By Pamela Schloesser Canepa. Featured on kurtbrindley.com
Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice? She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before, for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four month old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.
With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.
Alternate ending B, realistic fiction:
Upon fitting her arm into the box, she felt instantly calmer, surrounded by that cool air. A man and a woman approached the box near her, talking. Jasmine quickly took her arm out. This must look plenty weird, she was sure. Of course, their arrival was also a reminder of the passing time. If she was too late getting home, Rick would lose it again. Lord, she sure didn’t want him to lose it, because that was never pretty.
Still, an idea brewed in her mind on the way home. She would head to the grocery store after work, under the guise of picking up something special for dinner.
Three days later, she got up the nerve to execute this plan. Rick was game; he said it was fine as long as it included a London broil. So she had forked out the extra money that had been intended to help with the late fee on their credit card, bought a London broil along with vegetables and potatoes, and picked up one solitary envelope and a notepad. On it she scribbled the grocery list; on the next page, she quickly wrote a note to Holly, of the High school reunion committee.
Sitting in the car at the post office, she left the car running and wrote:
I miss your constant laughter. I regret that I cannot attend the high school reunion. My husband and I have had a bad year financially, but I should make it to the next get-together. Please note, any future mail should be sent to me at P.O. Box 426-A880, Charleston, SC 12354. I do hope you will keep in touch!
Rick would flip if he found out. He’d accuse her of telling lies about him, of trying to get sympathy, of….God only knows what; it was all ridiculous and it didn’t matter. She stepped out of the car quickly to dash in, slap on a stamp, and mail the dangerous letter. Why it should be so dangerous to want to keep in touch with a high school friend no one around her would understand. Why did she feel like she was flying through the air on a trapeze, slaying a dragon, or suddenly sprouting wings; they didn’t get that or the look of glee on her face as she dropped the letter into the slot in the wall. This is why she knew getting the P.O. Box was the right thing to do. She felt ten pounds come off of her shoulders the minute she had put the letter in the mail slot. As she left, a young, dark-haired man opened the door for her and smiled. She remembered him from the other day. A glance backward, and she saw him approach the box right next to hers.
It was a banner night back home. A drunken rage that night over the London broil not being cooked enough, a broken toy that was left on the floor and then shattered into pieces when Rick purposely stomped on it. Tension was mounting. She felt as if a storm was coming again. She shuffled around quietly, glumly, saying very little, trying as always to keep the peace.
The next day she bought another envelope on the way to work. Tore another piece from the notepad. She wrote: “I am trapped in a hateful marriage and I feel my husband is going to harm me again, soon. I really need help, and I can’t tell my parents because they will inform him in their intentions to set things right with us. He cannot know I am seeking a way out. If you know of a lawyer that can help me get out quickly and show me a place to go, it would really help me greatly.” She addressed it to: The mail service customer at P.O. Box 426-A879. She wrote her P.O. Box with only her first name above the return address. She mailed it on the way home, after picking up the baby from daycare. The air inside of her post office box was as cool as ever, calming, welcoming. She let her son, Ross, stick his chubby hand in there for a moment. He giggled, as if he felt the cool air of freedom as well. She kissed his hand and took this to be a sign.
It was a week later when she received return mail. It was from Holly. What could she do? Rick would hit the ceiling if he found it. So she left it there, as if she had been unable to check the mail. It had brightened her day, but being unable to retrieve it brought her right back to reality.
She pondered on the way home whether she’d made a mistake trusting the man whose box was next to hers. He was always very polite to her, and he looked like a professional. She felt the chances were high that he’d know of a good lawyer. Still, she only went to the post office at odd hours now, for fear of seeing him. What if he did nothing with her plea? What if this was only fodder for his water cooler gossip at work? Could he be that cruel? Maybe he’d be afraid to help in any way at all. She had to stop worrying, and start believing things might work in her favor. It proved to be no small battle.
On her next visit to the post office, the man was there. “Your mail was left in my box by mistake.” He looked at her somberly, and walked off.
No, it actually was addressed to her from him. She went to one end of the post office that was empty, leaned on a counter, and read it.
“I have seen you with a child. You must make sure that child is with you next week. Tuesday, after work, I will meet you here. Please be here by six o’clock with your baby and anything he needs for a week. I have a good lawyer, but I also believe you need a police officer present. I am hoping you don’t need much from your home. I am a parole officer and have some connections that can help you with your situation. We will put you in a safe place during the proceedings. There is more that you need to know about the process. We will discuss that when I introduce you to the lawyer at a neutral location.”
A parole officer? Who knew? It sounded like he was just the one to help her. Jasmine left the letter in her own P.O. Box, and walked out of the post office as if on air. The whole world felt lighter, and it got her through the rest of the night with her husband’s whiskey breath and bitter complaints.
A year later, Jasmine sat in a lawn chair with little Ross. The air was a crisp, cool autumn flavor, and there were mountains surrounding them. A screen door slammed as a young man, Vincent, the parole officer, came out with his hands full of a tray of meat for the grill.
“Are you sure he won’t eat any of this?” He asked, playfully.
Jasmine looked down at the baby she held with her bare hand, free of any jewelry or wedding band, and smiled. Not knowing where this would go with Vincent was all part of the fun of life now. He had said he wouldn’t rush her, yet seemed to put her and her son as a number one priority. This house in the hills, the old burly neighbor and his wife down the road, all made her feel safe from the past and never truly alone, even when Vincent went back to the city to work. Her undefined relationship with Vincent didn’t even worry her when she realized how much she had needed him at one point in her life. She marveled at the chances of finding a P.O. Box right beside just the right person to help her, and even more so at finding the nerve to ask the right person for help.
“Really, Vincent! He’s too young for a steak!” She giggled, and so did little Ross, as she rubbed noses with him. She looked to see Holly driving up in her Camaro, here to enjoy dinner and to introduce her new beau. Jasmine and Holly had just reconnected in the last six months, Jasmine having shared her new post office box address and her new cell phone number, now that there was no fear of being found out and accused of any atrocities.
“Well, you’re the boss, Jasmine.” Vincent winked at her and waved to Holly as she walked up with a very buff, blonde young man. Again, Jasmine marveled at Vincent’s ability to say those words, and at the turn of events which found her here. It all started with P.O. Box 426-A880, a little bit of rebellion against the cage that had surrounded her.
For Alternate ending A, please see the 9/24 entry! Thank you for reading! -Pamela