The pain was so great when he sat down to write the most important letter of his life that just picking up the pen nearly caused him to faint. The pain shot through his body like lightning through the night sky, yet he forced himself to bear it. "Just a letter at a time," he muttered to himself as the tip of the pen met the paper for the very first time.
It had been years since the last time Nathan had brought about the union of pen and paper. His arthritis had long ago caused him to stop doing many of the things he once loved. But this, this all consuming letter, was important enough, he thought, to make surmounting the pain worthwhile -- if only for this one time.
Nathan had always believed that the more important the letter, the more personal touch it needed. And this time he had spent days visiting every stationary store in the area looking for that perfect paper and pen.
He found the paper, a decidedly ornate, delicate, yet rustic paper (as it was entirely hand-made) in the back of a tiny shop on the north edge of town. There, on the bottom shelf, behind some newer fancy stationary sets where it had been accidentally pushed, and under a thick layer of dust, sat this small stack of this special paper. The hue was something between cream and ivory with a hint of antiqued yellow. The edges were fairly straight, but not cut, which was exactly what Nathan wanted.
The pen came from a specialty shop on the east side and was a custom creation of the shop's owner, a Mr. Vidj. Mr. V, as he went, had mildly arthritic hands and wanted to create a more comfortable grip for traditional dip pens. What he came up with was a solution that enlarged the grip area and covered it with a very thick, and very soft, rubber material. The differences between this and other similar products, was that Mr. V had extended the cushioning up to where the pen rests on the hand between the index finger and thumb and the thickness of the material was 2-3 times that of other cushioned pens.
The particular pen Nathan acquired had a modest, subdued, matte black finish on the holder. Paired with it was a highly polished 14k gold nib with fine etchings of ivy on the back. It was the ivy that drew Nathan to the pen. Seeing what was etched on it made his heart jump and Nathan felt as if he had tripped at the top of a very steep hill, down which he was now rolling. This effect continued long enough so that he didn't even notice, nor care about, the $300 price tag.
The ink was, as the box claimed "exceptionally quick drying" and "made specially for hand-crafted papers." Other than those claims, it was simply a bottle of black India ink. The recipient, Nathan knew, would appreciate the use of a traditional ink more than had he purchased something with more pop. This fact had crossed his mind as someone behind him scoffed as he carefully picked up the black ink. That person, a guy roughly half of Nathan's age, hurriedly grabbed some purple ink off the shelf without barely looking and scurried off down the aisle to the cashier.
Nathan had managed only a dot on the paper when the pain caused his mind to blank completely. He lifted the pen from the paper leaving behind a slightly larger dot than had originally been. He reminded himself of just how few sheets of this special paper he had and decided that he really needed to get the words right on something else first. But, with ink in the pen, he decided to at least address the envelope. This was another hand-made paper product, that came from a third shop over on the west side, and didn't exactly match the sheets, but was as close as he had found.
A month later and on his desk remained that sheet of paper with the dot of ink in the upper left and a carefully lettered envelop addressed to one Ivy Dare from a Nathan Rawo. Nearby, some in, some around, the waste bin were several sheets of normal college-ruled notebook paper torn from a discarded notebook left over from his college days in various stages of crumpledness. On them were written "Dear Ivy," "Dearest Ivy," "Beloved Ivy," and countless other variations. Some had "Why did you leave" others were just tear-stained. Nathan, however, was no where to be found.
As the investigators learned, one sheet, the top-most and least crumpled of all the sheets, had the words "I love you, but the pain is too much" scribbled on it.
Several months later, and long after Miss Dare had been contacted, Nathan had still not been seen anywhere. He had been active online up until his disappearance, but none of his accounts showed activity. The best lead investigators had, was a report that someone with a similar build to Nathan boarded a plane headed overseas and a one-way ticket to Japan for a Mr. B. R. Okenheart. However, when they tried to contact Mr. Okenheart, he could not be located and the authorities in Japan couldn't find any record of him after landing.
Many years later, and a few weeks after her wedding, Ivy received a letter in the mail. There was no return address, but the postmark indicated that it was mailed from Novosibirsk. The only words, other than her address, were the words: "Congratulations on your new life." These words were written in black India ink with a traditional metal nib dip pen.