On an extended dry camping holiday in Baja, I was catching a few rays of sunshine, when I met Sylvia. She visited me in my imagination and now lives in my novel Orion’s Gift. Here she is telling us about a letter that changed her life.
They say ignorance is bliss. I can vouch for that. My life was humming along just fine until I received that letter. Afterwards, nothing was the same.
I flipped the envelope front to back looking for clues to its content. When I saw the return address, my mouth felt dry. It was too soon. My hands trembled as I unlocked the front door. On my way to the bedroom to get changed after my morning run, I tore open the envelope.
As I read, I forgot to breathe. Dazed, I threw myself onto the unmade bed. Clutching the blankets, I hugged my knees and stared at the wall, my chest so tight I thought I’d pass out. I didn’t recognize the moaning wail as a sound that could have come from me. Gut-wrenching sobs followed. My mind raced with wild incredulous thoughts. It can’t be true. It has to be a mistake.
My throat ached from crying and my sinuses were so swollen I could hardly breathe. I had to stop blubbering. Feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t change anything. Useless waste of precious time. I had to pull myself together.
I stumbled into the kitchen for a glass of water. My eyes felt puffy and glued shut, but a glimpse of the clock forced them open.
“Oh, shit. I’m going to be late for work.” I hurried back to the bedroom and made the mistake of looking at the dresser mirror. “And I look like hell.” I threw off my sweats, and jumped into the shower.
Thank God Joel had already left for work. It wouldn’t do for him to see me like this, puffy-eyed from crying, and perspiring after my run. He had no sympathy for tears and he wasn’t one to appreciate the natural look—didn’t like his girls sweaty unless it was from a lengthy session in bed. His girls! Hah! Why the plural? I had my suspicions, but what could I do? I was lucky to have him. Lucky he stayed with me. Tall, handsome, getting richer by the minute at his real estate job; most women would consider him a good catch. But would he stay with me now if he knew?
I rushed to dry my hair and style it, threw the blow-dryer down, slapped moisturizing cream on my face, and brushed my teeth. Panic threatened to take over again. I’d always been on time. The boss frowned on employees arriving late. I didn’t know why I still cared. Did it really matter anymore? Did anything?
I stepped into a cool blue-green summer dress and sandals. Grabbing my keys I was off. No! I hurried back to make the bed. What would Joel think if he came home to that mess? Come to think of it, the kitchen needed a quick cleanup. I hadn’t had time for breakfast, but Joel’s dishes still littered the table. Quick! Into the dishwasher, wipe the crumbs off the island, fold up the newspaper, unplug the coffeemaker and give the carafe a rinse. Oh, hurry! I shouldn’t have taken that time to feel sorry for myself.
I loved Joel. I always knocked myself out to please him. Wish he’d do the same for me. I still didn’t know what he ever saw in me. Funny! That was exactly what he often said—“Don’t know what I ever saw in you.” And when he saw the hurt on my face, he’d add, “Must have been something really special, ’cause I’m still here.” Then I worked my butt off to make him see it was worth his while to keep me around. I kept the house sparkling clean, made gourmet meals, gave him whatever he wanted in bed. I made sure I pleased him.
My mother always said I was pretty—long legs, good skin, shiny ash-blond hair—but mothers always say that. Joel says he loves my flashy smile and the four freckles on my ski-jump nose. People say I turn heads. I guess I look good, but wish I was smarter. I did okay in school, but I didn’t take home any prizes or scholarships. Pretty? Smart? What did that matter now?
I had about ten minutes to get to Goodridge. The girls in the office called it Get-Rich. Problem was that only the lawyers got rich. Clerks like me never got more than puny little wages.
On the way out I saw the offending letter on the dining room table. I snatched it up and clutched it to my chest. That would have been a big mistake, leaving it there for Joel to see.
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