Monday, 26 August 2013

It Started with a Letter
Grace O’Reilly

It started with a letter, 14 years ago.  Samantha had read about Robert in a magazine supplement from an Irish newspaper.  She had thought it would be fun to write to somebody and have them write back to her.  Someone who lived in the same country so that they would both write in English, and also that they could relate to each other and their surrounding environments. 

Name: Robert Doyle
Lives in: Cork City
Age: 13
Likes: Football
Hates: Baked beans
Favourite Colour: Blue
Favourite Food: Burgers

Glasnevin was where Samantha was from. She preferred being called “Sam” though.   She loved to look in the shops on Henry Street with her mother on Saturday afternoons.  They would go to Anne’s Bakery and she and her mother would have their dinner and then a cake. 
Alisha and Leanne were two of Sam’s best friends.  They were looking forward to their summer holidays.  Lounging around in their pyjamas and belting out “My heart wiiiill, go ooooooooon aaaaaand ooooooooon”.  Celine Dion was constantly on MTV with “My Heart will go on”.  It was the theme tune from the film Titanic.  Leanne’s older brother worked at the cinema on O’Connell Street.  The girls used to be secretly let in for free.  They must have watched the film about ten times now at least.   Sam still cried every time she watched it.
Samantha took out her fancy paper with cute puppies on it and started to write her first letter to Robert. 

12 Hollybrook,
County Dublin
1st May 1998

Hi Robert,
I am Samantha.  I read about you in the magazine supplement in the paper in the Teenage Section.  I would like us to become pen pals.  I am 11 years old and in St. Patrick’s School in Glasnevin, Dublin. 
Ben, Mary and Kelly are my family and my Mam and Da of course and Ringo our dog.  He is a Basset Hound.
I like to read books and play basketball in school.  I see you play footie. 
Do you like going to the cinema?  I love Titanic.  Oh my God, Leonardo is soooo cute.
Write soon.

Sam licked the envelope and walked to the post office.  It was at the end of her road.  “Hiya.  Can I have a stamp for Cork please?” she asked.  She counted out her pennies literally (it was the end of that week’s pocket money, she got a pound a week), and handed the money to the lady behind the counter.  Sticking the stamp on the envelope she whispered “Please write back.” Into the letterbox it went.
In Cork City Robert was a very popular young boy and the goalkeeper for his class football team.  His dad had been reading the newspaper when he saw that they were looking for people aged 9 -15 to write in for the pen pal section.  They had to send in a photograph of themselves, and fill in the form telling the other readers about themselves.  If they wanted to write to the person shown they would send their letters to the magazine who would forward them to the person.  Robert’s dad thought it would be great for Robert.
Robert was looking forward to his summer holidays from school.  His parents and he always went to Donegal for 2 weeks to visit his Grandparents.  This was his mother’s parents.  His father’s parents lived on a farm on the outskirts of Cork City.
First year was hard compared to primary school.  There were so many teachers and subjects, and he had longer days.  Robert had done a test and it was hard.  He thought “What a pile of malarkey!  Who even uses algebra in the real World?”
“You got a letter today”, Robert’s Mother told him.  Robert ran up to his bedroom with the letter, jumped onto his bed and tore it open.  He was delighted.  Opening his schoolbag he dug out some A4 paper and wrote a letter back to Samantha.

77 Ashtown Lawn,
Fota Island
Cork City
4th May 1998

Hey Sam,
Just got your letter.   Ringo is a cool name for a dog.  Is he a good drummer?  Haha.
Yuck Leonardo is an idiot.  Titanic is alright.  Bet you cried.
I am going into 2nd Year in September. 
What programmes do you like to watch on telly?  I love “The Simpsons”.
Write soon

