Then she saw the letter. Mixed in with the bills and circulars as if it were just another useless and unimportant piece of paper. But the return address let her know exactly who it was from. She froze, the thing sitting in her hand, pretending to be unimportant. Normal. She hated it for looking so unoffending.
She threw it and the rest of the pile into her bag and drove the rest of the way around the block.
She tried to focus on the to-do list: walk the dog, defrost the chicken, get the trash ready for the curb. She prayed that the tiny details that kept her inextricably enmeshed in her life would ground her, keep her safe. But her thoughts kept wandering back to the letter. And her ability to function was declining faster than a penny dropped from a lookout.
The broccoli was mush before she’d even gotten the chicken into the oven. The dog was wandering around with his leash dragging behind him. The trash got taken out of the trash can and sat, still open, stinking up the kitchen. And the front door was unlocked.
“This is stupid,” she chided herself. Pretending that every single thought wasn’t focused on the letter would end with the house burned down. “Just open it,” she said aloud. “Just open it and deal with it.”
Hand trembling, she reached for the missive. Sweat trickled under her bra and down her ribcage. Her feet felt as if they’d left the ground. And her head seemed very much like it might be on fire. Was this what a heart attack felt like?
“Just open it!” she yelled at herself. Her pathetic, weak, simple-minded self. She pushed a damp finger under the fold and tore, nearly pulling the thing out of her hand with the ferocity of the movement. Then she took a deep breath, unfolded the letter, and read.