After setting it aside, she reached in and grabbed an army-green bag. Opening it, she discovered a couple of books, his dog tags and a watch. One of the books slipped from her hands and a folded piece of paper slid out across the hardwood floor.
She reached for it and realized it was an envelope. When she flipped it over she saw it had been addressed…to her. The stamp was in the corner, but it had never been mailed.
Slowly she slid her fingernail along the seam and opened it up. Sliding out the trifold paper, Nora realized her hands were shaking.
The date at the top of the letter was dated two days before he died. Tears clogged her throat. He’d never sent her a handwritten letter while he’d been overseas. Emails, texts, phone calls, yes, but never a letter.
She rested her back against the dresser and began to read.
I’m every kind of coward for writing this letter to you. I wanted so badly to tell you in person when I was home on leave, but I just couldn’t. You don’t deserve this lifestyle or a marriage made to be spent alone.
I see how hard you work to make this marriage work, I see how you want this marriage to work, but I think we rushed into things and I know you don’t really love me…not like a woman loves her husband. I realize you love me as a friend, and that’s all I can ask for. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had for putting up with me all this time, hoping our marriage would turn into something more.
Nora swallowed. Well, at least he had tried to give her some sort of heads-up before the papers arrived. But he’d apparently put the plan in place long before he left to go back overseas.
She looked back down to his neat handwriting.
I hate to hurt you and if we stay married that’s exactly what I’ll continue to do. I’ve not been the best husband, Nora. I know you’ve been waiting on me back home. I know you’ve been praying for me, but I have not been as faithful to you. I had an affair. That’s not easy for me to admit, nor is it something I’m proud of.
Nora read those last few sentences again, sure she’d read wrong. An affair? He’d cheated on her? Yes, they may have not had that level of love most men and women share, but Nora took her marriage vows very seriously.
Betrayal and hurt coursed through her.
But it was the next sentence that sliced her heart open. She read it twice; her heart beat harder and faster. Tears welled up in her eyes as she stared at the damning words through a blurry haze.
Everything she’d believed, everything she’d wanted for her future, her baby’s future, was a lie.
Nora crumpled onto her side and clutched the letter to her chest. Sobs tore through her; an ache she hadn’t experienced settled deep in her stomach.
Todd had died, leaving her alone with a baby. Eli had come back onto the scene, making her promises of love and a future.
But as of this moment, both men were out of her life. Both men had betrayed her and, according to the letter, Eli’s betrayal was unforgivable.
Eli checked his watch at least six times in the past thirty minutes. He couldn’t wait to finish his day and spend the weekend with Nora. They could work on the nursery, talk about the baby and just be together.
His nurse had placed the last client in room one and Eli pulled the chart from the holder. With a sigh and a smile, he opened the door.
“Maddie, it’s good to see you this afternoon.” He tossed the file onto the counter and washed his hands. “How’s the wrist?”
Drying his hands, then tossing the paper into the trash, Eli rested his hip against the counter.
Maddie held up her hand. “Feeling better, though I’m still afraid to support myself on my pole. My workouts have gone to hell.”
Eli couldn’t suppress the grin. “I think it’s wise to let it heal a bit more and I’m sure you can find another workout until then. Do you have a treadmill? You could walk. Just twenty minutes a day is good for you.”
Beneath bright purple eye shadow, Maddie’s eyes rolled. “Walking is just so…vanilla. I like a little spice in my life.”
Spice in the life of a senior citizen is so not an area he wanted to get into…especially when it involved a pole.