Dear Alice,
I remember it like it was yesterday. The sun, beaming brilliantly upon my soft tanned skin. The rumbling in my stomach, growing more intense each passing day from my lack of food. The many birds that flew past me, chirping to the beat of my heart. I would sketch meaningful pictures for hours at a time in my worn-out notebook. The scratching of my pencil hitting the paper was hypnotic for me.
I would draw pictures that made no sense at all, but it made me sound. I was lonely; the drawings were all I had since I ran away from home a few years prior. I got all my inspiration for my notebook that way, drawing about why I left and how I felt. How my father disappeared just after I born.
To be honest with you, all I ever saw of my father was pictures of when he and my mom were first married. They looked so happy; without a doubt in the world so far. I guess in a way; I’m to blame for my father leaving. I was born two years after they got married. Supposedly, I was a difficult baby to control. My mom told me I would cry for hours at a time. It became too much for my mother, so she started to drink until she could no longer hear my vicious cries. My father knew he could never talk any sense into her to make her stop, so he stopped trying and left her and me. I don't know where he is anymore, or where my mother is.

I ran away when I was only about 5 or 6 years old. I remember thinking to myself "I’m better off this way." No more neglect, no more waiting for my father to come back, or waiting for my mother to give up drinking and pay attention to me. Although I don’t regret my decision to leave, it was much harder than I thought. I only took a few things that I knew I would need; like my knapsack. It was the only thing I brought with, which only contained my notebook and pencil. I would walk and then find food from dumpsters outside of restaurants. Walk, eat, draw, sleep. Those were the only things on my mind.
I would sleep on the side of the road, partially hidden, and I would always wait until dark. I know it wasn't very safe, but I couldn’t go anywhere else. I had no friends; I never went to school. I had no parents; they never cared. I had no life; I never got the chance. I’m writing this today to remember my dark times. To reflect; to heal, to share my story, and to tell you how I met you because you need to know, you made my life better Alice.
As I’ve said before, I never found a place to stay. I spent my whole childhood walking and finding any food I could. I thought nobody noticed me. But one day, someone saw me; and she cared.
“Why are you sitting here in the middle of nowhere?” A girl about my age,16, had asked me. I had no idea what to tell her. There I was sitting on the grass, drawing in my notebook, lost in my world of thoughts.
“I’m just taking a rest,” I answered her, after long hesitation. I wasn't lying. I was taking a very extended break... one that lasted my whole life. She stared at me for a few seconds longer. She looked as though she was thinking very intensely about what to say next.
My mind was blank. I had never had a real conversation with someone before. Especially a girl.
“You look like you need something to eat, come with me and I’ll buy you anything you want.” She told me with a smile. I nodded back. I felt something. Something strange. She had this, like, an aura around her. A nice one. Like everything she came close to would instantly become joyful and bright. I never knew, until that day that one person could have such power.
I put the notebook in my bag and started to walk down the grassy path with a companion by my side. There were many dandelions and beautiful green grass; it was like something from a fairy tale. After a few minutes of walking, my new friend broke the silence with a question.
“So, what were you drawing?” She queried me with a tiny smile.
“I was just drawing about whatever came to mind.” I left it at that. I didn't want to talk, know what to talk about, or understand why she wanted to help me. As I’ve said, I never had a real conversation with someone. Why did I have to start with someone so pretty?
“Well, maybe I can read your notebook sometime?” She suggested shyly. I was very overwhelmed by this question. I never wanted to show anyone my notebook; it was too personal. But this girl made me feel like I could trust her with anything.
“Uh...yeah maybe I could show it to you… at some time.” I stammered. I probably would never get the chance to show her my notebook anyway. She would be gone from my life the next day.
We kept walking. We had only been walking for about 10 minutes, but I already felt a connection. A powerful attachment that I never felt before. I don't know why; I didn't talk that much to this person. But somehow, I felt like I already cared about her more than I ever cared for anyone.
We eventually got to a store. It was pearly white and looked a little small, though very pretty. I walked up to the window and looked inside. It had the loveliest decorations I had ever seen. I was astonished at all the fresh vegetables and fruit I saw on the inside. Gosh, I must’ve been staring through the window for over a minute. I could feel her eyes looking at me up and down as I looked through the window. She must've thought I looked pretty silly.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She laughed. I nodded as I looked into her bright blue eyes. They looked watery, but not in the sense that she was going to cry, she looked overjoyed. She took my arm and guided me inside the door; it had a large flower printed in the centre. It added a nice touch.
We walked in, and all the bright colours consumed me. It made me feel something, something new. It was a feeling I couldn’t even explain and to this day, I still can’t. Happy isn’t nearly enough to describe how glad I was to be somewhere clean with someone so cheerful. All my worry had passed and I no longer felt alone. I guess she could see it on my face.
“Well, you look happy. What would you like to have? The store just got a new shipment of fruit today.” She smiled. I had no idea what I wanted. All the fruit looked so juicy and fresh. I only ate things from dumpsters. I almost felt like it was way too luxurious for me.
