The Letter, a short story by Lee. Date added: 2009-02-20. Times viewed: 1018.
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- Intro: Will our heroine finally get to lay ghosts from the past to rest?
- The note said:
"Meet me in the cafe on the corner of Friendly Street, 1pm. I have some useful information for you".
What information? Who is this? and how did they know where to find her? Elise thought for a moment as she stared at the computer screen. Her eyes blurring causing the words and numbers to merge into one. She didn't hear her manager call her name, a number of times. She was preoccupied trying to figure out who the note was from. Was it another bogus lead? She was shaken awake by her managers latest attempt at getting her attention. This time by coming quite close to her ear and shouting! Nursing her sore ear Elise followed the manager to her office, 'the dragon's lair' it was affectionately called by her colleagues. Where after a bollocking about her lack of focus and effort, she was given a list of things to do.
For the rest of the morning she went through her to do list with the least amount of effort possible, not really caring if she was doing it right. She glanced up at the clock on the wall at least a hundred times, willing but at the same time not willing the time to pass quickly. She fiddled with the silver locket around her neck, It was hard not to have a glimmer of hope that she might finally get the answer she needed and wanted so strongly, after all these years.
Finally it was lunchtime. She turned down her friends offer to go to lunch, saying she had a few bits she needed to buy. As she put on her coat and collected her bag from the desk draw she tried to suppress the glimmer of hope that began to resurface in her mind. She wasn't sure how much more disappointment she would be able to take.
The cafe was already busy as she walked in. The waitress was shouting orders through the hatch and the coffee machine was making loud gurgling noises. The cafe windows were steamed over and there was an array of different aromas wafting up her nostrils from the cafe kitchen. She stood for a couple of minutes searching for a seat. "Ah, there's one by the window" she thought. She made her way over to it excusing herself as she squeezed passed other customers. "What would you like dear?" the bleach blond haired waitress asked her as she sat down. She didn't feel hungry, she was too nervous. She asked for a pot of tea instead. Once the waitress had left she stared out of the window. It was a sunny spring day and the leaves were starting to reappear on the trees. She must have been in a day dream because when she looked down her tea was on the table in front of her.
The clock on the cafe wall said 1.15pm. There was still no sign of whomever left the note. She scouted the room, looking around for anyone that may be who she was waiting for. Then the cafe door opened. A tall person in a long grey rain coat and hat walked in. Her heart skipped a beat. Was this them? She couldn't make out if it was a man or a woman as the hat covered their face. She held her breath as she stared at the figure by the door. The person started to scan the room slowly. As their gaze reached her table she could see it was a Woman. Mid fifties she would say with distinct age lines on her face, high cheek bones and bright red lipstick. As the lady made eye contact with her she gave her a subtle nod and started to make her way to the table. Elise held onto her tea cup, hands shaking a little and her stomach doing somersaults.
"Elise Morgan?" the lady's voice was soft. She stood up and shook her hand. "Yes" she replied. "I am". They both sat down and sat in silence for a minute. "What can I get you love?" the bleach blond hair waitress said, breaking the silence. The lady asked for a pot of tea. She stared at her as she ordered and took off her coat. The lady had a good aura about her, she felt a bit more at ease. She reminded her of her favourite Aunt. " I know you must be wondering who I am?" said the old lady catching her staring. The words couldn't come out of her mouth, they were trapped in her throat. All she could do was clear it and have a sip of her tea. " I knew your parents. Sarah and Graham?" Elise swallowed hard. Her heart wrenched at the sound of their names. The old lady continued. " I grew up with them. A lovely couple. Such a shame." "Yes, the crash." Elise finally said. " I was devastated. "Your sister Mel, the police told you that there was no trace of her in the car, right?". "Y..yes"
Elise stammered. Oh my goodness. Was this lady finally going to tell her the answers she had been searching for all these years. Will she finally know what happened to her sister? " Please. tell me what you know? Do you know where my sister is? What happened to her?" The words came pouring out, and she began to breath heavily. The waitress came over with the old lady's tea and gave Elise a puzzled look. "Thank you" said the lady to the waitress. She softly placed her hand on Elise's " Calm down dear. I am here to help you".
