The barn stood empty for weeks. It was vacant on the land, and the land was vacant because of this. The newfound warmth in the barn vanished, and the heat and smell of living vanished. The corrugated iron walls of the boxcar vibrated in silence.
Mira had vanished, packed her belongings and left. It looked as if she had never been there. Not even an ounce of her ghost remained. Iris had searched around for the first week, and afterwards, she knew that it was no use.
She tried to preserve and replay the scene from that morning. Mira unfolding the letter, reading it, re-reading it, letting the phone crash onto the floor, stumbling out of the bookstore, and vanishing. Whatever was on the letter, she hadn’t told Iris, and Iris thought hard about what could have made Mira disappear. Her sister, most likely. No, not most likely, most certainly. She couldn’t think of anyone or anything Mira loved more.
At the start of the third week, Iris received a letter. It was from Mira, and read:
You must have thought that I was lost and broken, taking off like that. Then again I suppose I always was. I don’t know what to do with myself. I think I’m going away for a while.
Would you look after the barn for me? I know it’s a grand thing to ask and I understand if you won’t. I will try to write as often as I can. I want to apologize but I guess it’s too late. Please take care.
The letters came at a slow pace, once every few weeks, and then trickled to a gradual silence. One day, months into Mira’s absence, Iris picked up an old letter that she had written and stamped from San Francisco. She unfolded the letter and read it slowly, over and over, trying to find something she wasn’t sure was there. There was one paragraph in particular that shone in hard-pressed pain, and Iris had gathered enough to realize that Mira’s wound was permanent.
Writing month, day twenty-eight, word count: 26,207