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The envelope almost fell out of the post-box.
Sam ran around the street, almost throwing people’s mails into their post boxes, obviously in a rush.
He had never hated his job more than he did today.
“Hurry, hurry, hurry” He told himself, glancing at his watch every five seconds.
When the morning’s job was finally done, he jumped into his van, threw his cap onto the passenger seat and shifted the vehicle to gear, his bald head gleaming in the sunlight as he drove off, thanking his stars that he lived close by.
Paul yawned as he dragged his slipper clad feet into the kitchen.
“Susan!” He shouted. “Coffee!”
The house answered back in eerie silence.
On the fridge, a pink post-it note.
Early meeting today.
Lunch is in the fridge.
Cornflakes for breakfast.
I’ll make it up to you.
He sighed, knowing how awful her job was being on her.
Deciding to talk to her about quitting, he opened the main door to get his newspaper.
On impulse, he looked at the post-box, contemplating getting the mail as well.
For once, his laziness was defeated as he made his walk of shame in his clumsily tied up robe all the way across the lawn.
In the Post-box, an envelope peeped back at him.
Susan, it read.
Picking it up, he made his way back into the house.
At first, Paul didn’t bother about the envelope.
But as he held the envelope between his lips, newspaper in one hand, the keys in the other, trying to unlock the main door because he had managed to lock himself out again, his eyes widened.
What was that scent?
Glancing down at the envelope, he sniffed it.
Without waiting another moment, he barged into his own house, threw the keys on the kitchen counter and almost ripped the envelope apart.
As suspected, it was a letter.
Ignoring the rules of privacy, he opened it and was rudely greeted with his wife’s name glaring back at him.
My dearest Susan,
I never thought that I’d be writing a love letter to one of my patients, but I’m doing it now.
That early morning, a year ago, I remember how you walked into my clinic, your eyes still sleepy, and your hair uncombed.
I was sitting at the reception area, waiting for my receptionist to arrive as it was too early for a client. But you had walked in then and assuming that I was the receptionist, asked me for an appointment with me!
“I need a counselling session with Mr. Rouge, please.”
I remember laughing to myself.
“Please be seated” I had said, not wanting to reveal my true identity yet.
I waited a while, reading that day’s newspaper, whiling away time and then called you into my room a good fifteen minutes later, closing the door behind me, sensing the panic that had settled around you.
By the time I had turned to face you, you held my beautiful porcelain vase in your hand, high above your head, ready to attack me.
“Whoa! Calm down” I had said, amusement written clearly on my face. “I’m Mr. Rouge”
You looked at me suspiciously for a moment.
Then we burst out laughing as you spent the next hour apologizing to me.
I’ll never forget that.
A lot has happened between us since then, my dear.
More than either of us had imagined would happen.
I know we didn’t expect this.
After all, we’re both married.
But not happy.
That I’m sure of.
Why else would you come to my clinic for marriage counselling?
A few meetings later, when you had told me that your husband didn’t think you were beautiful, and perhaps that was why he would never come close to you, I thought he was blind. Anyone would have to be, to be able to resist your attractiveness for longer than an hour.
I say ‘an hour’ because that was how long each of our sessions was and it was all I could take to manage to keep it professional.
If I dealt with my other clients the way I dealt with you, I’d be jobless by now.
And most probably, in jail!
Because, my dear, I didn’t even give you one bit of advice.
Still, you kept coming back to me.
And that one hour was getting harder and harder every day.
I remember how it was raining one night and you took shelter under a tree, waiting for it to stop.
Thank god I was passing by that day. Because when I spotted you and offered for you to wait at my guest house that was just a few metres from where you were standing, you didn’t hesitate that much.
“I have an umbrella!” I had said, smiling.
That was all the persuasion it took.
Inside the four walls of my cosy surroundings, I took a proper look at you.
Your lovely red hair stuck to the sides of your face, highlighting the mascara around your almond eyes.
The sight of your rain soaked clothes framing your voluptuous figure almost blew my mind away.
You looked stunning that night.
I offered you some clean clothes and a towel, trying to act like I was only looking at you as a client.
Till date, I don’t know if it was just me or if you were trying to seduce me that night.
Because no matter how hard I tried to turn away and leave the room, you kept calling me back with lame excuses and made up stories.
Honey, we both knew we weren’t in the mood to talk.
I won’t poison this letter with details of what we did that night.
Of course, I’m sure you remember it well.
Especially the part where I dropped you home at 2 AM, fumbling in the dark for directions and ‘accidentally’ touching you a million times.
That was the only time I’d ever come anywhere close to your house.
I didn’t charge you for our sessions after that day.
Strangely, I don’t think you still know where I live.
But that’s ok.
Because as long as this letter reaches you, I’m not worried.
I know what we had between us was not love.
But it was more than what you shared with the man you went home to.
You said so yourself.
I pity that poor excuse of a husband of yours.
You need a real man.
You need me!
I’m not very good with letters. I’m not all that great at love either.
But I’m writing this to you, hoping to let you know that I do love you.
Very very much.
