Welcome back to Austen Promises!
Here is the end of Chapter 7. The mystery of what was in Liz’s letter is solved, though the sender remains a mystery. I have to do something to keep you coming back, and I know you enjoy speculating. 😉 I repeated part of last week’s final paragraph, because I added a sentence into the middle of it.
For those who missed the first post, you can find it here.
The second post is here.
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Liz pulled a single, letter-size piece of paper out and unfolded it. A photograph fell out of it and into her lap, face down. She ignored the picture at first, instead reading the brief note. As she read, her brow creased and her jaw clenched.
You should watch that husband of yours. He’s stepping out on you.
Liz stared at the words on the page, her mind both denying their truth and trying to make sense of them. She licked her lips and then rolled them in toward her teeth. Her eyes roamed the paper, turning it over to see that nothing was on the back, and then examining the front again. No signature and no date, Liz thought. She looked at the envelope. Still no return address. Did I think one would magically appear?
With a sigh, Liz picked up the picture that had fallen to her lap. She bit her lip as she turned it over, and when she saw the image, she closed her eyes, her fingers tightening on the edge of the photograph. What she saw was Will with his arm around a woman, one who was not her. It appeared to have been taken in front of a local restaurant, one Liz had not been to but had heard a lot about. After giving the picture a thorough examination, Liz lowered it to her lap to join the letter and envelope.
“Think this through,” Liz said to herself. “When has Will had time to go out to eat with someone else? Not since the season began, at least. And, he’s been with you almost every time he has left the house, until today. This …,” she struggled to find an appropriate adjective for the items she was currently waving her hand over, “… stuff had to have happened at least two days ago, because it takes that long for mail to travel from there to here.” She took a deep breath in through her nose and let it out again slowly.
“I know what happened before Will came along, and I also know how hard he worked to prove himself to me. I do not believe he’d cheat on me. I don’t have any way of knowing how old that picture is, either. It could have been from before he met me. I’m not going to believe a picture that might not be recent and an unsigned note.” Liz shoved the items back into the envelope. She looked at it, where she held it in her hand, and thought about what to do with the letter. She could throw it away, and probably should, but some inner voice told her she’d do better to keep it.
Stretching across the desk, Liz put her business mail in the top of the organizer. Her personal letters she carried to the bedroom she shared with Will. She was left with the anonymous note in her hand. What do I do now? Where should I keep it? And, should I tell Will? Liz looked around, eventually deciding to take the note back to her office and put it in the lock box in there.
As Liz put the box back on the shelf in the closet, she imagined telling Will about the letter. She couldn’t decide how he would react. You know, she thought, I don’t want him to think I doubt him, so I think I’m just not going to say anything right now. I’ll wait to see if anything else comes. This could have been a prank or something. With those thoughts running through her mind, Liz sat down at her desk and began her workday.
Over the next three weeks, Liz received several more letters in the mail, each of differing lengths, and each saying, either by implication or outright proclamation, that Will was seeing someone else. Some of these notes contained pictures of him with other women, though rarely the same woman twice. Each note was carefully examined and then put in the lock box in Liz’s office closet. With each, Liz began to get quieter as she contemplated them.
Will noticed his wife’s changed behavior. He tried to talk to her about it, but she always brushed him off.
“There’s just a lot on my plate right now with work,” Liz told him the last time he brought it up. “I’ve grown my business since I married you. It feels like every racer in the Charlotte area has hired me. I’m sorry I’ve worried you.” Liz stretched her head up to Will’s from where it was resting on his shoulder as they cuddled on the couch, and kissed him. “I’m sorry.”
Will kissed Liz back, his hand running up and down her arm. He looked at her seriously. “You know you don’t have to work, right? I make enough to support both of us.”
“And half of Mecklenburg County, yes, I know.” Liz’s lips quirked up at the corners. “I want to work. I enjoy helping people.”
“You could volunteer at any number of charities, if helping people is the only reason you work,” Will stated, his lips tilted downward. He sighed before saying, “I know; you have an independent nature.” He looked at Liz again to see that she had one eyebrow quirked up and appeared ready to argue. “I won’t try to stop you, but I’m worried you’re stretching yourself too thin. You’ve been more tired than usual for the last few weeks, and your energy level has been very low. Promise me you’ll slow down and take time to rest.”
Guilt filled Liz as she realized the depth of Will’s worry. It was true that she had been more tired and much quieter lately, but it wasn’t work that made her so, and she felt bad for keeping the reason quiet. She sought to reassure him the best she could. “I promise, I will.” She lifted her hand to caress his cheek. “I love you.”
Will’s compressed lips and creased brow conveyed that he wasn’t sure if she was being completely honest, but he accepted her words, saying, “I love you, too,” before kissing her again.
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