This story is selected as Editor’s Choice
A wave of dust spread through the air.
Joshua coughed but carried on, determined.
He had woken up that morning, promising himself that he would clean up the filthy attic.
Rose had asked him to.
It was her first request when they had decided to move in together.
“What do you say to us living together, Rose? Move in with me.”
She had laughed.
“I’d say yes” She replied, adding cheekily “Because I could definitely use someone to clean up the attic”
Joshua thought back to that moment from over a year ago, and smiled to himself as he wiped his sweaty forehead with the back of his hand, his fingers grubby with dirt.
Sitting on a carton, he picked up a rusty old iron box and opened it, sighing to himself.
He had been at this for over two hours now and while he did manage to achieve a lot, he also had so much more work left.
His legs were cramped and his throat, dry.
But he knew that if he got up now, he’d never get back to it.
So, he carried on.
The first thing that caught his fancy in the box was a photo of Rose when she was younger.
“She must have been five” he murmured to himself.
In the photograph, Rose was wearing a long, pale green frock that came down to her toes. Her shoulder length hair was tied up in two ponytails, each secured with a bright green ribbon.
But what attracted him to that photo was the naughty look in her eyes, her mouth wide in laughter, her chubby fingers curled into fists to contain her excitement.
He wondered curiously what had happened in the moment before the photograph was taken.
Wishing he had been there to witness it, he put the photo is his pocket, vowing to ask Rose once she got home from the Day Care Centre.
Picking up a pile of letters that lay at the bottom of the box, all of them securely tied up in twine, Joshua stared at them, guessing that they were love letters.
He knew it was bad manners to pry, but he also knew that he and Rose had nothing to hide. So, he cut the wire and opened the first letter.
I know that what we shared was special. But I’m writing this to you, not because I don’t like you anymore but because we just can’t be together.
While it was nice holding your hand through the corridors of our high school, talking about the silliest things, it was also terrible having to listen to your voice when it was the most irritating sound I had ever heard.
I know the reason may not sound good enough, but it’s true.
Imagine being in my position, where you were forced, not only into listening to the most random things, but also having to listen to the painful sound of the voice delivering them.
Thinking about having to do that for even one more day, terrifies me.
Yes, you are beautiful, and yes, I’m still attracted to you.
I’d be a fool not to be.
But because you cannot change the sound of your voice, I will have to change the girl of my choice.
I know we broke up yesterday, but you asked me for an explanation and because I don’t know how to give it to your face, I’m writing this to you.
Best of Luck,
Joshua stared at the letter in anger. He couldn’t believe the stupidity of it.
Rose’s voice was beautiful.
He remembered how he had fallen for her voice before he had even looked at her. If it weren’t for her shy karaoke singing in the bar that night, they wouldn’t be together now.
Muttering curses, he opened the next one.
I know you didn’t expect me to write this letter to you, because we’re not together anymore, but I’m writing it anyway, mainly because letter writing is our English assignment and I thought that this would be cool to write a letter to you. Two birds, one shot, you know?
So, we started off as friends, with your coaching me in Math and English, in the initial days of college. I remember how we got carried away one night, when you were tutoring me at my place and ended up doing a bit more than studying.
I still failed both subjects, but you didn’t break up with me like I thought you would. That’s really cool, you know?
Anyway, I have to tell you now that I broke up with you because you just demand too much of my attention. Sweetheart, I’m the head of the Basketball team. Obviously girls swarm around me. You can’t expect me to hang around you all the time.
It was frustrating. I was allotting one entire day a week to you, wasn’t I?
It wasn’t enough though, was it?
But, nothing personal, ok?
The next part is going to sound harsh, but I’m telling you this for your own good.
Please, for the sake of humanity, take those ridiculous glasses off.
Spectacles are for nerds. And I can’t be seen in college with the likes of nerds.
If you manage to tweak yourself a bit, give me a call, ok?
Oh, and correct this letter for me.
Else I’ll fail the assignment. Again.
Joshua resisted the urge to hunt this boy down and kill him.
He couldn’t understand how a girl like Rose could even fall for him.
Rose, with her sweet vulnerability and tender heart, being taken for granted by this fool made Joshua very angry.
He chuckled at the memory of her glasses coming in the way when he had first tried to kiss her.
‘Don’t take them off’ He had told her when she started apologizing, as he had framed her face in his hands, loving what he was looking at.
