I know you expected to find me at our cottage, and instead, you find a letter postmarked Seattle. I have no words to explain my absence other than my heart is broken. I simply can’t drag myself out of bed, let alone make myself board a plane.
Life just got beyond real for me. Mark’s health turned for the worse. I realize I always acted like I didn’t care, but the thought of losing him has sent me into a downward spiral. You remember when I met him in high school. For Christ’s sake, I’ve known him longer than I knew either of my parents. Everyone thought we were the perfect pair, and I’ll tell you our marriage hasn’t been easy, not by a longshot, but I can’t lose him. I can’t.
What will I do, Jean? I won’t be able to stay in this house—not by myself. My house is too large, and every inch is stuffed with memories, both good and bad. I can barely see my words as I write this letter, my tears a deluge, and I apologize for dumping this on you. I’ll get my act together. I promise. Just give me a minute to adjust to this ghastly life unfolding before me.
Forgive me for not calling you and telling you, but I feared you would cancel too, and I so want you to enjoy life. Speaking of that, you had dinner with “sexy” Nick? Oh, I want every detail. Every single one. You’ve called yourself a cougar. I’ll call you a sly fox, with affection, of course. An absolute delight, the thought of you flirting.
And Nick, well, shallow as it may be, nothing beats a man being manly. I mean, when he’s not using his skills to build and fix things, maybe you can provide something to occupy his hands and mind? I know, stereotypical. What can I say? I’m a female chauvinist. No, I’m not, you know that because you know me. God, I feel so broken. Evidence— my flippant comments. I’m so sorry. Please forgive my behavior.
A thought occurred, Jean. What if buying the cottage is about more than us getting reacquainted? What if it’s not about the book, the earrings, or anything but the next segment of our lives? Maybe you are supposed to be with Nick. Perhaps the cottage is a shelter for me when Mark is gone. What if our lives are changing, and the place is our saving grace? These warmhearted spirits dwelling there want us to know we’ll be taken care of. Do you think that’s possible?
Okay, one too many Proseccos. No matter. Mark is terminal, and my girls don’t know I exist. I’ll put on my big girl pants, pull myself up by my bootstraps, or whatever other metaphor we can toss in. I will have to. My husband dislikes displays of emotion. I keep them tightly bottled inside until I can’t contain them anymore.
For now, my focus shall be on investigative measures to uncover the origin of that key. When you head into town, take a picture of that key and send it to me. I’ll do my best to find out what type of lock it might belong to. I suppose one must consider if the key is of the primary or skeleton-type or if it opens a padlock. All very different objects to search for. Oh, is it tiny and frail? Remember our diaries when we were kids?
A diary might be the most delicious find of them all. Especially if belonging to Mrs. Strangler. Wouldn’t that be a delight? Perhaps the earrings and the photograph are clues. Can you distinguish who is in the silhouette relief?
I took the liberty and ordered a case of your favorite wine. Oh, and I also asked Gladys to have a specific sexy helper deliver it soon after you arrive. Go freshen up. Nick will knock at our door any minute. And, you’re so right. Purchasing the cottage was fated indeed, my friend.
With all my love, Jackie
P.S. Say a prayer for Mark and kiss those two puppies, Taffy and Buster, for me.