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The New Penzance Postmark

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Suzy kept her letters in the bottom drawer of her dorm room's dresser. They were wrapped in twine and tightly knotted for privacy's sake. Whenever she was asked about the letters' contents, she was always purposefully vague, as if she never thought about them. This was not true.

Sam kept his letters under his bed, in a lockbox; he kept the key in his breast pocket. He wasn't too worried about security, but it was always better to protect the things he cared about.

The letters that they kept, if taken out and arranged in order, would read like this.

*****

Dear Suzy,
It was good to see you before you left. I hope I have your college's address correct. I have been reading the Captain's procedural books in preparation for the police academy, and one of them says that remembering every small detail is important. I mentioned this to the Captain and he said that he guessed that was right. Tonight we're going on night patrol. If we find any lawbreakers, I'll let you know. I hope you'll give me the news from the mainland soon.
Yours,
Sam

Dear Sam,
Thanks for your letter. I got to school yesterday. The campus is huge and I keep getting lost. My dormitory building has a tower, like the one Abigail discovers in The Jewels of Callisto. I went to the south wing and tried to get into it, but the only things that were inside were linens and paper towels. Later I found out that I wasn't supposed to be in the south wing at all. Write soon.
Yours,
Suzy

Dear Suzy,
I have enclosed some sketches for you, in case you ever get homesick. The first one is of the police station. I drew it when I had some free time at work. The second is of Fort Lebanon. Cousin Ben wanted me to gain some leadership skills and had me visit for an afternoon. The third is of my leg, because I tripped when I was running the obstacle course with Cousin Ben and the bruise looks like a giraffe. In the interest of realism I am not wearing clothes.
Yours,
Sam

[Sam's sketches are missing from the collected letters.]

Dear Sam,
I put up your sketches over the desk in my room. My roommate complained about the giraffe bruise, so I keep it in my Intro to Psychology folder. I don't like my roommate very much. She's from the city and she acts as if I'm a country bumpkin. What's worse is that everyone else here treats me the same way. I don't think I'm homesick, but I know I don't like being here. I'd prefer to keep this fact to myself though. My mother is always concerned about my state of mind. She says that my father is too, probably. Sometimes I'm not sure whether to believe my mother at all, though.
Yours,
Suzy

Dear Suzy,
You sound unhappy. I will send you more sketches if they would make you feel better. You can pick what subject you want and I will try my best to render it. If you want me to come visit you, I will ask the Captain for a leave of absence and get on the ferry right away. I think the Captain thinks I don't have enough vacation time, but he calls it kid time.
Yours,
Sam

Dear Sam,
I think I figured out what's the matter with me, and unfortunately sketches won't fix it. The college's artist-in-residence, Ms. Tenenbaum, had a talk with everyone in the dorm today. She's very intelligent and sophisticated. When she was my age, she had already written three plays. She told us that she never planned to be who she is, but it happened anyway. After the talk, everyone else left, and she and I were both alone in the common room. I wanted to say something to her, about what happened with you and I that summer, but I was afraid she'd think I was a silly kid. She didn't seem to mind me sitting with her, though. Finally I got my courage up and told her that I still feel like a little girl sometimes, even though I'm not, and I wished that I were special and not just the weird girl from New Penzance. She told me she wasn't special, but I know she was lying. I don't think she knew what to say after that, so we had a cigarette together and she gave me her phone number. I put it in my handbag so I wouldn't lose it. I keep hoping I'll wake up tomorrow and know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, but that never happens.
Yours,
Suzy

Dear Suzy,
I'm sorry you don't think there's anything special about you. I'm not sure why you want to know exactly what you're going to do for the rest of your life; you're at college to figure that out, aren't you? Maybe you should try writing plays like Ms. Tenenbaum. You might not want to do that forever, but it might make you feel better.
Yours,
Sam

Dear Suzy,
I have not heard from you for a while. Please let me know how you are. If you were offended by my last letter I am sorry. I was trying to do right by you, and I realized later that I might have overstepped my bounds. It's only that I promised till death do us part when we were twelve, and though it might not have been legally binding I take that promise very seriously. I do not have your school's telephone number or I would try to reach you there.
Write me back,
Sam

