Short (short) story #2!
Angela, my new wife, is halfway down the hallway when she calls over her shoulder, “Can you close up the drawers?”
The antique writing desk just came to us at the passing of Angela’s grandmother, whom she affectionately called Gran—the grandmother, not the desk. Though we spent the past two hours clearing it out, we’d not come across anything interesting; a ton of old invoices, paid bills, and some old paper that was blank and starting to fall apart.
As the top drawer slides into place, I hear a crinkle of paper, and I pause, confused. There hadn’t been anything else inside the desk, or so we thought. Opening the drawer once more shows me what I already know: the space inside is empty. I close it halfway and stick my hand in, feeling the underside of the desktop. The tip of my finger brushes over stiff paper and I use the tiny bit of a nail I’ve got to pry it from the wood.
Thankfully the tape that’s holding it up is so old that it comes right out.
The weathered manila envelope comes free within moments, and I break the seal. I can tell by the musty scent of the papers that they’ve been hidden for a very long time. I glance down the hall where I can hear the splattering sound of water running in the sink in the kitchen. It was Angela’s grandmother’s desk. She probably deserves to read it first. What feels like five minutes later, she still isn’t walking my way. Something keeps me from calling for her. Impatient, I turn my eyes to the letter in my hands.
It takes a few moments for my eyes to decipher the cursive writing.
If you’re reading this letter, then one of two things has happened: I’ve been arrested or I’ve passed on to the next life. I’m hoping it’s the latter. I think I deserve a little happiness, and that doesn’t include spending years in prison for killing the old coot.
As I’m writing this, the coroner is out in the shed with Edgar’s body. The sheriff, so far, has deemed it an accident; a broken neck from a fall in the woodshed. I’m hoping that’s how the story remains. However, I think it’s only right that you all know the truth someday, so I’m writing this letter and planning to hide it in my desk.
It wasn’t an accident. I honestly don’t think any of you will miss the old drunk, but you might be glad to know that I finally stood up to him. Except for William, none of you have come back to visit since you left home, and I honestly can’t blame you. Your father was hateful and mean, and I always hated him for how he treated you.
This morning, he told me I had to join him outside for chores despite the fact that my leg is in a cast because of him. You know, from him shoving me down the stairs two weeks ago. I was so angry. I went to the shed and saw my opportunity. I called him in and asked him to get the preserves from the top shelf. I told him they were necessary for the dinner he was demanding tonight. As I knew he would, he climbed the wood stack instead of pulling over the old stool. As soon as he was standing at the top, I used his old digging bar to shift the stack. He fell. I heard the snap and I almost cried from relief.
If I’m arrested, I hope you’ll come visit me and don’t hate me too much. If I’m never found out, I hope it’ll be a step in fixing our relationship. I wasn’t going to even put this in writing, but I felt someone needs to know the truth someday.
Well, I guess that’s all.
I sit and stare at the letter for several moments, stunned. I knew Angela’s grandfather was never mentioned by anyone in the family, but I’d had no idea about the family history. What would knowing the truth do to the rest of the family?
A clink from the kitchen startles me out of my ruminations and I slide the letter and envelop under the couch cushion to deal with later.
“Is that drawer stuck?” she asks as she comes in and wraps her arm around my shoulders and tucks into my side.
I clear my throat and turn too her with a small smile. “Nope, I just thought you’d like to close the last drawer.”
Her brow creases in confusion, but she pushes the drawer into place. “You’re so weird sometimes.”