forms around her and squeeze her tight. I jumped into the sea and fought to push them away, to save her from drowning.
Grandma was right, you see, your mother was indeed pregnant with you.
It was a narrow escape that day, and then you were born. We lost your mother soon after that from an accident, you barely remember her. Grandma followed soon after that, she couldn’t bear the sorrow. She had lost her oldest daughter years before I even met them, and then to lose the youngest so suddenly… Her heart just gave out.
I was left to raise you all alone. What did I know of children, let alone girls? I did the best I could. I’ve made many mistakes, forgive me. But I want to believe that in general, you were raised well. Did that grandma of yours ever give me any helpful instructions? No. I kept asking her about the curse, she’d respond, ‘The child is a blessing,’ and she’d waggle her finger.
Don’t get me wrong, you were a blessing despite the problems we had. My joy, my little daughter. Armenistis wouldn’t have been a home without your mother and you.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid not all the people of Armenistis think the same as us. Some know, or they think they know, and they think that you are the one who brings the bad things to the island. They’re nothing but fools, of course, never believe what they say. The evils of the world do not simply stop if they scare away a teenage girl from the island.
If someone is to blame for my loss, I’m sure it’s those vile Karabelades, the older two brothers, not the younger one. They were overheard, drunkenly talking about our doom, plotting to take me out so that none remained in their way, and people told me of this.
That’s why I write this letter, in case they’re lying in wait somewhere. Being a fisherman is a dangerous job and it’s easy to harm someone without getting caught.
The sea does not forgive.
But if the Karabelades were responsible for what has happened to me, do not seek revenge. Just keep an eye out, watch your back. And, I’m sorry, Laura, but you can never leave the island. I’m telling this again so that it enters your brain in full. I know your dreams lie farther than just the small island, and I know that your hatred might make you say ‘damn them all by the storm,’ but it’s not everyone’s fault. Remember the teacher who was patient with you when you were struggling to learn your mathematics, remember the neighbor who would put an extra pot of food for us when we first lost your mother, remember the kids that played with you while you grew up together.
You possess power, Laura. And you’re afraid of the water because deep down, you’re afraid of what you might do with it.
I know that while you read this right now you’re crying and the storm is in full swing over the island. It will be the worst one we’ve seen on Armenistis for twenty years. You cannot bottle this sort of pain inside, let it out.
Because then, the sun will rise again and turn the grey light into gold.