I started an online business selling knitted and handmade clothing. I wasn’t making much, but enough so I could live.
My mother died of cancer in the last year. She made me promise to stay strong and to not let that man win. I promised her.
When the postman arrived on Monday, I opened the door and he smiled at me.
“Hi Paul,” I said.
“Looks like you have some more wool,” he replied.
“Excellent, a day earlier than expected too.”
“Making anything nice?”
“A shawl and a sweater for someone in Wales.”
“Sounds like fun.”
He handed me over the squishy package and I thanked him.
“You have a couple of letters today, they look like bills.”
“Typical,” I said, taking them off him.
“Oh! You have a postcard too.”
I leafed through the envelopes to see it.
“Family on holiday?”
“Not that I know of,” I said confused.
“See you tomorrow.”
I shut the door and went inside. I liked Paul. He was a slightly podgy man, in his fifties. He had been my postman from before mum died. He was the only man I felt comfortable speaking to. I apologised to him on many occasions, making him stand on my porch as I told him what had been happening. He’d listen and never hurry me. I always felt embarrassed after, telling my life story to a complete stranger. But was he a stranger anymore? I don’t know.
I placed the post on the kitchen table and ripped open the package. Eighteen balls of yarn, all earth tones, browns and greens, tumbled out. An odd colour choice for a shawl and sweater, but the customer is always right.
I opened the letters, they were indeed bills, one for the broadband and one for the water. I left them for later and picked up the postcard. The picture on the front was of a generic seaside vista, it was only when I saw the pier that jutted out into the ocean that I recognised it as the beach only fifteen minutes away.
I turned it over to reveal the message, “Looking forward to seeing you… Ted xxx”
I racked my brains for someone I knew by that name. Nothing rang a bell. I checked the address to make sure it was for me. It definitely was.
I forgot about it and went about making my lunch and reading my emails.
It was around seven in the evening when I sat down in front of the television to finish off another garment I’d been putting off due to its intricate pattern. I finally made it past the hard bit and was on easy-street. The rest was going to be a breeze. I knitted absentmindedly as the programme in front of me unfolded.
It kept swirling around in my mind. I didn’t know a Ted. An icy panic set in. I scolded myself. It had been over a year since my last panic attack. The burning sensation trickled down my arms and my heart raced. I told myself to be calm and made my way to the kitchen. I ran the cold tap, placed my wrists underneath and did my breathing exercises.
I stared out of the window and watched the sun set, trying to be mindful of my breaths and to forget about the anxiety as it grew. That voice in the back of my head kept repeating to me, you’re dying. And the rational part of my brain replied, no I’m not, it’s just a panic attack.
I slowed my breathing and thought about what could have triggered this.
It hit me like a hammer blow to the head.
Please don’t be him.
Without thinking I started to hyperventilate. As if by muscle memory, I headed straight for the medicine cabinet and swallowed a 5mg dose of diazepam. I palmed another tablet just in case I needed it.
I sat on the couch and practised my deep breathing exercises.
I woke to a knocking on the door. I jumped awake, seeing the early morning light flood into the living room. My head thumped and I shuffled to the front of the house. I peered through the peephole to see the postman waiting patiently.
“Hello Paul,” I said, squinting against the bright light.
“Are you okay? You don’t look well,” he said cocking his head to one side.
“No,” I said, unguarded, “I heard from someone from my past I wish I never heard from again.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, was it the postcard?”
“How did you know?”
“You have another,” he said, handing me it.
“Is that it?”
“Why didn’t you just put it through the slot?”
He appeared hurt.
“Oh, I thought you’d like to see me. I like talking to you.”
“He seems to really like you though. Says he’s going to visit you. That’ll be nice, having someone over.”
“Who said that?”
“Don’t you dare read my mail!” I snapped, grabbing the postcard from him.
His face and shoulders fell, as if the strings holding him up were cut.
I drew my hand to my mouth.
“I’m so sorry, Paul. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, you’re right. That was very unprofessional of me.”
Paul turned and plodded down the steps without saying goodbye. The guilt felt like daggers to my heart. I watched as he left my garden, got in his van and drove off.
I felt the anxiety begin to build. First in my stomach, then in my chest. I knew the postcard would trigger another panic attack, so I took a pill as a precaution. I sat at the kitchen table and stared at the picture. It was similar to before, the same seaside town, but from a different angle.
The tranquilliser kicked in, my mind and muscles relaxing. A confidence the medication gave me won over and I turned the card.
