Printed from WriteWords -

The Letter

by  hannahjane

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2007
Word Count: 1994
Summary: An introduction to the character of Mervyn.



“There’s a letter for you here?”

“Is there?” I replied, staring at the wall separating our two voices, my eye-line uneasy wavering over wonky-edged frames. I refocused hastily, took what had been on off, and put it in the open desk drawer. I put it back on, took it off again – it stuck on a stubborn knuckle, the lump in my throat, my knotted heart – and I put it back down in the drawer and shut it as she walked in.

“Here”, she said, looking into my face, and passed the letter to me.

I put it on the desk surface and thanked her. I drummed my fingers on the wood.

“Are you ok?”

“Hm? Yes, fine. Fine”, I exhaled. “Fine. You’re in early, aren’t you?”

“Ish. I’ve got no sessions until this afternoon but I just thought I’d get some prep done here for the morning”.

“Fine”, I said, and smiled unconvincingly. Her eyes hovered for a second over the letter. I mean, they didn't literally hover. They were still in her head. Her eyes. But her eyes lingered -

“Do you, do you want a cup of tea?”

“No, no I’m fine. Thank you, anyway though. I'm fine".

She nodded, “Well I’ll be upstairs if you want me”, she said, and she left the room shutting the door behind her. After the click I placed my fingertips across the surface of the shiny light brown envelope.

I turned it over twice. I left it and instead picked up my diary and set it down again, so that it looked up at me from my lap. I picked it up again. First session. I sighed and pushed up the skin between my eyebrows. Second session. I flicked over the page. Third session. Fourth session. I flicked over the page, Fifth session, scooping the pages up carelessly as I went, and the next and the next and the next and slammed the book down on the desk. I leant back, my head dangling over the edge of the chair, the eyes desperately trying to push everything from the skull, the blood pooling, then forward so that my chin was on my chest. I took a moment [a moment] before shunting everything on the desk sideways. The contents clattered onto the floor, including a heavy ivory phrenology bust and an in-tray. (I found it less satisfactory than the scenes in the movies). In the dull silence that followed, the sort of fattened silence after-clatter, the sort of minus sound that makes the tiny hairs of the ears strain thirstily, I heard Sarah evaluating the noise from above with the pace of shoes on floorboards, her heel stopping pointedly over my desk.

On my knees I fished through the papers and cases and files until I found the letter. It was the same as looking at an Oxfam-stamped envelope - I knew exactly what was inside it, but perhaps I didn’t want to look at it just now. I held it flat across my palms feeling all at once its lightness, its heaviness, its light heaviness, its heavy lightness. I opened the drawer from where I was knelt on the floor and dropped it in, shutting it out.

Banged my head on the desk corner as I stood up.


“Right. Ok”, I said. I took a huge gulp of coffee, my nose touching the bottom of the cup, nearly choked, died, funeral, hearse. “Ok. Right. So, to a certain extent, you feel she is trying to demean you?”

“Oh most definitely, therapist. There’s no other reason for it. She already had a perfectly good car, huge, great massive family saloon thing it was, it must have been, to fit those two huge lumps of hers in”.

“Her children?”

“Her breasts, therapist. But yes, you are right, mind, her children are hideously obese. You’re completely right”, Mrs. Simmons’ giggles bubbled in her nostrils, she held up her glinting ring to the light. Nails like sigils, she picked off a tiny cilia-like piece of dust from the stone. It was in my face.

“I wasn’t attacking your friend’s children, Rose. And I’m sure you didn’t mean to either but it -

“Oh, no, I definitely did. It’s funny how one is blinded to these sorts of shortcomings isn’t it, therapist? You know, of course. - How one deals with hideous, hideous, trauma. I’m right aren’t I? And she is completely in denial. Fat, fat children. This is how she put it, at the Quarry Bank induction day, ‘Oh yes, Percy is quite excellent at rugby’!”

She took out a powder from her handbag, some designer or other. I took another glug of coffee, nearly choked, died, funeral, hearse.

“Rosaline I was –

“Sumo wrestling perhaps….and cooking! Yes, she said, Our Percy is quite the chef! Rugby, cooking! He would eat the ball, if he could. I said if he did play rugby - and I’m not in the slightest bit sure that he does - then he’s only drawn to it because the shirts remind him of Battenburg cake. And let’s see… what else did she say? Oh yes, chorister. Because he’s fat, you see? And all fat people are good at singing”.

There was a snap of a mirror shutting, sharp in the air. She rifled again and took out rifle, shot herself in the face. She took out a lipstick, started to apply it.

“Rosaline”, I tried again. “You feel…competitive…towards Gloria, that she tries, in her actions, to undermine you, better you. For instance you don’t feel that Gloria needed a new car. You feel that she bought it only as a means of demeaning you, because she knows how much you value…mmm…material things….and you feel, that she feels, that by buying a better car she might… upset you. You sensed it was merely a malevolent act, a way of getting at you”.

“You don’t need to state the bloody obvious, therapist”, she was saying, her head stuck in a side pocket, “Of course she only bought it to piss me off! Great big silver radiator on the front of it”.

The lipstick went back into the bag. Perfume came out, psst, psst, the droplets settled on either shoulder. Psst, she sprayed the couch arm. Psst. Into the carpet. Psst. A potted plant. She clipped the lid back on and put it into the bag. It slouched down beside her.

“How do you think is best to overcome these feelings of inadequacy, how do you feel would be -”

“Inadequate? Me? