The Handwriting’s Familiar
Regular as clockwork. They dropped with a satisfying ‘plop’ on to the mat behind the shabby front door. Anna watched the postman retreat down the garden path sorting the remaining handful of envelopes as he went. By the gate he turned, and she gave him a cheery wave from the dining room window before making her way unsteadily into the empty hall to retrieve the post.
Kettle boiled, Anna eased herself into a chair at the cluttered kitchen table, sweeping stray crumbs from the grubby oil cloth with the side of her hand. The envelope was pleasingly heavy, lightly scented, classic cream wove. She slit it open with care before removing two neatly-folded sheets. Precise, well-spaced handwriting covered one side of each sheet. Lifting her cup slowly from its saucer, Anna read:
I trust this finds you well. So sorry not to have written sooner, Archie has had chicken-pox and I’ve been run quite ragged. The au pair has been as good as useless, gadding off to her English classes every other afternoon insisting that she is “not nurse”. Well, I’m no Florence Nightingale either but when needs must … Daisy has been an absolute poppet. She has been dampening flannels in the en-suite and draping them solicitously over Archie’s (non-fevered) brow much to his annoyance. Poor lamb. I do sympathise. He’s not on top form and Daisy’s wringing out leaves a lot to be desired, resulting in a rather soggy duvet. She does mean well, though, bless her.
Henry, of course, remains largely oblivious to the fact that we have the dreaded pox, scooting off to the office at first light only to return once the children have gone to bed. The wine fridge has taken a bit of hammering this past week I’m afraid. I’ve been declaring wine o’clock as soon as Henry crosses the threshold, insisting that he pours me a large one before I start supper. Thank goodness we’re not dealing with anything more serious.
Fingers crossed that Archie’s clear by the weekend and we can get down to the cottage as planned. Our neighbours in the country, Mark and Alison, have invited us for Sunday brunch in their newly renovated kitchen / diner. They’ve spent an arm and a leg and had the builders in for months. I can’t wait to see the end-result and hopefully pick up a few ideas – Henry will be horrified! Their two are similar in age to ours, so I’m hoping we can have a proper grown-up brunch whilst the children amuse themselves without killing each-other.
Anyhow, that’s all our news, so I’ll close here and drop this in the post on my way to Tai-chi this evening.
We think of you often and send all our love.
Your loving niece
Anna carefully refolded the sheets, smoothing them with wrinkled hands before slipping them back into the envelope and placing it in the already over-flowing rack. As she did so a well-fingered, slightly grubby, blue envelope fell on to the table. Would she? Should she? Anna debated with herself briefly before settling down to reread its spidery contents:
‘My darling Anna,
Where to begin? Well, at the beginning, I suppose. I’ve been a fool. There, I’ve said it, and we all know, there’s no fool like an old fool. Except, the problem is, that I was a young fool, too. An idiot. No. More than that. A hateful, cavalier idiot. I treated you badly my darling, very badly and I’m sorry, so very sorry. It’s taken more than forty years; half a life-time of denial, regret and now, finally, recognition, to apologise. What we had back then was precious, priceless even, and I threw it away. I thought I knew the value of everything, every bond, every share, every acquaintance, every introduction. None of that mattered to you. You were younger but so much wiser, realised the value of what we had, but I just couldn’t see it. Off I went, chasing the next deal, the next dollar and, let’s be honest, the next woman. I broke your heart.
My heart will be the death of me – coronary artery disease – just a matter of time they say. The irony isn’t lost on me. But this isn’t about me … Can you find it in that poor, broken heart to forgive me, my darling? I have no right to ask anything of you, far less this. Will you forgive a dying man?
Anna’s rheumy eyes welled up. She stroked the paper tenderly and gently wiped away the single teardrop that fell on its faded surface. This wouldn’t do, wouldn’t do at all. No point in brooding. Something cheerful was what she needed; something from Tom. She pulled a cheap, white envelope from the rack.
Are you still over-feeding that damned moggy? I bet you are! You’ll have to sign him up to kitty Weight-Watchers if you’re not careful. Surprised he still fits through the cat-flap lazy, fat bugger …’
That was better. She’d stop now, although there really was no need to ration herself, there would be more letters next week and the week after. Always something to look forward to lying on the mat. She never failed to recognise the sender by the stationery and handwriting. After all, they were hers.
Brenda Gvozdanovic is an expat Scot with itchy feet. She writes prose (and the occasional poem) in English and Scots. Her work has been published on-line in Serbiaincoming magazine, Paragraph Planet and 101 Words. You can follow her on Twitter @BGvozdanovic.