Back and forth Samantha and Robert wrote.  They wrote to each other about school, boyfriends and girlfriends, concerts and T.V programmes, family rows and holidays.  Over the years they really got to know each other.
Then one day Sam got a letter from Robert saying that he was coming up to Dublin for a weekend with his friends in the summer and did they want to “hook up”.
Both of them now owned a mobile phone, which had become new technology since they first wrote to each other all those years ago.  Robert and Sam had only had one since Christmas when their parents got them one.
They started to text weekly and then daily and their letters slowly stopped but they stayed in touch via mobile phone.  Then they started to ring weekly and that is when feelings really started to form.
Sam’s friends couldn’t understand how you had feelings for someone you had never met and Robert’s said the same.  They couldn’t really understand it either but as Robert said “I know everything about Sam.  She is my soul mate I feel it.  Yeah of course I know the girls from school but I don’t KNOW them”. 
At ten o’clock on August 12th 2006 they arranged to meet at the steps under the Eason’s clock on O’Connell Street.  They were both really nervous.  Over the years they had seen photographs of each other and although they had never met they both had feelings for each other.  They were finally going to meet up just over 8 years later. 
It was strange that they had never met up before considering that they both lived in the same country, maybe it was nerves about meeting or maybe it was the fact that they had never met before, but they both felt they could trust the other person with their whole world.  One thing was for sure though. They both knew that things were going to be completely different after they met, be it a good thing or a bad thing but it was definitely going to be different.  One door was closing while another was opening. 
They were not just going to be pen pals any longer although in all honesty they had been more than that for a long time now.  They were more than friends but they didn’t know exactly what they were to each other.
Sam hadn’t a clue what to wear but decided eventually on a navy dress with birds on worn over skinny jeans with a pair of red Converse high top runner shoes and a denim jacket.  She blow dried her hair and put the teeniest hint of make-up on to try and look as natural as possible.  She wanted to look her best without looking like she was trying to look her best.  “This is silly” she scolded to herself in the mirror.  “It’s not a date”.
Ding dong went the bell and she whizzed down the stairs to answer it.  It was Leanne.  Alisha had to work in the pub that day as there was some big match on but Leanne was going with her. 
The girls hopped on a bus and headed toward the City Centre.  Thankfully the rain had stopped.  Sam was grateful her hair wouldn’t frizz up on her.
At one minute to 10 O’clock they got off the bus.  It had been held up with roadworks.  They ran and made it to Eason’s for just shy of five past ten. “‘Hey, you made it.  You look...” and with that Robert trailed off shyly, “...Beautiful” he whispered while blushing scarlet.  ‘Thanks’ replied Sam.  Her heart she was certain had just skipped a beat.
Sam, Robert, Leanne and Robert’s two friends Shane and John had a great day.  They went to Stephen’s Green Park and hung out, catching up and getting to formally know each other.  They were chatting and enjoying each other’s company so much that they felt like they were on their own planet.
They went to McDonalds on Grafton Street and had mooched around the shops.  Halfway through the day Robert took Sam’s hand in his and they stayed that way for the day.  It was nothing more and nothing less, just innocently and lovingly holding hands.
They met up again the next day and did the same, holding hands.  Robert had to go home that night.  Leanne went with Sam to say farewell to the lads at Bus Arás.  She felt as though her heart would break and had to keep quiet for she knew she would cry.  Her throat ached with the lump from trying to control her emotions.  Robert felt the same.
They met up every 3 months for 2 days for the next 2 years and got to know each other’s family formally.  It was almost like they were an unofficial couple, but as they were so young and had separate lives (so they thought) it never went any further.
In 2008, Robert was now 23 and Sam 21 they met and went for a drink.  “You know this is going to be really weird, not knowing when we’ll see each other again.” Robert said to Sam.  ‘I know but we’ll stay in touch.  We both know we’re good at that.” she laughed.
Robert went away two months later as a mature student.  The plan was to go for 2 years to England to go to college.  Sam went travelling with Leanne but they stayed in touch through email, texts, calls, letters and postcards. 
It was a year later when Robert realised how much he had fallen in love with Sam as they didn’t have the usual “relationship” that couples had, so when Sam said that she had met someone and he wanted them to get a place together back in Dublin after their year travelling was up he knew he had to do something.
He found out Sam’s last leg of the trip was in France and that she would be there for a week.  So he decided this was it, now or never.  He sent Sam a letter with a ticket to Paris and they arranged to meet just them in Paris.  When Sam got to her hostel the receptionist gave her a letter. 

Dearest Sam,
I know this is strange but meet me at the Eiffel Tower at 9pm tonight.  Meet me at the ticket desk.  Trust me.
Love Rob

Sam made herself look pretty and wore a LBD and straightened her hair.  Hailing a taxi she took a deep breath and hopped in.
She got to the ticket desk at the Eiffel Tower and Robert was nowhere to be seen.  She was tipped on the shoulder.  “Excuse Moi Madame Sam, Yes?” a lady asked.  “Em, Oui”, replied Sam beginning to get freaked out.  “A letter for you” prompted the lady and handed her an envelope.
With shaking hands Sam opened the letter.  It simply read “Marry me” and as she read it she heard Robert saying the words.  He was behind her, rose in hand.  “Please Sam, let’s give it a go”, he begged.  “I know we haven’t had the most conventional of relationships but you know what we have is special.  I know I love you and I will always love you forever.
A year and half later in 2011 Robert and Sam were married in Glasnevin church.  They have a baby on the way. They will tell their baby that “It started with a letter”.