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by Laura Besley

Dawn creeps into the room, snaking its tendrils of light around the furniture and the sleeping form of my husband. I’ve been awake since 3:53 and to distract myself I’ve made a “to do” list: lunchboxes (no meat for Jack!), school run, supermarket shop, Rob’s suits from the dry cleaners, pick up the kids, football practice, dinner, bath, bed, tidy the kitchen at some point. Surely that’ll keep me busy enough so I don’t have to think about the information in the envelope.

I switch off the alarm before its shrillness breaks the silence in the room. Rob always sighs when I set it earlier than necessary, but I like having that extra half hour to myself, before they all get up and start making demands on me. The plush carpet swallows my footsteps as I pick my way out of the bedroom and down the stairs.

The fat envelope sits on the kitchen counter. The first day I walked past it, it merely whispered my name. Then it tried shouting. When that failed, it started taunting me, goading me, preying on the marbles of fear clicking and clacking around in my stomach. Still I ignore it, make tea and open the back door. The early morning chill snatches at my warmth and I clasp my cup a little tighter. You see, within that wad of papers, there’s only really one piece of information I want. But do I? Part of me does, part of me doesn’t. The problem is — as I tried to explain to Rob last night — is that once the information is known, it can’t be unknown. Once I’ve read her name, I won’t have any control over it; it’ll be there, dancing around my brain like a wind-up ballerina in a jewellery box.

A sparrow lands on the dewy grass and starts pecking at the ground. Am I foolish in thinking that this stranger will fill the gap that’s been drilled into my soul by the loss of my parents, the parents who raised me, or will we have some magical connection, something that has forever been in the shadows of my life and just needs to step out into the light?

I throw the dregs of my tea onto the clematis next to me and watch the sparrow fly up to its family. Not all the fledglings will survive, but year after year this pair come back, instinct telling them that our tree is where their young will get the best chance at a good life.

The envelope is quiet as I sidle up to it, knowing it has won.


Laura Besley is a fiction writer. She writes short stories, flash fiction and micro fiction. After living abroad for ten years, she has just returned to the UK with her family.

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