“I don’t know what I want. It all looks good.” I told her in a soft voice. I was very grateful to have her. No one had ever come up to me and talked to me. She was the first person that cared for me enough to help.
“That’s always good to hear. Did you know this is my store?” She told me.
“I didn't know that. It’s a beautiful store.” I replied to her. I used my most sincere voice because it was gorgeous. The walls were a pearly white; flowers filled the room. I just assumed they were faux flowers because honestly, she would need a lot of water.
“Thank you-,” She replied warmly, “-It’s not exactly my store, it’s my father’s, but I decorated it myself.” I found it marvellous that a girl my age could’ve done something so creative.
I looked through the front basket that was full of fruit, it all looked tasty.
“What should I have?” I finally asked her.
“Try some strawberries; they’re my favourite. I think you’ll like them.” I picked one up and slowly took a bite. It was a brilliant red and was undoubtedly the best thing I ever tasted.
“These strawberries are so good,” I said enthusiastically as this girl blushed and beckoned for me to eat more. I didn’t want to seem rude, so I only took 1 or 2 more.
“So I don’t mean to be rude or anything… but do you have anywhere to stay? You kinda seem like you don’t have many caring people in your life.”
“Well, I don’t have parents. I mean... I have them, but I do not know where they are. So, uh, no, I have no one to stay with.” I finally spat out. She looked at me with a sincere smile and told me she understood how I felt. Her mother passed away from cancer when she was 12. She looked like she connected with me. I liked this feeling of connection; it was my first encounter with someone other than my mother.
‘I think I lo-’
“Oh wow. It’s already 5:00 o’clock. I have to close soon.” The girl said in an aching voice as she interrupted my thought. Hearing her say that made me feel sad. Once she closed the store that would be the end. I would never see her again.
“Would you like to come back tomorrow?” Those words went right through me and made me feel warm inside. But I wouldn’t be there the next day. I had to finish my journey… didn’t I? I couldn’t stop walking, not even for a day, no matter how much I wanted to.
“I cannot stay. I’m sorry.” Once I spoke those words, a very perplexed look spread over her face.
“Why… why not?” She stammered. It almost sounded like she was choking on her own words. But why? She wouldn’t want me there anyway.
“Because I… I need to keep going on my way. I love exploring the outside world. You have no idea the joy it gives me.” After speaking those words, my eyes felt heavy. Like I was about to cry. What was happening to me?
“As much as it may pain you to hear, you don’t have anyone else! You can’t be on your own forever “ She sounded very tense.
“I’ve been on my own for about 11 years now! It’s not like you care anyway. No one cares, that’s why I’m here.” I tried to refrain from yelling. I was angry. My mind filled with negative thoughts. I don’t know why I felt like she didn’t care anymore. I wasn’t used to anyone caring for me… I wish she understood that at the time.
She stood there in silence for what was only a few seconds but felt like an hour.
“But I do care! And that’s why I'M here!” She yelled. People passing by stared at her for a few seconds, then went back on their way.
I looked at her with wide eyes as she stepped one foot away from me. I felt a wave of... ashamedness. Is that even a word? Guilt. That’s more accurate.
We just stared at each other as I felt our connection slowly weaken. It was the saddest thing I experienced since the day I left home. Right before I departed the store, I heard her whisper under her breath.
“I was wrong to care.” After I left the store, I drew about it in my notebook. All my feelings circled my head as I tried to draw out my thoughts. The walking, the smiles, the yelling. For once, my beautiful sketches were just scribbles on the page. I couldn't draw anymore. The only thing I was good at, my only talent, was beginning to fade.
A few days passed and this girl was my passing thought. The only thing I could think about without crying. Even then, I could only see the disappointment that flooded her face as she whispered those last words.
"I was wrong to care."
I thought that maybe she wanted me to show up at her store, but I was afraid I would be wrong.
A month went by and I no longer felt as sad. I was walking all over the long path of beautiful trees as birds were calling out to each other. I was happy; I hadn't felt that way since the last time I saw her. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I was so content, but now I know. Every time this girl came near me, it’s like a trail of happiness followed. I sat down to draw the scenery around me when I suddenly remembered this girl. I started to sketch out her long golden hair and vibrant eyes. When I finished with the sketch, something urged me to start walking in the opposite direction. It was like my body was trying to tell me something. And it was.
I walked, and then I ran a little further. The feeling of urgency was growing stronger and stronger with each step I made. The atmosphere abruptly came to a halt as I saw what was staring back at me. It was the girl I came to know and love. I finally understood; that this urgency was just fate calling my name. Telling me that I shouldn't have walked away, and I never did again. I ran up to her in tears and fell at her feet. She bent down beside me and held my face.
“It’s going to be okay.”
I cried on her shoulder as she just sat there and held me. That was the moment I knew I could finish my thought from a month ago.
‘I think I love her.’

To this day, I still think about how if I gave up my journey, I never would have met the most caring woman in the world. Alice taught me how to write, to count, even how to feel things better and to express them in words. If it weren’t for her, I would still be out there searching for a new way to live. As I write this, I’m looking at my sketch that I drew of her all those years ago. We have it hung up on the wall in the room where I write and draw. Alice, this letter has my whole life story in it. And in this story, there are two stars. And one of them made my life brighter.

...

For my wife, Alice.

-Eli