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Love Letters

James Mitchell is a writer and performer of science fiction, magical realism, and true stories. His fictions have won the Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize, and Fiction Desk Newcomer Prize, been shortlisted in the Orwell Society Prize and Masters Review, and found homes in Vice, GQ, Better Than IRL, The Mechanics' Institute Review, and even the vacant fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square. By daylight, he writes strategy for Advertising. He lives in East London, but his heart's in the country. Twitter: @jamescmitchell. More things at jamesmitchell.persona.co.

A husband did the worst thing possible to his wife: he took his love, and folded it in half. He did this for safety: it had been handled roughly in the past. Some singeing, a torn corner.
The wife was one of those people who could read things back to front and upside down; she ruined crosswords for herself. So when her husband's love caught the light, the wife thought she could see it as it really was: a love curiously written, and half the A4 page it should be.
The husband had lived with his folded love for so long, going to work with it tucked into his coat pocket, that by the time the wife realized something was amiss, and worked up the courage to ask, "Would you open that for me?" he didn't know what she meant.
He laid it on the kitchen table and felt for some openable edge, but there was none. "This is how it came."
The wife jabbed a finger at her own love, pinned to the fridge by travel magnets, technicolor with stains from being spread out where just anybody could touch it.
That night they fight over everything, but really they fight over one thing, which lies downstairs on the kitchen table where it's been left unguarded for the first time in years. Moonlight reaches into the husband's love and traces its letters.
And the letters do something I have never known letters to do.
Some vowels, those sounds that hover like blown-up balloons, exhale. The esses--of promise and trust--uncoil and sigh. An emboldened f straightens its spine in the opening space. Capitals T and H brace the page where they're needed.
The wife's love looks down from the fridge in wonder. They are, at last, the same size.
Then, in a gasp, they both unfold once more.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 20th, 2021
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