L is for Louise
First you envisioned the picture. Then you assembled the pieces. Louise began when she was eleven. She started with a brown shoebox, then added snippets from magazines—a square of blue sky, smoke rising from a chimney, lace curtains, a red door, a wedding gown, a gold ring, photographs with obscured faces—images of what she saw as a picture-perfect life. Night after night she pulled the shoebox from its hiding place and spread the contents across the floor, arranging and rearranging the dog-eared pieces until everything was as she imagined it should be. By the time she was sixteen, Louise knew exactly what her life would look like.
Through the years she painstakingly slid those pieces into place—a loving husband, a house with black shutters, an oak tree in the yard, a baby boy, and then a girl. Once the youngsters had grown into a son and daughter she could be proud of, the picture was perfect. Louise could now sit back and enjoy the completeness of a well-planned life. In her mind she simply had no reason to scramble the pieces and start over again. Her husband, Clay, didn’t see it in quite the same way.
The long gray envelope from Horace P. Fredericks, Attorney at Law, arrived on the second Saturday in January, smack in the middle of an icy New Jersey winter. Had it been July or August, Clay might have approached things differently. But as fate would have it, that Saturday was the coldest day of the year. Icicles hung from the trees, six inches of frozen snow covered the yard, and a gusty wind that had howled throughout the night rattled a metal garbage can down the middle of the street.