Nadya had been writing letters to Morry for years using a pseudonym. She wrote him in the dead of the night, when he was sleeping. He looked so peaceful, untroubled. Unassuming prick, she thought, as she watched him sleep. Like a lamb.
She saw him lock them in his desk, saw him pick them up from reception. She saw his secretary deliver the one she dropped off at his office in the dead of the night. She started watching him from her car, read those letters, eyes widen and become stolid. His hand moved beneath his desk. Who did he think she was, Nadya wondered, as she saw his eyes half-close, leaning back in his chair. He was irreproachable. She couldn’t forgive him. She was blighted by the idea that he cherished these letters. She put her binoculars away, pulled her sunglasses down and rolled up the window. She drove back home.
‘Hello, I’m home!’
The door slammed and Nadya could hear his footsteps down the hallway to the kitchen. She was prepping dinner; chopping carrots, her knife hitting the board. The pot on the stove whistled, smalls wisps of smoke rising. She didn’t stop when he walked in. ‘Hey, love,’ she said, not looking up. ‘How was work?’
Morry sighed. ‘Same old, same ol’.’ He laid his bag down on one of the kitchen table chairs and took off his coat and scarf. He sat down and pulled a manila folder out and spread it out on the table. ‘I’m tired. I might have to finish off more work tonight.’
Morry was an accountant at a mid-tier architecture firm. He’d been there for over a decade, languishing in one of those twentieth-century roles that don’t have an expiration date. 9-5, every day, he never missed a day. Nadya could count on his consistency. Which is why the harbouring of a secret seemed so out of place.
‘What are we having tonight?’ he asked, his hand on the folder.
‘Broth. It’s cold out.’ She scraped the sliced carrots into the pot. ‘Plus, it’ll last us for days.’
Morry nodded. ‘Of course. Sensible.’ He rubbed his hands together. ‘I’ll go put these in the study.’
Nadja moved to the stove, dropping in a bay leaf and salting the broth. ‘We’ve got dinner at the Middleton’s this Thursday. You haven’t forgotten have you?’
She heard a sharp intake of breath. ‘No. I haven’t forgotten.’ He picked up his bag and coat, tucked it under his arm and headed down the hallway. Nadya turned around, back to counter with the chopping board. The air had gotten suddenly still. He’d left the manila folder on the kitchen table.
Life is not a novel, Nadja thought as she peered listlessly through the photocopies of the letters. It was past midnight and she was sitting in the study, her feet perched on the desk. The window was ajar, a breeze blowing. The room was cold. She’d rifled through the manila folder, the folder that contained carefully pressed copies of her letters to Morry as the Other Woman. She felt inclined to have a smoke but she’d given that habit up years ago, shortly after Morry had his first heart attack.
She’d written a letter to be delivered this week. Telling him about the way she thought his smile could bring down Hadrian’s wall. She told him that she desired him, that he was what she wanted and nothing else. Nadya smiled coyly as she waved the letter to let the ink dry. Whatever he wants to hear. Whatever he wants her to be. That’s what she would be.
Nadja sealed the envelope with a kiss. It left a deep burgundy lip-shaped red stain in the center. This letter contained a photograph. She’d veiled most of her face in the photograph using careful lighting, shadows covering half her face. None of it truly exposed sans her eyes. The eyes were meant to be a clue, she knew and hoped he saw, for Morry was a man of artfulness and keen on detail. He always dressed impeccably for work, down to the square in his front blazer pocket, matching the tie. He was never late and he paid attention to small things.
But when was the last time he’d looked her in the eyes? This was a test. Surely he could pick his wife apart from a devoted and weird stranger who sent scented letters rather than emails. Surely?
Image: Christiana Rivers