The first letters began arriving 4 days after they had moved in. Their walkies would unfortunately not cover the distance and Will did not have the same knack for building radios that Dustin did, or else there would already be a Cerebro 2.0 standing proud in their new garden. So instead the party had decided that frequent letters would have to suffice. While she had not said as much, Joyce was profoundly glad about this, as she really could not afford the phone bill they were likely to rack up.
On their new driveway stood a rusting post box, which had certainly seen better days, but El and Will, supervised by Jonathon, had painted it the day after their arrival. Now it was a deep, dark blue, cluttered with bright stars and the occasional crescent moon. The two artists had likewise found themselves covered in paint. As the post-box dried in the late summer sun, they lay on the grass, grinning, wondering whose letters would be delivered first, and who they might write their own first letters to.
El had never once in her entire life received a letter, and so when Joyce handed her a purple envelope covered in stickers of Wonder Woman two days later, she was happy enough to burst.
It began, in Max’s lazy sloping handwriting. The paper was the same violet as the envelope and there were little drawings all around the paper; a skateboard here, a walkie there, and what might have been a pretty bad attempt at Scoops Ahoy down in the bottom corner.
Hawkins sucks without you. I only have boys to talk to now, and me and Lucas have already broken up twice. When are you coming home?
The day you all left we went to the Arcade and I kicked Dustin’s ass at pretty much everything, as usual. I hope there’s an Arcade near you guys, if you get any better at Pac Man, I might actually have some competition. It’s really not the same without you guys here though. Mike’s always moping, and the boys were teasing him about it, until Mike told Dustin that if he didn’t stop, he’d sneak up to Cerebro and tell Suzie what happened during their sixth-grade play.
Not much else has happened, you’ve only actually been gone for like 24 hours anyway. I think Steve and Robin might have new jobs – finally –but I’m not too sure yet, I’ll keep you updated. Hopefully he’s working in a diner or something, free fries would be awesome. According to Dustin, Steve and Robin are still not dating, even though they’d make the cutest couple! If they don’t get together soon, me and Erica might start playing matchmaker.
I hope you’re all settled now, tell me what your new room is like! What colour are you going to paint it? Do you want me to send you any of my posters?
Can’t wait to see you, miss you so much,
When she had finished reading it (and re-reading it) El hugged the letter close to her chest, crushing the purple pages against one of Jim’s old shirts, and sighed. Despite the rocky start to their friendship, they had become best friends in no time, and El would miss their sleepovers and their Gossip Sessions™ and the endless discussions on the awesomeness of Stevie Nicks.
She asked Will for a sheet of paper and a pink pencil, and in her own unpractised and still quite shaky handwriting, began to write her reply.
By the time October rolled into Hawkins, Steve and Robin had been working at the video store for about a month. Well, Robin had been working for about a month, Steve had mostly been watching movies.
(“It’s called educating myself, thank you very much.” He had snarked when she accused him of slacking off.)
So far he had watch Star Wars a total of 12 times which was not actually impressive, but instead very, very sad, Robin thought, but Leia was an absolute babe, so she didn’t really complain too much about that.
Steve’s dad had been even less impressed by this career choice, and so Harrington family dinners had reached peak awkwardness by early September. The complete silence around their expensive and uncomfortable marble dinner table was unbearable, interspersed with cutlery scaping on plates and the occasional cough. Steve had thought the fighting had been bad, when his dad had aimed low blows at Steve’s lack of ambition, and his mum had made snide remarks about the absence of any female company. The silence was ultimately worse however, as it came with the knowledge that his parents couldn’t even bother to insult him anymore.
As bad as Harrington dinners were, however, Henderson dinners more than made up for it.
The Henderson house was cluttered and smelled of cats and everything was either old or falling apart or already broken. Mrs. Henderson had so much… stuff, it had been overwhelming at first; there were three cuckoo clocks in the kitchen alone, and every available flat surface had been covered by photos of Dustin. The fridge was constantly stocked with leftovers and the sofas were littered with blankets made by the various women in Dustin’s extended family. In short, it was the exact opposite of his parent’s big, empty house, and Steve loved it. He had even laid claim to the squishy armchair in the corner of the living room, which had claw marks on the side, and a pasta stain curtesy of Dustin on the cushion.
As an only child, Steve treasured his position as Dustin’s surrogate older brother, and self-appointed mentor – though Dustin evidently did not need help with the ladies, if he had somehow managed to capture the attention of the smart and beautiful Suzie-poo. And so, with Dustin’s birthday only two weeks away, Steve knew he had to pull it out of the bag. Last year, a trip to the cinema and a new can of Farah Fawcett had been just fine, but this was his fifteenth birthday, and that was a big deal.
This was the even that inspired his letter to Jonathon last week.
Is there any chance you still have that photo? The one from that last party in August, you know the one.
If you could send me two copies, you would be doing me a real solid.
P.S I hope you’re okay, tell the twerps I said hello
, and that I miss them.
The letter had been a complete surprise to Jonathon, who had honestly expected to never hear from Steve Harrington ever again, except maybe when they visited Hawkins during Christmas. What was even more surprising however, was that the return address was definitely the Henderson residence. Regardless, he knew exactly which picture Steve meant, he had taken it after all. And so it was not even a week later when a large brown envelope addressed to “Steve ‘The Hair’ Harrington” landed on the cat shaped mat in the Henderson’s hallway.