Hi Buttercup. How long has it been? Five years! That long? How I miss your golden hair, your blue eyes and the way you look at me. My heart has been pining for you. We’ll carry on from where we left off. Like nothing’s happened. I forgive you. Ted xxx.
I had dialled the number for the local police station and gazed at my phone. I didn’t want to press call, as if I did, I’d have to deal with it all again.
I decided to take another diazepam. After an hour or so, I was calm. I didn’t contact the police.
On my way to bed I double locked the front door. I made sure everything was locked. I pulled a kitchen knife out of the block and contemplated taking it to bed with me. After a few moments I placed it back in its slot.
I was surprised I slept in late that day. I usually awoke at the crack of dawn. I assumed it must have been the medication. I made my way downstairs to see a missed delivery slip on the welcome rug. This was the first time I could remember that I’d had one. I picked it up and left for the kitchen.
I grabbed a bowl of cereal and ate it while reading the card. I saw Paul’s name at the bottom and my heart sunk. I’d upset him and I felt really bad. It said the package was left in my safe place behind the wheelie bins. It was never going to be the same between us. I cried as I mourned our friendship.
I retrieved the package and placed it on the table. Slipped into a crevasse of the parcel was another postcard. I turned it without thinking.
“Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow… Ted xxx”
The words filled me with dread. I stared at them for minutes. This time panic didn’t emerge. I was angry this man felt it was fine to contact me. I was angry that he felt that I needed to be forgiven. I was nauseated.
I glanced at the missed package slip and froze. I looked back and forth between that and the postcard, and that all familiar burning feeling trickled down my veins. It was the same black pen and the handwriting was indistinguishable from each other. The postman had sent them. Paul had sent them.
I didn’t hesitate any further. I called the police and waited on hold. An ire burnt inside me. How could I have been so stupid?
Finally someone answered. I told them what happened. They asked me to hold again and I waited. The panic rose, but I demanded with myself to stay calm.
I spoke to a woman. She asked if I was sure it was Paul, I said I couldn’t be one hundred percent, but it had to be him. I asked if I could get a restraining order against Theodore. She said she would look into it for me. I was given a crime number and told to call 999 if my life was in danger, in the meantime someone would call me back.
It was nine in the evening and no one had called. I tried the local station again. I got an answerphone message, saying they were closed and to call back in the morning. If it was an emergency, then to call 999.
I was shocked. How fucked up was this. I had been threatened and there was no one there to help me. What’s the good in having a police force if they are only there retroactively? The panic had long since given way to fury and hatred.
And just like the habit of the last few days, I got through the night with medication.
I woke to the erratic sounds of banging at my front door. I immediately dialled the emergency services.
“How can I direct your call?”
“Police, please,” I said, hyperventilating.
“Police,” the man said.
“Hi, I’ve had some threatening letters in the last few days. He’s outside my house now. I think he wants to kill me!” I said as the tears began to flow.
“What’s your address?”
I gave him it.
I pushed my bed in front of the door and curled up on the other side. The thumping was muffled now. It continued but became less and less urgent until they stopped all together.
I thanked the man on the phone as I let the police into the house. A large pool of blood soaked into my front step and seeped down onto the pathway. I saw a man I recognised being lifted onto a stretcher.
“Paul?” I shouted.
“Please ma’am,” the policeman said putting his arm in front of me.
At the end of my yard I saw paramedics zip up a black bodybag.
“Can I come inside?” the policeman asked.
I shook from nerves as the door was shut.
“What’s happened? Is he okay?”
“Is Paul the postman?”
“I need to take your statement. Have you got anywhere to sit?”
I showed him into the living room.
“Oh my God, is Paul dead?”
“I’m not sure, Ma’am. Tell me in your own words what’s happened.”
So I did. I told him about the postcards and I showed him the missed package slip.
It’s Friday now. Paul is in hospital and is stable. I’ve asked if I can visit. I’ve been told its family only. The guilt has been killing me.
Paul had returned to his van and noticed a man loitering by my front gate. He confronted the stranger, who pulled a knife on him and without a second thought sliced Paul’s throat. Paul somehow wrestled the weapon from him and stabbed him a single time, through the heart. Paul had then crawled up my garden path and knocked on my door for help.
Theodore was pronounced dead at the scene.
After the police left. My neighbour came over and offered to hose down my front steps. I thanked him and went inside. That’s when I noticed the missed package slip, it poked out from under the welcome mat.
I’m sorry I read your mail. I’ve left the package in your safe place. Paul.
Author’s note: if you have been the victim of abuse, contact your local authorities. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.