Dear Ash,

It’s been awhile since I’ve devoted any real time to you. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you’re never very far away. You haven’t been since 2010. Remember when I was buried in Maelea’ s story and you hung out around the edges of my thoughts? I so desperately wanted to introduce you to Maelea. What that might have done for her.

But I didn’t.

Partly because you weren’t saying anything, you were just there. Partly because Maelea didn’t seem interested. She had Small– and real friends too. Partly because I wasn’t ready to share you– you were Anna’s.

At the time, I didn’t really know why you were back.

I think I do–or, at least, have a better idea why now.

Because you’re back.

You’ve been back since I started re writing Haven. At first, I barely acknowledged you. There he is. Does he want a part in Haven’s story? So I tried. Because I love you, you have a cameo, a notable mention, in this book. But it’s not much, not enough to let you shine. I didn’t know why but, as I always have, I let the characters tell the story. After a scene or two, you backed off, went away. At first, I thought that was because those scenes were needed and that was it. Except, once I decided not to give you more of a presence in the story, you came back. Silent, just there.

After every chapter I wrote, when I’d curl up in the egg chair with Lambie, you were the one I thought of, not Haven or Poppy. When I went outside, because this book was breaking my heart and making me feel uneasy and restless, I sat on the porch and re-read the few chapters of The Character that I can. The soldier. The day with the ice cream.

Again, I didn’t really know why you were there. It isn’t your story.

Then the book was finished. I thought finally. I was emotional, but that’s not unusual after writing. A weeks went by; both you and Haven disappeared.

I started trying to process the story– but every time I’d think publish, I’d have a wave of anxiety and fear that I have never had with any other story— even Anna’s. So I closed the mental door, prayed every day for clarity and peace and tried to think of something else.

And then guess what happened?

Haven reappeared the other day, maybe close to a week ago. But she doesn’t want a story. The book is finished. Yet, it was Haven. That made me all kinds of anxious and scared and sad. Nope, I thought, can’t do that.

Just like that, you reappear.

The two of you are flip- flopping; sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s Haven I see. But, weirdly, I know why you, at least, are here, why you’ve been here throughout this whole book.

Do you remember when we lived in Florida, when I was maybe nine or so? At least I think it was Florida; I know it was hot and I remember walking a sidewalk and singing. Anyway, I remember after he came in, he said, you’ve always been my good girl. Sarah, from one of the stories, was there, ice skating on the ceiling, and I kept marveling how exuberant she was. I wondered if she was a good girl. Shortly after that, the Friends series was created and Victoria was one of them. Quiet, shy and beautiful, she was the first character I distinctly remember writing about who was sexually abused. She was a good girl.

And, after that, you were always there. Actually, you were here long before then. I just didn’t call you Ash until Anna came around… But you were whichever character was making my head home, whichever character whose story was of paramount importance to me, whichever character joined me after dark when fear was really real.

In other words, you’ve always helped protect me. And I think you’ve been here through this book because you knew that Haven’s character is different; she brings too much out of me to be comforting. She reminds me of the nightmare with Kid too much and writing her book would have been virtually impossible without something to keep me safe. She was my character… But she… she’s too vulnerable, I needed another one, too.

So here you are.

You know…

There are lots of reasons I believe in God. Nathan, and the answered prayer. Holding my hand, then finding the verse. The night in Chattanooga when I am sure my life was saved for the first time. Memphis. Breathe & Alight. Literally, this list could go on forever. I know He’s real. And one of the most powerful reasons I know it is because of my characters, characters like you who gave me a way out, characters who made me feel like I wasn’t alone, characters whose stories gave me something positive and evolving to think about when the spiders were inside my skin or when scary words were being said.

Haven is more than special, she’s important. And I know, with her and you hanging out, she wants me to do something. Not sure what, but I know it’s something important. Or maybe she’s hanging out to make me think and you’re here to keep me comforted and somewhat sane so that I can brave the memory vault.

The word haven means a safe place. She is that, in a lot of very special ways. Including by bringing me a story I couldn’t refuse, a story I needed, and by being perfect. I’ve felt a weight lately, almost a responsibility, to give it to Adam, to bring it to the forefront of the conversation. It might spark meaningful conversations. And yet, I can’t. I just can’t.

Tonight, I think you’re comforting, quieting character is here to tell me that’s okay.

I was asked recently how I picture you. Did you know that readers are pretty evenly divided over whether they think you’re an adult or a child? I think that’s fascinating because of how clear you are in my mind’s eye. Imagining you as the opposite is virtually impossible for me. But every time the subject comes up and someone says really? Wow, I didn’t see him that way at all it reminds me that that’s part of the something special that’s you, that everyone is given the freedom to see you however they need.

Life is so much. It’s joy and sadness and achievement and disappointment and hope and despair. We each have to decide how to see each day. For me, from the time I was a good girl (so much in those 2 words) to today, the promise of the rainbow has kept me motivated and urged me into tomorrow. And you. How could I not at least see how your story ended?

You’ve seen me at my worst. You were ice skating on the ceiling, you saw me do .. whatever was expected of me and then saw me smile my way through pushing people away. When it was hard to breathe, physically and emotionally, focusing on the next scene in your book kept me from doing drastic things. It kept me safe.

Even today you’re doing the same thing. Showing up and hanging out just when I’m at the edge until I give in by writing whatever it is you you want, whatever it is you know I need to get out. By pushing me, you comfort and refresh and help heal.

While it’s easier to say I don’t know why you’re here, what you want me to do or think about or say… I know. And I might not have been able to tell Haven I know or that I’ll try because that’s not the same as I will.. But you, I can tell you. I’ll try.

In the meantime…I’m glad you’re hanging out. It makes me feel better.