Dustin had teared up when he opened his present, because of course he had. Steve had found a dark wood frame for the photo and promised to hang it in Dustin’s room himself.
It wasn’t even that great a photo. It had been late in the day, but their party was still in full swing, El and Mike were cuddled up in the background sharing a slice of blueberry pie. And just outside of frame Steve knew Max had been attempting to teach Will how to do a kickflip. The lighting was slightly too dark and none of them had been looking at the camera. Instead Dustin and Erica had been looking up and laughing at Robin who had ice cream crushed all over her face, the chocolate mess was dripping down her neck and she wore an indignant expression. The cone was still clutched in Steve’s hand. His jeans were ripped but his hair was still in perfect condition. It had been one of the happiest days Steve could remember, and he hadn’t realised till that day that smiling could actually hurt after a while.
That picture now sat in the middle of Dustin’s old science fair medals and his other photos of the Party and Suzie.
The other copy, the second one Steve had requested from Jonathon, was folded in half, and then half again, and it was kept hidden in Steve’s wallet. The creases had turned white from how often Steve took it out to look at it.
February arrived with a feet of snow and a great many letters. In fact, Erica received no less that 12 Valentines from her many admirers, something which she gleefully rubbed in Steve’s face.
The first letter to arrive at the Byers house however was a red envelope addressed to Jonathon; the writing was small and neat and quite obviously belonged to Nancy Wheeler. It was Jonathon’s first Valentine’s Card, (the heart shaped note he got from Tiffany Ward in fifth grade did not count) and he actually felt a little teary when he saw it. He missed Nancy more than he thought possible, but it was made bearable knowing how happy she was at college.
But for some reason, Joyce was freaking out. Just a bit. This was like a 4/10 on the Joyce Byers Panic Scale.
“You’re so grown up now,” she would say, usually followed by something along the lines of, “Soon you’ll be off at college with Nancy in New York, and you won’t need me at all, you’ll probably forget all about me!”
He would never forget his mom, not after everything she had done for them, and he wouldn’t even be off to college anytime soon, if he couldn’t scape together some more money.
The card he had sent in return, addressed to her shabby little apartment which she shared with two other girls, one of which may or may not be a drug dealer, arrived the week before Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Hopefully the first and last time we will celebrate this day apart.
I hope that you are
How are your classes? Don’t work too
I couldn’t afford a present, I hope that’s okay.
Nance, I’m sorry, I’m hopeless at this.
All my love,
Nancy had laughed when she opened the card. It was so quintessentially him. She would have to tell her mom the next time she called home.
The Wheelers had hoped to have Nancy home from NYU for a week but the last remnants of Winter had stuck around and so most trains had been cancelled or delayed indefinitely. Mike was extremely disappointed, so much so that even Ted had noticed, which was nothing short of a miracle.
Disappointed for two main reasons. Reason number one; he had truly missed her. It had been so nice to have her home over Christmas, but then again, everyone had been home over Christmas, and that meant Nancy had spent almost every minute with Jonathon, but it wasn’t like Mike could really complain, as he had been too busy spending every minute with El. He had hoped however, if she could come home from college, that they would get to spend more time together, and he could ask for her advice. This brings us on to reason number two. He had absolutely no idea what he should get El for Valentines Day. Last year had been easier, as they had spend so much time together, he had known exactly what she wanted, and Christmas had been easy too; Will had mentioned she enjoyed painting their post-box, so a set of her own paints had been very well received. Now though? They spoke on the phone sometimes and sent letters all the time but El never really spoke about what she wanted.
Nancy would have known exactly what to get, and where to get it from, but now he was on his own. Sure, he could call her an ask, but his mom would almost definitely listen in on the phone, and he would never live that down.
Pulling out his walkie and pushing on a thick coat he radioed Lucas. It was time for another shopping trip, surely this time couldn’t be any worse. Could it?
I still can’t believe you haven’t seen ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ yet!!! Me and Will have gone 4 times already. The first time we went, Will laughed so hard that Coke came out his nose! Make Lucas take you, as a way to say sorry for last week. He should probably buy you new skateboard wheels as well.
It’s a shame that Operation Scoop Smooch no.3 didn’t go to plan, but maybe that’s a sign? Maybe they really are just friends. And anyway, locking them in a closet was never a good plan, they’ve escaped an underground Russian bunker before.
Joyce says that we might be able to visit my sister soon, which I’m excited about., I’ll have to go shopping first though. I need to look extra bitchin. I definitely won’t be wearing those sparkly leg warmers Mike got me.
I have so much more to say, but I’m going to save it. Joyce says that I can come and sleepover at your house on the first night we get back!
See you soon,
Her handwriting was getting so much better, as was her vocabulary. Jim would have been so proud.
They were going back to Hawkins for a whole two weeks now that school had finished, and Eleven had a list the length of her arm of things she wanted to do when she got there.
Writing letters was fun, but pen and paper did not do justice to Dustin’s laugh, or Nancy’s wit, letters could not convey Lucas’s ingenuity or Steve’s maternal nature. Words on paper were no substitute for Max’s ferocity or the way she felt so at ease with Mike.
Driving down the road to Hawkins, The Clash blasting from the stereo in Jonathon’s car, El felt happy to be going home.