Autumn By the Sea by Melissa Tagg


My Dearest Robert,

Sometimes I think about how no one understands.

No one else, after all, was there. No one else stood in that place like I did, wrapped—trapped, really—in a twisting acrid fog, the wreckage laid out in front of me. The ruination of at least two lives. Hers and, in some ways, many ways, mine.

The mystery of the third life haunts me to this day. And they all think I’m ridiculous, I know this. They think I’m holding on to a shadow.

But shadows aren’t formed from nothing.

Oh, this isn’t the letter I meant to write. This isn’t the Margaret Muir you knew. And I’m not this morbid Maggie every day. No, on the happier days, I think about you sweeping me off my feet at seventeen and causing my parents no end of consternation when you proposed so quickly.

Or I think about how she first came to me—Diana. Bundled and asleep, pudgy-cheeked and tiny, rosebud lips. Only the barest, lightest wisps of hair that would one day redden and confuse folks into thinking I’d birthed her myself.

But no, I received Diana. A gift in the midst of my greatest sorrow. I, a widow, at only nineteen. Well, not technically. Mom and Dad did, after all, insist we wait. But in the heady joy of first love, my heart had made the commitment. And thus, the breaking of it was every bit as sharp as any war-time wife’s when you went away and didn’t return.

But then . . . Diana. New to the world and already alone. In need of arms to hold her. And mine, so very empty.

In those first moments, the warmth of her slumbering form nestled against my chest, it was as if I could finally hear Hope’s whisper once more. “I haven’t forgotten you, Maggie Muir. There’s still so much more for you.”

And I’m still so grateful. Even though, in the end, she too was taken from me far too soon.

It’s for her memory I keep searching, Robert. Searching for Cynthia—little Cindy—my daughter’s daughter . . .

Because even all these years later, I still hear her cries in my dreams.

And because even all these years later, Hope’s whisper is still there. “I haven’t forgotten you, Maggie Muir.”

Just as I haven’t forgotten her. And will never forget you.

With all my love,