Had he been as shallow as Ben was when he himself was in college?
how have you been?
It’s been so long since I’ve heard from you!
I can’t believe you even remember me.
But then again, we were almost in love. So it would be weird if you didn’t!
When was that? Two or three years ago?
God, we were so young, so naïve.
University, wasn’t it?
I guess I never did give you a proper explanation for why I broke your heart.
I am really sorry, Rosie. Looking back, I realize that it was a very horrible thing to do.
Well, I shouldn’t have left that night, after we… You know.
I should have stayed.
But you made it so difficult, Rosie.
First, I chased you for an entire week, taking the same classes that you did even though I hated most of them.
I also ate lunch with you every day and helped you with all the course work.
Even then, it took you a really long time to agree to go out with me.
I thought the struggle ended there.
But no. You had to play hard to get, didn’t you?
Six whole months it took you to agree to sleep with me.
All that hard work wasn’t enough for you.
You had to hear me say those words.
Of course, you never really asked me to.
But your eyes told me.
And I had no choice but to say them.
I love you.
Silly girl, how you cried that night, telling me over and over again that you loved me.
It was horrible.
And so, I left.
I’ll admit now that I heard later on that you cried for weeks.
I thought it was too late to apologize then.
Or maybe I was terrified.
I hope it isn’t too late now.
By the way, I was going through your Facebook profile recently.
You look really good now, Rosie!
Are you married? Are you happy?
Maybe we could meet up some time.
You know! For old times’ sake!
Let me know!
Joshua’s own heart constricted at the thought of Rose going through that much pain.
He remembered, in agony, how she had looked doubtful when he first told her that he loved her with all his heart. Back then, he had thought she didn’t love him.
Now he realized that she had just been scared.
He would tell her, once she got home, that he’d never tire of her.
He would make it clear to her that even every single night with her for the rest of their lives would not be enough.
The last letter lay in his hands and Joshua realized that he dreaded reading it.
But he also wanted to because with every letter he read, his love for Rose strengthened.
I was surprised to get your letter a couple of days ago asking me why we had broken up and what you could do to change yourself.
I never thought I’d hear from you but that letter was delightful.
It makes me very happy that my opinion still means that much to you.
So, I sat up all night making up a list of things you could change about yourself.
And maybe once you do, we can pick up where we left off and you could move in with me like you wanted to back then.
I hope you have no hard feelings because I wasn’t that keen to live with you back then.
Ok, here goes.
My first issue is your hair. It’s unbelievably brown. Dye it red. Or purple. Something out of the ordinary.
Secondly, I really dislike your inability to emotionally connect sometimes. I used to find that very annoying. A man wants to be needed. You make me feel useless.
Third, you need to stop with all that social service of yours. It used to drive me crazy. We don’t choose where we’re born, Rose. We need to learn to live the lives we’re given. Stop trying so hard to ruin God’s plans and waste all your money.
Oh, and, I never liked the way you walked around my house decorating it like you owned it. Just leave things be. You have your own room for a reason.
And you need to get coloured contacts instead of the transparent ones you use. It would add to the charm.
That’s all there is.
Have a good life. Call me sometime.
Joshua wondered why she had kept these letters when they were filled with wonderful things about her that were portrayed in a bad way.
Rose had the most gorgeous, wavy brown hair that shone like copper in the sunlight, as far as he was concerned.
Poor girl, he thought, shaking his head.
He realized that she had changed over the years, wearing contact lenses and trying not to be emotionally dependent.
He loved her selflessness and how she thought about everybody else, trying to brighten up others’ lives. He was glad to be a part of it, a part of her life.
The little reminders of her that she added to his house, like the round wall mirror and the tiny showcase pieces helped him acknowledge her presence and cherish it.
These men were all wrong about her.
Joshua folded the letters and put them back in the box where they belonged.
Willing the anger to leave his soul, he realized that if it weren’t for these pathetic excuses of men, he’d never have gotten Rose.
For that, he was thankful to them.
At a distance, he heard the faint sound of the doorbell.
Smiling to himself, he got up and descended the ladder, leaving the cleaning of the rest of the attic for later.
He was going to take Rose out for dinner tonight.
Rose, with her lovely brown hair and cute spectacles.
Rose, the love of his life.
The carefully picked diamond ring lay in his pocket, waiting, as he made his way to the beginning of an exciting new journey called Love.