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The last of the golden leaves had fallen. The sun cruelly shone golden, piercing Mari’s eyes with no warmth to penetrate her fleece layers as she hiked up to her cottage on the hill. Blinded she shielded her eyes with her worn fleece sleeve as she turned the key in the lock. The air within her home burned her face with a chilly sting so she hurriedly slammed the door and pulled matches from her pocket. She always enjoyed the making of her fire and it was not long before the room became warm. Having once been a farmer’s croft, Mari’s home was small and snug with low ceilings and thick sturdy walls. “Bijoux” her sister would have sarcastically said, and likened it to a hovel but for Mari it was haven. She enjoyed solitude.
In front of the fire, burning with love, she smiled as she cradled a mug of tea. Entranced by the heat and weaving movement of the flames, Mari found her bones relaxing as the chill receded and her mind thawed.
On the table beside her was a letter. Mari regarded it with curiosity, but mainly with dread. This morning after picking it up from the tile floor she had laid it down carefully as though it would disintegrate with her touch and secrete a poisonous gas. She decided she was not going to open it today. Yet, this afternoon after coming in from the fields, it had begun to illuminate her coffee table in competition, it seemed, with the fire. Although unlike the fire it secreted an ominous glow. The post mark said it came from the place she had left behind. A house sandwiched in a lane of terraced houses with mismatched extensions that looked over rambling gardens and shed filled yards. She had walked that lane to her children’s schools, to the local supermarket and to work. She remembered always being weighed down by bags. Bags of nappy's and children’s gloves and frayed edged hankies, bags of shopping and bags of anxiety.
Bursting in on her thoughts Frank came thumping down the stairs, a slice of midnight blue. His tail held high, eyes on the danger as he sought out Mari leaping onto the arm of the chair to elegantly poise by her side. Mari rubbed Frank’s ear as they both stared at the unopened envelope.
She could pull memories of those days out of the bags of anxiety she had carried everyday like the daily food shopping. There was no nourishment to be gained from those memories. Three years ago she thought she had hid them somewhere safe. Yet here they were opening up before her eyes billowing out to make more room for her fear.
There were few people who knew where she lived now. Her daughters, her best friend and a hand full of professionals who had helped her three years ago. They had tried to understand her eccentricity, they thought it absurd that she would choose to live on a croft and farm sheep. Mari was an artist, she told them that she needed space to create and they nodded with the unspoken understanding of Mari’s real need to escape.
Today, in her haven, Mari felt the peace she had cherished slide underneath her door and through the gaps in the window, seeping out of the walls into the world beyond. She felt the old compulsions returning. Her legs began to tremble and her fingers clasping and unclasping the empty air, culminating in her need to run to the toilet.
“This is ridiculous.” She said as she looked into her companions eyes. In response Frank caressed her with his head against her sleeve. “Peace, come back in to my home. Come in and shelter me.” She breathed aloud.
Mari picked up the letter with a trembling hand, turning it over as she diligently inspected the hand writing. Dismayed she recognized the confident curl of her initial, so freely moving across the paper. Deceitful though, there would be no freedom inside. Frank nosed her hand curiously. Mari carefully opened the envelope.
I have searched for you these last three years. Have I found you at last? It’s cold outside as I write to you and wish you were here to keep me warm….
Mari went to her window and looked out on the frost dusting her garden twinkling in the fading sun. Her breath painted the glass as she thought “It is colder here and I am warm enough.” Folding the letter neatly she listened and peered along the path through the evergreens that sheltered her home, searching. Mari knew now she would spend her days waiting. Waiting for the sound of a car, heavy feet on the path, the confident rattle of her letter box. Waiting for her heart to expand, her mind to tremble and burst the bags of anxiety.
Frank padded over to her and deftly jumped onto the windowsill. Purring loudly he nosed the letter from her hand to the floor. Mari absentmindedly stroked him and thought “I cannot wait for the fear to rise, for the apologies followed by derision and blame, the love you laced with conditions and hits when you feel I do not deserve your love. I will not wait.”
Taking the envelope and letter to her work table she repaired the opening and then wrote in disguised block capitals NOT AT THIS ADDRESS and drew finite lines through the confident scrawl. “I am not here for you.” she thought “Tomorrow I will take it to the post office, today I will live my life in peace.”