Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1
“Mrs. Brennaman, you will need stay at a sanatorium. You could be there for 6 months to a year. Thankfully we caught it early. I’ve seen other patients who. . . .” His voice faded into the background as Alice stared through the window at her sons playing outside.
She had kicked them outside when the doctor arrived. Usually they would be gone until dusk, but when they saw the doctor they must have known something was up. They hadn’t left the front lawn and Sam kept looking up at the front window every now and then.
Right now, they were bent over an old pail they had found in the front garden. No doubt a creepy-crawly of something or other was trapped and they were inspecting it.
“Mrs. Brennaman?” a voice called her back to the living room and the man in front of her. Her eyes refocused. “Mrs. Brennaman, did you hear me?
“I’m sorry, I must have faded out a for a second. What did you say?”
“I asked if you had any questions?”
“No. I mean yes. I can’t, that is we can’t afford for me to—”
“Not to worry, Mrs. Brennaman. The sanitorium is run by a nonprofit organization. It’s free.”
“Oh,” she smiled for a moment, then frowned as another thought hit her. “What about my boys? Richard works a lot and he doesn’t especially know how to cook. I mean, he can cook eggs, I guess. But,” She twisted her fingers in her lap.
The doctor put his hand on her shoulder. “If you don’t go, then they’ll be without you for good. It’s in everyone’s best interest. You need to get well. And you don’t want to spread the infection to anyone else in your home, do you?”
Her eyes grew wide. “Could I have done that already?”
“We’ll need to test everyone in your home to be sure, but no one else is showing symptoms?”
She shook her head.
“No one has a cough that won’t go away? An unexplained fever?” the doctor asked.
“No,” she whispered. Her eyes welling up. “Just me.” She thought, “thank God, it’s just me that has to go.”
That evening, after the boys had gone to bed, Alice and Richard, her husband, sat in the living. She explained what the doctor had told her.
“How long will you be gone?” he asked, leaning forward.
“6 months, maybe a year,” she said.
“A year!” he sprang up from the chair.
“Quiet! You’ll wake the boys. I haven’t told them yet.”
“But-but-but” he sputtered, as he paced back and forth across the living room, almost gashing his shine on the coffee table. “You can’t leave. Who’s going to look after the boys?”
“The way the doctor put it, I can stay, but then I’ll die and you’ll all be without me for good,” She frowned, but tried to restrain the fear and panic she felt bubbling under the surface.
“Oh, of course no.” He looked at her aghast. “That’s not what I meant. I-I-I.” He ran his hands through his hair and sunk down into his chair. “Of course, whatever the doctor says. You need to get better. We can do this.” He reached for her hands.
“We can talk to your sister. I’m sure she’d be willing to help out while I’m away.”
“When do you leave?”
“As soon as a spot opens up,” she said, pulling her hands out of his grasp and hugging herself.