“White Envelopes” by Victoria Slotover

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. In this week’s story, we consider the effects of a coincidence on a young girl’s life.

We present our Feature Story: “White Envelopes” by Victoria Slotover.


My life changed around the time my braces came off, although the two things were in fact unrelated.

I think I always knew my parents didn’t love each other, but I did think they loved me. I’m not saying there was hatred or even dislike; just I sensed a disappointment in their relationship. Of course low expectations made for a quiet life; I never had to listen to rows from a hiding place at the top of the stairs or to door slamming, like some of my friends. They got on with their allotted duties- my mother cooked and kept the house tidy while my father brought home a steady pay and, who’s to say that wasn’t enough for them? Except it wasn’t.

It was early January and already dark as I unlocked the front door, pleased to get inside and away from Susie Nixon who’d just told me she didn’t want to be my best friend anymore and had whispered with Annie Lloyd in the seat in front of mine all the way home on the bus. As I dumped my satchel by the stairs and switched on the hall light, I wondered vaguely where my mother was. She usually made a point of waiting at home for me, and although I certainly didn’t mind having some space, it was surprising she wasn’t there.

The house seemed expectant somehow; it reminded me of the moment before the curtain goes up at the theatre. Maybe even then a part of me knew, or maybe hindsight’s just playing its usual tricks; it’s hard to be sure.

I boiled the kettle and grabbed a couple of Oreos out of the cookie jar in the cupboard. At least there was no one to nag me about fixing a healthy snack or getting in my face offering to make me one. I took another; where was she anyway? I made a token attempt at my homework and then flicked on the television jumping from one show to the next.

It wasn’t until suppertime that I actually started to feel faintly worried, or was I just irritated that I’d been forgotten about? I could come up with reasons why my mother might be out in the afternoon, but not why she wasn’t back in time to cook dinner. And, where was my father? He didn’t have the sort of job that kept him late at the office and since he walked to work he couldn’t have been caught in traffic.

Neither had mentioned going out or being back late and since mobile phones were practically unheard of in those days, there was no way for me to find out where they were. I waited until 8 o’clock then rifled through the fridge for something to eat. My mother had left an enormous lasagne in a casserole dish on the top shelf. Was I expected to heat it up myself? I banged the fridge door shut so hard that it opened again by itself. I helped myself to some mint choc chip ice cream, which I spooned directly from the carton with my feet up on the coffee table. My mother would have had conniptions. I left the empty tub on its side on the sofa so she’d know what I’d done. Then I poured myself a large glass of white wine from the sideboard; it tasted of sour apples but I knocked it back anyway, and settled down to watch Cheers re-runs, while really listening out for her car, his footsteps, daring them to come in and see what I was up to.

If you don’t really think anything’s wrong, and the truth is I couldn’t comprehend that it might be, there’s something intensely pleasurable about torturing yourself with terrible fantasies. The later it got the wilder my imaginings became- there had been an accident, at any moment the police were going to knock on the door to tell me that I was orphaned and would have to go and live with my grandparents in L.A. I pushed aside the fact that it was unlikely they were together since they had set off from different places, and therefore, it was statistically improbable something tragic had happened to both of them.

I went to bed much later than usual, not because I was taking advantage of their absence but rather because I wanted to wait for them to return so I’d know what had happened. Even then, I was sure they were coming back. Since it was nearly midnight when I finally did go up, I slid into bed without putting the light on which meant that I didn’t see the first envelope until the morning. Instead I fell asleep listening to the bathroom extractor fan, which sounded like a demon breathing behind the wall.

I woke early and dozed in bed waiting for my father to knock on my door and hand me the mug of tea he always brought me. He didn’t come. The January morning sky looked like the evening one when I pushed open my bedroom door and saw their bedroom door was still open. The fear that I had pretended to feel the night before was now very real. Their bed was made. Their curtains were open. And what I noticed only after I went back in a second time was that my mother’s wedding ring was on her nightstand and her bedside clock was face down.

I saw the first white envelope when I went back to my own room. It was propped up against the bedside lamp, a surrender flag hiding in the dark. The other envelope arrived in the morning post, and I couldn’t help thinking of the white feathers that women gave to cowards, only he’d given this one to me.

Neither it seemed had left a note for the other, though for the first time in their lives they had acted in unison for the same reason, each entrusting me to the other’s care.

 


Victoria Slotover lives in London with her husband, two sons and exuberant cocker spaniel.
Her short fiction has been published on the Writer’s Hub, Short Fiction Collective, Linguistic Erosion and The Legendary as well as in Delta Women Magazine, Smashed Cat Magazine, Mumsense Magazine, The Wilderness House Literary Review and the Ham & High newspaper.


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