I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know what I was doing. The air conditioner was not cooling down the car at all I as placed my foot flat on the accelerator and sped down the highway. Did I really, truthfully expect my sister to tell me where she had gone to last night? What a joke. Both of us were filled to the brim with secrets and lies. We didn’t talk, not in the sense in which people confide with each other. We hadn’t for years. Eight years to be exact. The day that our mother and grandparents had been brutally murdered, bludgeoned to death in the little white house, was the day that our lives had been ripped to pieces, shattered into a million tiny shards of glass and hope across the floor.
We had sort-of-held-it-together until our father left. In the dead of night, sometime in the early hours between two and four, he ran off into the world. Silently, his body evaporated into the darkness, leaving myself and Saz in the tiny motel room, shivering beneath the icy air conditioner, sucking ghosts and recycled air into our sleepy lungs. I was so angry at him. I knew it, Saz knew it. I was furious that he had abandoned us when we all needed each other. We needed someone to be there for us – we all did. We needed family. We needed to grieve. But how could we? How were we supposed to let the wounds heal when he decided to tear them open again? There was no scar tissue here, just gaping, bloody wounds that glared an angry red.
I didn’t know where I was driving, so I pulled into the tiny strip mall on the edge of town. The parking lot was mostly empty. Like always. I clambered out and crossed the car park. A bell dinged behind me as I entered the post office. Our post box was generally empty, apart from the occasional bill. That was probably a good thing. We were the invisible girls in the invisible town. Our existence barely made a dent, an impact in our lives. No-one cared where we were and no-one needed to care. We were able to sustain ourselves, quietly, cleanly. We had for the past five years. The anger I’d felt whilst driving down the highway subsided and ebbed into a quiet roar at the back of my skull.
“Hello, lovey,” the post office lady greeted me with a small smile, bobbing her carefully blonded, permed head. Saz and I always referred to her as The Post Office Lady, even though we knew her name was Barbara. Her name tag told us so. She was always so quiet and kind and smelt like lavenders. She reminded me of my own grandmother, in the way that all old ladies have a neat symmetry with their perfect lipstick and good manners.
“Any mail?” I asked, handing her the little brass key with our box number stamped on. I didn’t need to, not really. The Post Office Lady knew everyone’s post box numbers by heart, and she’d remember your face, clear as day, even if you’d disappeared for months at a time. I liked that.
Barbara reappeared from a small door where the post boxes lay hidden behind. She had a single white envelope in her wrinkly hand. She handed it to me over the counter.
“Just one today, lovey,” she said, nodding. I looked at the envelope. It was addressed to myself and Saz but there was no return address. I felt my stomach twist into a ball. No return address. That was never good. Even the courts and lawyers had personalized envelopes that grandly announced their entrance into my post box. Not this one. Just plain, white, unappealing. I looked up at the post office lady and smiled wanly.
“Thanks,” I turned to leave, waving the envelope at her in a motion of goodbye. Part of me hoped she’d leap over the counter in a dramatic way, scream at me and lunge for the letter.
“No no no no!” she would yell, and grab it from my hands. “You don’t need that one! I’ll keep it! I’ll lock it away forever in the land of post boxes!” But she didn’t, and soon enough I was sitting in my stupid, crappy car with a disconcerting piece of paper.
Published by Samantha Anderson