Dear Sam,
Please don't be worried. I decided to take a break and figure out what I'm supposed to be doing while I'm alive. I told the school I was sick so that I can come back later, if I change my mind. I called Ms. Tenenbaum and asked if I could stay with her for a while, and she didn't say no, so I'm sleeping in one of her spare bedrooms. Her husband doesn't know about me so I have to stay out of the house during the daytime, which is good because it lets me practice how to live by myself. I am fine. I read at night and during the day I take walks. I still don't know exactly what I want but at least I am busy. I probably don't have to tell you not to say anything about this to Captain Sharp or to my parents, if you see them, but I thought I should say it anyway. If you want to write to me, you can use this address [address has been crossed out in a different, later hand, as if protecting its secrecy].
Yours,
Suzy

Dear Suzy,
I'm glad you're okay. Cities are easy to survive in. Maybe you don't have a goal right now, but you can always find one later. Let me know if you have any trouble and I'll try to pass along some survival skills; the Khaki Scouts were a long time ago but they tend to stick with you.
Yours,
Sam

Dear Sam,
I made a big mistake. I came into Ms. Tenenbaum's house today and caught her kissing a man who isn't her husband. That in itself would have been enough, but I'm sure the man she was kissing is her brother. I was too shocked to say anything, and it took a minute for them to notice me. When they finally did, the man tried to tell me that Ms. Tenenbaum is only an adopted sister, but I wish he had just kept quiet. I was hoping that house would be a safe haven for me, and Ms. Tenenbaum and I could talk about books and art, and now that's tainted. I packed my things and left. I'm staying in the library. Everything is so crazy. I wish I were a book and I was only made of words.
Yours,
Suzy

Dear Suzy,
I'm coming to see you right away.
Yours,
Sam

Dear Sam,
All right.
Yours,
Suzy

[There is a break in the letters here. Suzy has a newspaper clipping glued to a piece of posterboard. It appears to be a copy of a police blotter. It reads: Young male pulled from the Cold-Water Strait at 5:32 a.m. After that the letters resume.]

Dear Sam,
I hope your leg is better now. You always had bad luck when it came to rescue attempts. Why didn't you just take the ferry to the mainland? You could have told them you were on official police business. I guess, thinking about it, that wouldn't have really been a lie.

After I left your house I went and talked with my parents. I didn't tell them everything that happened; I think my mother had an idea but didn't say anything for my (and my father's) sake. My mother said I was trying to do too much too fast, which I couldn't exactly argue with. My father wanted to pull me out of school entirely, but I guess his reason prevailed. It doesn't make sense for me to live in Summer's End with my parents and brothers, when everyone knows I'm not a little girl anymore. I finally agreed that I wouldn't try to force any epiphanies on myself, and that I would try not to pull any more stunts. So I'm back at school now. I have had a number of fresh starts in my life. This can be another one.

I see Ms. Tenenbaum sometimes, but we don't talk. It's too bad because after I stopped being horrified, I started to feel sad for her. I don't think she has anyone to talk to, not like I do. It must be awful to be so intelligent and so alone.

The ride back to school was a lot easier than it was on the way over when I was worrying about you. Thank you for trying to come see me, even if it didn't work out. I'm glad I could at least come check on you. Maybe you can visit me for winter break. Also give my regards to Captain Sharp.
Yours always,
Suzy

Dear Suzy,
My leg is much better. I didn't want to risk detection by taking the ferry, and I thought I was a stronger swimmer than I am. I didn't really consider the undercurrent, or the rocks. That was foolhardy. I'm off active patrol for a while until the cast gets taken off. The Captain has rigged up one of the station chairs so I can get around easier. Honestly, I think he's glad that I need to take it easy for a while; he wants me to think about if I want to go into the police academy, or if I want to study something else. I don't know what I want yet, but at least I have time to think it over. I'm glad you decided to go back to school. When I didn't hear from you for a while, it made me realize how much I missed your words. I bet a lot of other people missed them too. Let's meet over your winter break. I want to see your museums and libraries. Write soon.
Yours always,
Sam