Elise's breathing began to slow. The old lady lowered her voice. "The crash wasn't an accident. Your parents were murdered". Elise froze. Did she just hear correctly. She was dumbstruck. The lady had a quick look around the cafe. "Your parents weren't who they said they were Elise". Still shocked by this recent revelation she hardly noticed the lady become a little agitated and suddenly start to hurriedly put her coat back on. Elise shook herself out of the trance. "Where are you going?" she squeaked as the lady began to stand. "It.. its not safe. I have to go. Here" She pushed an envelope towards Elise and rushed out of the cafe. "But I don't even know your name?" Elise shouted desperately. But the lady wasn't listening, she was already out of the door. She flipped the envelope over in her hands and watched the lady rush past the window outside. Her name was written on the front. She had to look at the envelope again, yes. She was sure of it. The writing was her sisters.
Later in the office she couldn't get the meeting out of her mind. Why did the lady rush off? Was it true what she said about her parents? She wasn't able to open the envelope yet. Fearful of what might be inside. She looked at it again. It couldn't be her sisters writing. Could it?. On her way home she kept going over and over what the lady said in her mind. She didn't notice the mysterious figure in black that stood close to her on the tube and followed her along the high street to her flat. As she fiddled with her keys and opened her door, she felt someone was watching her. She turned to look, but no one was there.
As she sat down with her evening meal of tuna pasta bake and salad she thought about the last 10 years. The worry, anguish and confusion about where her sister was. Why was her body not discovered in the car along with her parents? If she was alive, why hadn't she contacted her? These questions had gone over and over in her mind all these years and had had a huge effect on her life. She was unable to hold down jobs or stay in lasting relationships. She needed answers, she needed closure. Now more questions had been added to the endless list. She sighed heavily. After her dinner she picked up the envelope and decided she would open it. As she did her door bell rang. It was after ten, who could that be? Elise wondered. She walked over to her living room window that looked out onto the street and moved the curtain to see who was at the door. She couldn't see anyone. For some reason she felt a little uneasy. Probably just the events of today she thought and went to answer the door.
When she opened it, she screamed with fright. There was a note pinned to her door with her mothers favourite hair pin. In red was written "LEAVE THINGS AS THEY ARE IF YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU!" She grabbed the note and pin, shut her door, bolted it and slid to the floor in the hallway. She could hardly breath and all colour had gone from her cheeks. She looked at the faded orange flower of the pin and began to cry.
The next morning Elise called in sick to work, much to her bosses disgust. She didn't care, she had more important things on her mind. Her close friend Andrew lived near by. She decided to call him, she could no longer deal with this on her own. "Elise, what the hell is going on?" he asked worriedly as he came into her flat an hour later and looked at her tear stained ghost like face. "You look awful. Come on, let's have a cup of tea". He placed his arm around her shoulder and walked her to her kitchen. She felt at ease straight away. She loved how he smelt. Warm and inviting. She secretly loved him, but had settled for friendship as she didn't want to ruin what they had, especially with the burden she had been carrying.
Over tea she told him the whole story from the note left by the lady, the revelation about her parents and the scary note with the pin last night. As she got it all out she felt a huge weight had been lifted, she no longer had to deal with this on her own. Andrew sat dumbstruck, clearly processing it all and displaying a look of disbelief on his face. "I don't.. I mean...what the...have you called the police?" he asked eventually. Elise shook her head. What would she say?. The story had been dead and buried for 5 years. The inspector in charge of the case at the time had long retired. This was the least of police priorities.
Andrew frowned and scratched his head. "Have you read the letter?". The letter! She had forgotten all about it. It lay on the floor by her front door. She hadn't thought about it since last night. She went to the hall and picked it up. Sitting down on her sofa in the living room she slowly removed the letter from the envelope. Andrew walked up with the tea and handed Elise hers. He could tell by the look on her face that she was scared. "Here." he said calmly. "Let me". He gently touched her hand and took the letter.
Andrew insisted on going with Elise when she went to the cemetery back in her home town Hove. She kept insisting that she was OK and could do it on her own. They both knew that this wasn't true. On the train journey there she stared out of the window watching the landscape go by in a blur. She felt a mix of emotions. Relief that she may finally put the whole thing to rest, guilt that she felt relief of being able to let go and anxious at what other discoveries she may find, especially after reading the letter. They checked in to a local bed and breakfast, freshened up then proceeded to the guest dining room for a drink. The letter had told her that her parents had witnessed a brutal murder when she was 3 years old and testified against the killer in court. They had to be moved and have their identities changed. Start a new life under police protection.
