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...here's the letter I've written Rondo.  Not a lot to say about it; pretty much all that's germane is contained therein.  I guess it's theoretically personal, but there's nothing very private in it.  If anyone has any thoughts or insights to share, I'd welcome them.


     Let me start off by saying that I'm sorry that it's taken me this long to write to you.  It hasn't been carelessness or absent-mindedness that's kept me from it.  Far from it, in fact.  In the months since I saw you last not a day has gone by in which this letter was absent from my mind.  On none of those days was I of any fewer than three minds regarding what I should write, what I should feel.  Know that reaching the conclusion that I have was not attained in a flash of realization, as one finding the correct answer, but as a long, slow grind of one view upon another until one stands slightly higher than its fellows.  I have no sense that this is the correct answer, no solace in such certainty, I know simply that a decision must be made and, after all this time, I can bring myself to make one and hope that it isn't wrong.

     You can probably expect the whole letter to be as dense as the above; missives that are more than a year in the making likely aren't known for brevity or lightness.  Apologies for that.

     I understand how hard it was, going from the level of contact you had in the jail to an absence to the diminished degree you now experience.  You likely feel there's something hypocritical about my having visited you weekly and then, once you're farther away, not at all.  I assure you that it isn't a matter of distance, and it's not a matter of apathy.  As I said, I have wrestled with my feelings every day.  The issue is that I haven't yet felt ready to talk to you.  Yes, I was there weekly, but the visits were brief and I did my best to always have someone else there to take up time.  After the first time (and that was a minor talk because I was still virtually speechless on the matter) I avoided talking about anything to do with what you've done and tried hard not to think about or process the full extent of the situation.  It helped that you weren't there with me, that you were somewhere else on a monitor.  It made it less real, more of a compartmentalized version of life in which I could just chat instead of being crushed underfoot by the elephant in the room.  Even so, rare was the visit on which I didn't cry as I drove home.

     Then you were moved and visiting you meant two hours of face-to-face time.  I couldn't even begin to fathom being able to handle that.  I kept intending to visit.  I really did.  The problem is that I couldn't go alone, I couldn't supplant Mom or Papa by going with the other of them, and thus I was left waiting on Garr.  Going with Garr was a good solution because I'd have someone else who could talk and we'd have a lot to talk about that wasn't your situation.  Problem is, Garr had no ID, so I put the idea of visiting you on hold and urged him, several times, to get his ID taken care of.  Of course, this is Garr, so you can imagine how quickly he got on top of that.  So I didn't visit.  Even these plans and attempts, however, were not me being ready to talk to you.  They were me trying to be ready to spend two hours in a room with you.

     The Father's Day visit was just that; it was for Papa.  He wanted to spend the day with his boys and I saw an opportunity to make myself visit you while having the support of someone else present.  It was very hard to see you.  So very hard.  I put on my best face for Papa, and also for you, and I did have some fun, but perhaps you saw the moments where I'd virtually shut down mid-laugh, go quiet and become distracted.  Without Papa there to pick up the slack I don't know what would have become of those pauses because those were the moments in which I felt shame and revulsion for granting you even the briefest moment of solace or happiness.  At times it took all of my resolve not to seize you by your shirt and shout 'You monster!  What have you done?!  You monster!'

     The fundamental issue with which I've been wrestling is, obviously, whether or not to forgive you.  Whether or not I can forgive you.  The very notion of forgiving you has felt as though I would be some kind of an accomplice, an accessory to the horrific thing you've done.  The sense was that your imprisonment is the justice system's answer to your crime and anything I could do to comfort you would diminish that just punishment.  On the other hand being severed from your family would make it that much harder for you to integrate into society upon release, increasing the likelihood of your offending again.

     That's been the battle within me since you went away.  The two wolves within my heart.  If I hate and ignore you, shun you for what you've done, perhaps it will lend the last little bit of weight to your punishment necessary for you to actually learn the lesson, or perhaps it will be too much and make you rebel or crush any goodness which remains within you.  If I forgive and accept you in spite of what you've done, perhaps it will give you the hope and human connection necessary to come through this with the right attitude, to be grateful for the good things in your life and never do something like this ever again, or perhaps it will soften your punishment and make you think that what you did is all right, or that people will always ultimately forgive and forget no matter what you do and so, as prison fades into your past, you might even feel as though you got away with it and decide you could do it again.

     I'm sorry that the number one issue hasn't been missing you.  I do miss you, but the gut-wrenching choice of which course of action will keep you from ever doing this again has preyed upon my mind for over a year.  I've had nightmares, so many nightmares, of you getting out and hurting someone else, someone I know, someone who wouldn't even have met you if not for my having forgiven you.  It's made it hard to think about anything else.  On the one hand I'm told that forgiveness is the right thing to do, on the other I wonder what good forgiveness is if it can't be withheld in order to coerce correct behavior.

     It helps a lot that you've apologized.  If forgiveness is to be given I don't think it can really be given until the individual in question has repented of what they've done, otherwise it's tantamount to condonement of the act.  I have absolutely no reason to believe that you mean any of it, of course.  For all I know these words have been cribbed from your fellow inmates or parroted back from some group meeting in which you're told what you're supposed to be feeling.  You could even be improvising false repentance all on your own, of course; you never had trouble figuring out what people want to hear, you were just always too stubborn to say it until after a minimum of two hours' argument.

      Those doubts as they are, I still accept your apology at face value not out of trust, but out of hope.  Think of me as a man turning the other cheek while bracing to be struck again.  Feel free to pleasantly surprise me.  Surprise me enough and someday I may find new trust.  For now I can only give you the benefit of the doubt for no other reason than that I miss my brother.  It still hurts; I'm still afraid and angry and conflicted and so very sorrowful over what you've done and what it's brought upon you, but I love you.  Please don't make me regret my love and forgiveness by doing anything remotely like this ever, ever again.  I couldn't bear it.

     I think that's about all I have to say this time around.  Writing this has taken me hours and left me feeling like I've been beaten up.  Maybe next letter I'll be in a better state to talk about things like Starcraft and movies and my new kitten (who I believe I shall be naming Azula).  I'd like to hear what you have to say in response to what I've said above.  I think I'll be ready soon to talk about pleasant things, but I don't want this letter to just disappear into the past; I'd like it to be a conversation, if it could.  Once I've got this stuff more settled and accepted in my mind I'll be able to communicate with you via more than just the written word; I'll be able to pick up the phone and, perhaps before too long, come and see you again.

     I love you very much, Rondo.  Learn from this time but don't let it become your life.  Take the lessons and leave the pain, because you can be so much more than what you've done.  For the first time in a long time I feel like I can let myself miss you as more than my favourite D&D player.  For all the storm and strife we've had since... well, your birth... you're my brother and I love you, and I want only the best for you.

     Hope to hear from you soon,



C'est moi!
Audrey J. Sterling

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