Saturday 22 June 2013

'Return to Sender' by A Joseph Black

She folded it with precision, smoothing the crease slowly and deliberately with her latex-gloved hands. Using the gloves - along with most other aspects of this venture - was something she’d learned from reading pulp crime novels. The very novels her husband described as 'penny dreadfuls'. The irony of her learning so much from something he derided as 'entirely devoid of any literary or educational merit' was not lost on her. A wry smile flitted across her lips as she moistened the gum on the flap of the envelope (using a sponge dipped in tap water – DNA and what have you, another invaluable titbit from her crime novels).

She turned the envelope over and checked again the address label on the front, printed weeks ago in an internet cafe several towns away. Her address - their address - stared back at her. She placed the letter carefully between two sheets of paper in her handbag and removed the gloves for disposal later. It was an hour’s drive to the postbox she wanted to use and she needed to get going if she was to make the last collection.

When she first learned of Martin’s affair, her initial response – not untypically, she imagined – was disbelief, followed by anger, followed by self-pity. But it was the anger that Nuala was now using to salvage what she could from the wreckage. Blackmailing your own husband by threatening to tell his wife (that is, yourself) about his affair may not be the most conventional of reactions to such news. But Nuala refused to confront him, to have that massive row, and so allow him both motivation and opportunity to abandon their marriage  Not that she wanted him to stay: she most decidedly didn’t. But she did want him to suffer. And allowing him to walk away to begin a new life with his floozie wasn’t making him suffer. She wanted to hit him where she knew it would hurt him most: his pocket. 

And so the note, demanding – initially, but why stop there? – five thousand pounds not to tell his wife something she already knew. Nuala wondered if the fact that she found all this quite hilarious was indicative of some kind of hysteria, but frankly she didn’t care. As tight as Martin was – every pound a prisoner – she didn’t doubt that he would pay the money to preserve the status quo. And when he did, she would write again. And again. She wondered just how much he would pay before cracking and confessing all to her. At which point, she would divorce him and get half of everything that was left. 

She grabbed her bag, ran downstairs and out the front door, shouting over her shoulder, “I’m just popping out love.”

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