I have spent the past two days trying to compose this letter, trying to think of how best to put down to ink all that I have to say, all that there is to say – trying and failing. My floor here is littered with tawdry and half-hearted beginnings, elucidations on my meager rose garden, the brooding and grim-looking woods beyond the field behind the house, the rabbit hutch in the front yard which has now become dark and empty of its rampant residents, how things are getting on in the town, even the boring pastiche of the weather. None of these things have anything to do with what I feel right now, what has been revolving in my mind for all this time.
I am certain that you have questions, and one in particular, which I hope to answer once I have cleared my thoughts of some of the clutter. You know what mother always said when we were just children hanging onto her apron; she always said my brain was faster than my mouth, or in this case faster than even my own hand. So much movement picks up dust.
Grandfather's estate is in trouble. After the horrendous losses our stocks have taken, and with poor father's addiction to the never-ending Wager, we can no longer afford to maintain or even keep the property. The past year has had me selling bits and pieces of the back acreage to our neighbors and the university in an effort to make piecemeal inroads on the taxes. I know we've never adored that musty old thing on Chobham Hill, with its gaunt edifice and the way it seems to leer at passersby when the storms are bad, but it is still ours, our family's possession, and I will do what it takes to keep it in our hands.
Any means are necessary, as I see them. I am even willing to sell my little home by the lake, with its modesty and "quaintness" that the city people enjoy so much when they come up here in the autumn and pretend to be rugged for a few months. I have sold my jewelry, even grandmother's pendant (surely you remember the emerald with silver filigree?) to keep this ugly old beast in our hands. I will regret it later, and I'll take whatever contempt you have for me, but I'm happy in the knowledge that we still own the old house.
This part must be told, sister – I had hoped to tell you in person but I no longer have the patience. Perhaps I should have started the letter with this, but I've already begun and must not stop, or I will never continue.
Richard was not my fault, nor were his vices. I had always known he was a man that could not be trusted, who had trust for no one, a man who always had a grim light in his eyes when he happened to watch a pretty dress walking down Pinotole Avenue or heard of some new bargain bet for a pro sport team. This makes me sound cynical, and I suppose I am; I never liked Richard, but he was your husband, and I put up with him and his damning eyes for you, sister. I responded to none of his advances, had rebuffed him on multiple occasions – such as that bawdy dinner party for Josephine's son after getting his doctorate – and made certain he knew my feelings for him were nil.
It is because of this, sister, that I'm sure he did what he did. He is a petty man, a playground bully hiding in a human suit, and will go to any lengths to achieve his satisfaction. And I know that you know his satisfaction only goes so far as himself, and always ever will.
The things he told you about him and I were false, sister. No affection could be had between us, even if it was wanted or warranted. The photographs he showed you were doctored – he is a trained federal investigator with a background in journalism, and his knowledge of photography is undoubtedly more extensive than either of us know. Those candid black-and-whites were of different women, other women he'd no doubt discovered on his sojourns down Pinotole, with my own face cleverly pasted onto them. I had hoped the seed of doubt would have grown after you confronted me about them, after I tried to explain. But I suppose we can categorize that point as moot.
My god, sister – is it possible to agonize so long and so profoundly over one's own thoughts that one can feel sickness beyond sickness? It has been two days since last I sat at my desk and penned the previous paragraphs, a length of time swaddled in uncertainty and fear. Fear that you will not understand, that you'll refuse to understand, that you'll become angry. I was ever the impulsive one, but you allow things to build to such a point that you no longer know what you are capable of, or what you've done once it has been done.
It must be so strange, to take only moments to jump the gap between these paragraph and the previous one, when for me it has been whole days. I cannot stop now, and I'll neglect pretense for now.
I forgive you for murdering me, sister. It was an outcome that, looking back, was not wholly unexpected – what we did to each other, the things that were said, that things that were done…there was so much ballistic vehemence in those final days, weren't there? So many hurtful things fired like projectiles from catapults, always aimed at where it could hurt the most. I take back everything, dear sister.
And I hope you can forgive me as well.