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The Letter

The Letter

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Published by Stuart Edmond

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Published by: Stuart Edmond on Apr 14, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/14/2012

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The weak morning sun peered through the few remaining leaves clinging to the branches of the ancient elms lining the road as Meghan Winters stepped out of the receptionfoyer where she worked. Her breath misted in the frigid air as she glanced up and down thestreet, flinching whenever a passer-by caught her eye. Despite the frigid temperature, a trickleof sweat dripped down between her shoulder blades, soaking into the crimson silk blouse. She turned right and, hunching her shoulders, strode along the footpath to her car, her keysalready grasped in her sweaty palm, unaware of the pain radiating from her hand as one of thekeys dug into skin drawing a spot of blood. Meghan’s heels clicked like gunshots on theuneven pavement, which drew unwanted attention as she walked. On any normal day, she would have held her head high, basking in the jealous glancesfrom the women, and lust-filled stares of the men. She took pride in their looks, worked hardto earn them, both in the gym and on her husband’s Visa. By no stretch of the imagination was today normal, not since she opened her mail. The morning had started as the one previous day, and the one before that. Dylan andThomas were up, breakfasted, dressed, bags packed for school, lunches made and out the door on time. They knew better than to drag their heels, the repercussions were simply not worth it.On the way out Meghan grabbed the mail from the postman as he trudged up the path to her door. She sniffed loudly as he gave her a weak smile, and strode on by to her car, ignoring hisstunned expression. During lunch, she sat behind the glass-topped desk in her corner office, a fresh cappuccinosteaming next to the keyboard, as she sorted through her mail. That’s when she saw theenvelope. There wasn’t anything unusual about it, a normal, brown envelope with her name andaddress printed clearly on a white sticker. Unconcerned, she pulled out the letter and read theopening message. That’s when her world collapsed around her. Her phone trilled loudly beside her, but Meghan didn’t notice, her eyes kept scanning across the words on the page,each sentence driving a stake through her chest. Meghan couldn’t breathe, she had get out into the fresh air, she had to get home. Shefumbled for her handbag, for once ignoring the feel of the luxurious Italian calfskin leather.
 
Paul had complained at length when the credit card bill arrived, but a single arched eyebrowsoon silenced his objections. Once behind the wheel, she rested her forehead against the steering wheel, the icy leather soothing her brow and took a string of deep breaths, willing her racing pulse to slow. Thecontents of that letter swam before her closed eyes, the words burned onto her retina.
We know who you are. We know where you live. We know everything.
 Why now, after all this time, why now? What did they want? The answer to the last question, of course, was money. That part was easy, money shehad, enough to cover what they would demand. It was the impact it would have on her life andher boys. What would everyone say? A secret like that was too big to hide. It threatened to tarnish her reputation forever. Theother mothers would all talk behind their hands, whilst sneering at her, her boys taunted in the playground, and she knew all too well what that felt like from her own childhood. She hadworked too hard, sacrificed too much to allow that to happen. She would protect them nomatter what the cost. As she crawled home, through the clogged streets, plans formed in mind and werediscounted with equal speed. Whom could she turn to? Whom could she trust? No namescame to mind and no plan seemed to gel into a workable solution. Her mind darted between one idea and another when she pulled into the wide graveldriveway beside her house. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t see two men in cheap suitsstep out of the dark blue Ford parked opposite her drive. 
 
“Mrs Winters?” The gruff, no-nonsense voice made her start and she spun to face the twomen. Plod, she could tell who they were before they flashed her two warrant cards. They had anair about them, arrogance, with a hint of cheap aftershave and cigarettes. What did they want? “What can I do for you officers?” She flashed them a warm smile that said I’ve nothing to be concerned about, so stop wasting my time and bugger off. The taller plod glanced at his older, fatter, companion, as though for reassurance he wasthere, and then turned back at her. “It’s about your husband, Mrs Winters. May we comeinside to talk?” Meghan tsked under her breath; even out of her life, that useless lump was still causing her  problems. “What’s wrong, has he done something?” She asked, feigning concern, anothemigraine working its way up behind her eyes. She led them through the Italian marble tiled hallway and into the kitchen, keeping her handbag pressed tight against her hip. The letter, like a lump of lead in her bag, weighed her down. How to get rid of these idiots so I can focus on what’s important? In the kitchen, Meghan walked behind the large black granite island bench, and thenregretted it, as the two plods positioned themselves at either end of the bench so that shecouldn’t keep them both in view at the same time. There was no chance to fix that now, notwithout appearing rattled. “When was the last time you saw your husband, Mrs Winters?” It seemed as though thetall one was going to do all the talking. The shorter, older plod gave her an intense stare,watching her every movement with his small pig-like eyes, but remained silent. 

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