Love Letters

They were newlyweds and money was tight. With Christmas coming they didn’t know how they’d be able to buy each other presents. She said, “Maybe we should write each other love letters for Christmas.”

“Love letters? That’s corny. We say I love you every day.”

“Yes, but why? Why do we love each other? Wouldn’t that be the best gift of all, to know exactly why?”

“Geez! That’s a girl thing. I wouldn’t know how to write the first word.”

“Okay, it was just a thought.”

But it was a thought that wouldn’t go away. He couldn’t sleep that night. Lying awake, he mentally listed all the things he loved about her. Maybe if he just put them down on paper…

When Christmas morning came, their empty stockings still hung from the mantle just as they’d left them on Christmas Eve. She made pancakes and sausage. He built a fire with logs he’d split himself. Together, they sat watching the flames as they had their second cups. He felt too shy to give her his letter. She didn’t seem to have one for him. Well, it was just a thought, as she’d said. She’d probably reconsidered. Maybe she was afraid she’d be disappointed in anything he’d write. He knew he lacked eloquence.

Then she pulled an envelope from the pocket of her robe.

“Here. This is for you.”

That gave him the courage to hand her his letter. They opened and read them at the same time.

Dear Julie,

I love being the number one person in your life. I love you because you know what to say to calm me down when I’m mad or upset. I love to see you push your glasses up on your nose.  I love it when we’re working on something, and you throw your whole self into it. I love the way you make love to me — I can’t stress that enough! I love that you are curious and brave and smart and kind and hard-working and cheerful. I love that you make me proud . I love to talk to you and hear you talk. If I live to be one hundred, I’ll find something new to love about you every day. Merry Christmas.

Love, Mike

Dear Mike,

On the day of our wedding, I thought I couldn’t love you more. But I was wrong; I love you more with each day that passes. There are so many reasons. I love that you strike up conversations with strangers. I love that you clean after I cook, and you cook sometimes, too. When you look up from your book and smile, my heart flips. I love how much we laugh together. You consult my wishes in every move we make. When we are old and gray, I’ll still think you are the handsomest, kindest, sweetest man in the world. Nothing could ever change that. Merry Christmas

Love, Julie


Days pass slowly, but years go by fast.  Life gets in the way. Kids come along, and time and money have to stretch. Mike and Julie feel beaten down by exhaustion, tears, illness, disappointments, angry words that can’t be unsaid, silence that grows like cancer.

Now they sit across the desk from the divorce lawyer. Their bodies lean away from each other. Arms are crossed adamantly over chests. They avoid eye contact. Julie’s foot taps; Mike drums his fingers on his knee. How soon can they get out of here?

The law office, along with the rest of the world, is decorated for Christmas, and that makes everything worse. Christmas used to be their favorite time of the year. Now, the smell of fresh pine, the sight of poinsettias, and the sound of insistent carols is torture. Julie thinks she might die of grief before January first. Mike fears every day he is having a heart attack, judging by the pain in his chest.

“We’re here today to reach an amicable settlement of your divorce.” John Moeller, Esquire, has a dry voice. His fingers make a steeple. He’s been presiding at meetings like this for a long time; he’s taught himself to feel nothing. “You’ve both agreed to arbitration to avoid a costly and messy court trial. I have before me your lists of demands, and we’ll go through them one by one. But before we begin, your children asked me to read something.”

Moeller opens an envelope and takes out two sheets of paper. Julie and Mike gasp. The letters. They’ve been handled so many times the paper looks like wrinkled silk. For twenty years they read the letters aloud to each other on their anniversaries, and their kids were listening. At the sight of those pages, the couple’s arms uncross and they lean forward. They meet each other’s eyes and see the memories there. Before Moeller can read the first word, Mike and Julie speak at once.

“Look, maybe we should think about this further…”

“I need more time, it’s a big step…”

His face betraying nothing, Moeller folds the letters, slips them back into the envelope and hands them to Julie. Together, the couple leaves the office. Mike holds the door for her. Julie thanks him.

Moeller stands at his fifth-floor window and watches as they emerge from the building and walk down the sidewalk. They are talking, their heads close together. He steers her around a sidewalk Santa. She looks up into his face as she takes his arm.  

A small smile disturbs the attorney’s impassive countenance.

“Merry Christmas,” he says softly. “Merry Christmas.”


13 thoughts on “Love Letters

  1. WOW! It really isn’t nice to make me cry on Christmas Day! This is a beautiful story! Merry Christmas to you, Doris!



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