Writing prompt: As he flicked through …

Today’s writing prompt and my response.

As he flicked through the letters, a small, handwritten envelope caught his attention. His heart began to thump…

It was impossible.

He knew that writing but it had been twenty years since he last saw it. And he expected never to see it again. His name and address were written neatly, but in letters more spidery, less firm, than in the past.

How had it reached him? He had moved here – yet another move – from the other side of the country less than two months ago. Boxes still lay in disordered heaps in the living room. Curtains yet to be hung sprawled like lazy sunbathers across spare beds. With no one to nag or help, he was taking his time. Now, it appeared, those boxes would not be unpacked in this house, those curtains hung at these windows.

He dropped the other letters and held the envelope to the light, as if he could divine its contents without opening it. For opening it, he was sure, would bring horror. More horror.

Procrastinating, he carried the missive through to the kitchen, laid it on the bench and set the kettle to boil, hands shaking. His thumping heart had calmed, replaced by a rising nausea which curled in his throat ready to strangle the air from his lungs.

Strangle … No. He tried to shove the memory back to where it belonged, beneath twenty years of newer, better memories. It fought back, like she had fought back … until she hadn’t.

Yet now, this envelope, her handwriting.

He spooned coffee from the jar, spilling it on its tremulous way to a mug. He swore, swiped the mug from the bench, sent it splintering on the tiles. He stared at the mess, leaned his elbows into the spilled coffee and put his head in his hands.

The envelope sat at the corner of his vision. Open me, it called, in her voice. Open me …

Better to open her grave, where he had stood mourning, the grieving husband – secretly eyeing the lover, who’d had the gall to turn up, whey-faced, red-rimmed eyes.

He inhaled slowly, as if it was his last breath. Straightened, reached out, picked the envelope up in both hands and tore it open with a vicious rip.

Inside, a page of the notepaper she used. Frilly, bordered with big-eyed kittens and pink and purple flowers. He had hated it for its character deception even then.

He unfolded the page. More of her handwriting. His heart restarted its thumping terror as he read …

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