“Miss Dvorak, your laundry is finished!”
Henrietta’s eyes wandered to the door, lingered for a moment on the brass handle, and returned to her desk. They fell on a blank piece of paper, a piece of paper that had sat empty for days. It was completely white, save for a crescent-moon of a coffee mug stain on the corner.
She knew she had to write something. Anything would do. Maybe a poem. A word. Even just a letter.
For the thirteenth time that day, her hand moved to the fountain pen, but for the thirteenth time, she balked, and she knew exactly why. Henrietta bit her lip, and her eyes darted around on the window, playing on the smokestacks all around, and catching on windows that had not been drawn down.
She had to write…
“Miss Dvorak, will you ever open this door!” The door muffled the maid’s voice, but Henrietta heard. Without speaking, she turned to stare down the door. “Shall I call a doctor, miss? Miss?” No answer. “Miss Dvorak I can’t stand this any longer…I’m getting your uncle, he’ll have two words to say ’bout this…” Another silence, and Henrietta returned to staring at her paper.
She had to write. For the fourteenth time, she grabbed the pen…
And for the fourteenth time she dropped it with shaking fingers.
The pen clattered to the desk, and her delicate fingers hung over the pen.
In minutes, Uncle Edward would be unlocking the door and coming in. She’d have no choice then. Her envelope had been addressed and stamped, even though there was no name on it, and even though the address was simply: “TO NEXT DOOR.”
Subconsciously, she had taken up her pen again.
Her uncle’s footsteps sounded overhead. He was coming downstairs from his attic reading room.
Henrietta knew that it had to be now. She quickly scribbled…
And put it in the envelope. Hurriedly, she sealed it shut just as Uncle Edward, prominent tangled beard first, came into the room. The scent of wood shavings and peanuts reached her before he set two feet into the small room.
“Henrietta, Emily said that you were not feeling well…is everything well?”
Henrietta stared up at him with gray, listless eyes, and said nothing.