by Sally Wheaton
“Hannibal,” Louisa called on her way into the kitchen. “There’s a letter for you, looks like it’s from New England.”
Hannibal followed her inside, Samuel close on his heels. She’d just returned from town and had collected the mail.
“Gramma Worsley?” Samuel asked, excited.
“Grandmother,” Hannibal corrected automatically, though he smiled at his half-brother.
Samuel had recently taken to “reading” the letters from Grandmother Worsley with his older brother and was always excited when they arrived. That is, he listened while Hannibal read them out loud to him. Hannibal would have been loathe to admit it, even to himself, but he kind of liked sharing the letters with Samuel. It reminded him of when he used to read them with his mother. Samuel loved the stories in them and, of course, was full of questions about them. There was one particular question he asked almost every time, Hannibal guessed because he couldn’t really understand why Grandmother Worsley was Hannibal’s grandmother, but not his grandmother.
Hannibal sat down at the table and Samuel clambered up on to it. Hannibal glanced quickly at Louisa, who had her back to them. “Not on the table,” he whispered to Samuel, helping him to climb down before he was spotted.
Hannibal started to open the letter and then stopped, staring at the writing on the envelope. It was different. It didn’t look at all like Grandmother Worsley’s writing, but who else would be writing to him from New England?
“Gramma?” asked Samuel again.
“I don’t know,” Hannibal frowned. “It doesn’t look like her writing.”
“Open,” Samuel prompted him.
Hannibal opened the letter and began to read.
My Dear Hannibal,
I know your grandmother would have wanted me to write to you and tell you myself. Nevertheless, this is a very difficult letter to write. I have to tell you the sad news that Grandmother Worsley passed this last Tuesday. She passed quietly in her sleep and you should not worry yourself about her being ill, for she was not.
She told me how much she enjoyed reading your letters and was always delighted to receive one. She kept them all, tied up with a blue, silk ribbon, along with all the letters she received from your mother before her passing. We are sad here, of course, that Grandmother is no longer with us, but we are rallying and everyone is doing well. Please pass this news on to your father.
Your Grandfather Worsley
He stared at the paper in front of him, numbed. Another one, was all that he could think.
“Passed where?” asked Samuel, confused by the words and by his brother’s reaction.
Hannibal looked up at him, his eyes big and watery. “She died Samuel, Grandmother Worsley died.”
Samuel stared at him. He still didn’t really understand but he knew it was bad. He didn’t think he had ever, ever, ever before seen Hannibal cry. Hannibal was a big boy and big boys didn’t cry unless it was very, very serious.
Samuel did the only thing he knew how to do. He stood up on the seat, leaned forward and wrapped his arms tightly around his brother’s neck. He leaned his head on his shoulder and cried with him.
Two days later, sitting alone, Hannibal pulled the letter out of his pocket and read it again. He still wasn’t sure what he felt, mostly he felt nothing. It didn’t feel the same as when his mother had died. That had been horrible and he didn’t feel horrible now, just a little sad.
Maybe because he’d never met his Grandmother? He wished he had met her, she always sounded like an exciting lady. He thought he would have liked her.
Or maybe because he’d always known she was an old lady. And old people died, didn’t they?
He stared at the letter, and for the first time, dared to think what he knew had been hovering in the back of his mind for the last couple of days, since he’d received the letter. He wasn’t sure he was supposed to think this, but it somehow made sense to him that, if his mother was in heaven, then his grandmother should be too. He had worried about his mother having to go there first, without a mother to go to. Now it seemed right. His mother had her mother and now they could write to each other again. Or maybe you didn’t have to write in heaven? Maybe they would just live together again in heaven, like they used to? He wasn’t quite sure about that.
But, it felt right now.
He looked at the name at the bottom of the letter and picked up his pen to write back.
“Dear Grandfather Worsley,” he wrote.