I realized that the night you came over, your eyes filled with tears and your hands clutched over your stomach.
You looked tense and agitated.
I instantly knew what had happened before the words were out of your mouth.
“I’m pregnant” You said, almost spitting at me, anger making your eyes bulge.
I remember how I stared back at you, my eyes wide and my face frozen in shock.
“It takes two, I know” You said, pacing around, as if trying to share the blame.
I had nodded, unable to speak, thinking back to what could have gone wrong.
“My husband is going to murder me” You continued, still pacing, wearing out my carpet. “We have to stop seeing each other. I’ll… I’ll figure a way out. It’s unfair for this to happen to us. We decided that there’d be no strings attached and there won’t be”
Chin up, you looked defiant. And radiant.
A lot of thoughts were going on in my mind at that moment but the strongest one was that I knew I didn’t want to lose you. I couldn’t. I still can’t.
So, I said the only thing I could think of at that moment.
“We’ll name him Baby Joe”
It was your turn to stare at me in shock.
Crying, you ran out of my house, telling me you had a plan.
You told me not to contact you till you yourself did.
That was the last I ever saw of you.
I’m telling you now, Susan, please do come back.
I need you in my life.
You, me and our Baby Joe.
Leave that man. Marry me.
Let’s raise our child together.
Come meet me on the 20th, where we first met.
I’m waiting, ring in hand.
By now, every inch of his body vibrated in intense anger.
Susan was lucky she wasn’t here.
How long ago was this affair and why hadn’t he ever guessed it?
Was their marriage that awful?
He recalled how she had asked him a little while ago if she was growing fatter.
Shaking his head, he had told her she looked perfect.
Was she pregnant back then?
Was that why she was so self-conscious about her weight, always eating right?
For hours, Paul sat at the dining table that they had lovingly bought together, without eating, waiting for her arrival, plotting his revenge.
Drumming his fingers on the wood, he heard the key turn in the door.
“Sweetheart!” She said, running in her stilettos to give him a hug. “I’ll make it up to you tonight!”
His face expressionless, he hugged her back, his eyes on her almost flat stomach.
“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”
She froze and he felt her expressions change.
“How did you know? I was going to surprise you!”
That was the last straw. Standing up, he kicked the chair out of his way.
“How did I know? Does the name Rouge ring a bell?”
His breath heavy, he glared at her, accepting to himself that this was it for their marriage.
She looked back, mock confusion on her face.
“Ha! What an actress you’re transforming into. Look, I don’t want to be irrational. The secret is out. I know you’ve been sleeping around. I want you and that ‘Baby Joe’ of yours out of my house”
Her eyes filled with tears.
Looking at her, even though he was angry, he wanted to hug and comfort her.
But she had broken, no, shattered his heart.
Don’t forgive her, he told himself.
“You really think…” She gasped through tears, her face twisted in agony.
He looked away, unable to bear the mess of emotions toying with his heart.
Getting a duffel bag, he walked into their room and started stuffing her clothes into it.
“What are you doing?” She demanded, walking in behind him.
“I want you out of my house. I want a divorce.”
“Your house? Your house? Only half of this house is yours. The other belongs to me. In fact,” She said, her voice rising. “You bought your half of the house with my family money”
Without turning to face her, he let out an angry chuckle.
This was what it had come to, then.
Emptying the bag of its contents, he opened his cupboard and, this time, packed his clothes in.
“Paul… I didn’t mean it like that. Please. Listen to me.” Wailing once again, she clutched his arm. “What’s gotten into you, Paul? Who’s been telling you this… this horrible stuff about me? I’d never cheat on you. Please, Paul. Let’s talk about this.”
He wondered why she still wanted him around. He had assumed that the correct punishment would be to stay with her so she couldn’t ever legally belong to Rouge.
But he would never be able to stay with her now. Not when she had broken his trust.
The bag around his shoulder, he stormed out of the room.
Picking up the letter from the table, he gave it to her, his eyes not hiding the intensity of hurt.
“I didn’t know I was upsetting you so much.” He said, his eyes filling with tears for the first time since the entire episode. “I’m setting you free”
She frantically opened the letter, beginning to read it.
Giving her one last glance, he walked out of the door and out of her life.
In the rear view mirror of his car, as he drove away from their house, he saw her running behind him, her arms flapping in the air, trying to get his attention.
But he didn’t hear her calling him back.
He only saw the letter firmly clutched in her hand.
Meanwhile, at the same time, a few streets away, Sam took his cap off and cradled the new born close to his chest.
His wife lay on the hospital bed, her bright red hair dishevelled, and her face sweaty.
But she had never looked more beautiful to him.
Preoccupied, she read the text on her phone.
Did you get my letter? -R
Her husband’s voice forced her to look up.
“The baby looks just like you!” He told her, tears in his eyes.
But nothing like me, he thought.
Overwhelmed with emotion, he handed the baby back to its mother and wrapped his arm around them both.
“What shall we name him, Susan?” He asked.
“Baby Joe” She replied, without a moment’s hesitation, smiling lovingly at her son.