As she was so young she never really noticed. She didn't understand at first why she had to have a different name, but her parents just told her that it was a game they were playing and they were going on an adventure. Her sister was 6 years old at the time and they enjoyed the adventure game they could play together. Until now she didn't realise that her sister probably knew more than she let on. Her life was pretty normal. She went to school and onto college. Did well in her exams and went to university. Her sister did the same. Except she went to university close to home and stayed at home where Elise went away. Her sister graduated and took a job locally.
She went back for holidays and everything was pretty normal. Until. She suddenly thought as she drank her tea. The last summer she went back before the accident, things seemed strained at home. Her dad seemed like he hadn't slept and mum looked thin and withdrawn. They kept having hushed conversations and stopped when she walked into the room. Her sister stayed out more and more and seemed to detach herself from the family. When she asked her parents what was wrong they fed her stories about a few money worries, but things would be OK. "Don't worry lissy" Dad said as he gave her a strained smile. She tried to talk to her sister a number of times, they used to be so close, but her sister seemed to be annoyed by her and her questions. When she went back to university at the end of the summer, she had no idea that she would never see her family again.
"Are you OK?" Andrew said looking at her worriedly. Elise came out of her trance and smiled at her friend. She was so glad he was here. She realised she needed him more than she wanted to. "Im OK, lets finish our drinks and go". They strolled along the sea front. It was a spring evening and a little windy so they wrapped up warm and Elise snuggled into Andrew's arms. The sea gulls glided along the air and a few people were scattered along the beach, taking in the fresh sea air. They left the sea front and made their way to Elise's old family home. A shiver went down her spine as they stood outside. It had not been touched for 10 years. The cinder burnt building still stood there with its haunting memories.
The letter had told her to come back to the house and she would get the answers she needed. As she decided to walk towards the front door and up the creaky patio steps the front door opened and she froze.
I knew it was you. straight away. You have the same look in your eyes from when I last saw you. Your still slim and beautiful. Is this real? Am I hallucinating now?
"Elise, Elise. Are you OK? Wake up". Elise was being shaken awake by Andrew. She had fainted right where she was standing and must have bumped her head. "Ow. stop shaking me Andrew! my head is pounding" She screeched as she rubbed her head. He helped her to her feet. "I thought I saw.." She turned to face the front door. There she was. She hadn't been dreaming. "Mel!" she squeaked. Tears welling up in her eyes. Her sister came down the stairs to meet her and they hugged for what seemed like a lifetime.
All the gaps in her life were filled in. The weight she had been carrying for 10 years had disappeared and she was no longer alone in the world. Her sister explained that the day their parents died she was supposed to go with them to Worthing, but she said she had too much on at work. Really she just didn't want to go. The next thing she knew she got a phone call and it was deep and threatening. All it said was "your next". She knew then that they had been found. She had to get away. She also knew that she had to protect Elise, so she torched the house and fled. She made an anonymous call to the police saying that her house was on fire and her sister was inside. She felt that this way no one would try and find Elise and hurt her. It had worked until about a year ago when she started dating a cop. She discovered that her new boyfriends dad was the detective in charge at the time of the accident and the fire.
When she went to his house to 'meet the parents', she knew straight away. She also discovered that the reason the family had been discovered was because of her boyfriends father. He was a bent cop. Things started to go wrong from there. She got strange phone calls and started to get threatening letters. When she tried to tell her boyfriend he didn't believe her. So she had to run again. That's when she contacted Martha. Their parents oldest friend and told her she needed to find Elise. She knew it could be dangerous but she couldn't run anymore, didn't want to. Mel now had all the evidence she needed to bring the criminals to justice. The bent cop was working with her parents killers and she was finally going to bring them down.
Elise never thought she would ever be walking along the beach arm in arm with her sister and chatting about their lives in the past ten years. They were closer than ever and Mel was her chief bridesmaid. She was so happy that she could finally lay old ghosts to rest and be genuinely happy.
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