An Envelope

Nick Cicchetti  |  5 min read 

 

The car had been parked for several minutes. The cold outside had started to seep in.

An envelope lay in the center of the dashboard, with the stamp facing up. Their eyes focused on it, scouring the paper. The car gently ticked and pinged as it cooled, as if sand was slowly falling inside the walls and doors. He inhaled deeply and raised his eyebrows, briefly showing the windshield an expression of tired astonishment before turning his eyes to her.

“Well, is this it?” he asked hesitantly, faltering slightly between words. She gave a gentle sigh and turned towards the mirror on her side, the passenger’s. For a long time she looked at herself, cradling her chin with one hand, tracing circles on the dash with the index finger of the other. They remained this way for a few minutes. He stretched his legs past the pedals, keeping his hands in the pockets of his jacket.  She began to focus on her kneecaps, playfully tapping them with her fingers, the same blank expression on her face. “It’ll be the same,” he mumbled, reassuring himself.  At this she turned to look at him, brown eyes wide.

“Will it?”

Her question lingered, slowly expanding to fill the space in the car. He stared at his lap, regretting his decision to speak. She continued to stud him, her question unanswered.

“I’m not gonna open it for you,” he said, perhaps slightly louder than necessary, after a long period of regaining confidence.

“I’m not asking you to, David,” she replied flatly. There was a slight sarcasm to her words, but it was too subtle for him to address. After a short pause she sighed, frustrated. “Just…just give me a minute,” she said, motioning for him to stop. He pulled himself upright in his seat and brought his knees together. He waited with his hands in his lap, the envelope untouched.

Finally he uttered a few words under his breath, directed mostly at the hands in his lap. “I don’t think this is fair,” She fidgeted in her seat and crossed her arms leaning her head against the window, looking at him expectantly.

“Well?” she questioned, giving him a slight nod, expecting an explanation would follow.

“When did you first—“ he started, then broke off.

She gritted her teeth, and was quiet for a few seconds. “October,” she said, in a half-whisper

He was momentarily taken aback. He rubbed his eyes and inhaled sharply. She started to speak.

"I didn’t—“

“Don’t,” he commanded, his voice soft. She looked at him for a moment, slightly surprised, then turned back to her window. This brief exchange was followed by yet another long silence. They sat. He held his palms together between his knees, and she pulled gently on her hair. Eventually, after several minutes, he reached for the envelope, grasped it by the end between his thumb and index finger, and gingerly laid it in her lap.

“I need to know, Dawn” he said, more agitated now. She pushed her face into the glass, ignoring him. Her nose left two gray smudges on the window. They slowly faded as she swiveled, her head pointing down towards the envelope. “You need to know,” She opened her mouth, to say something in protest, but stopped. She tossed the envelope back on the dashboard instead. He sighed and turned away from her, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the seat. “We can’t go on like this,” he said, after a long sigh. She gave no response. “You’re right, though. It won’t be the same”

“Nope,” she replied curtly, exaggerating the popping sound at the end of the word.

“Just open it,” he pleaded. She shot him a glance and exhaled through her nose. He turned back to her. For a brief moment, they exchanged looks. Then she broke away her gaze to glance back at the letter. He exhaled. His breath was ragged and anxious. She looked back to him, but his eyes were straight ahead, staring holes through the foggy glass. He sighed again. “It’s not me,” he said, irked “You’ve made your bed,” She dug her teeth into her bottom lip and squinted her eyes in an odd expression of resentment. The was a long pause, a few seconds. He shook his head and gave a silent chuckle. “Now you have to sleep with it,” She glared at him, disgusted.

“Funny,” she quipped. “But this isn’t a joke,”

“Then open the letter”

“I—“ she stopped and glanced out the window. He sighed. She was stubborn.

“You can’t ask me to open it, Dawn.” She was looking up into the roof of the car. “All of this is your—” he stopped short. He furrowed his brow and looked up at the ceiling as well, afraid to finish his sentence. Two words escaped her mouth.

“I know,” she said quietly. Her voice was low and soft, but not woeful. He exhaled.

He sighed. “It’s not about us anymore,” he asserted. She repositioned her legs. “It’s about you, and it’s about me” There was a brief silence. “Even if it’s good news…I won’t—“

“I know! David, I know!” she cried, cutting him off. He dug the heels of his boots into the floor and pressed his back into the seat, slightly startled.

“It was never about us. Never,” She looked up at him, hurt.

“Of course it—“

He stopped her short. “October…was a while ago” Another wave of silence followed. She shifted her position slightly, her mouth hanging open. She struggled to say something, to say anything. It was impossible to explain. He sighed. “What will we do?”

“I thought you said it wasn’t about us,”

“What will you do?” She stared blankly. She didn’t know. He didn’t know.

“Well…” she said, resigning. She moved forward to reach the dash, stretching her seatbelt. She inhaled once, and held her breath. As she leaned back with the envelope, the belt snapped back onto her chest. She tucked her finger under the corner of the flap and ran it slowly along the length of the opening to separate the glue. Gently, she turned up the flap, pulled out the paper inside and opened it. They leaned over the page, and looked.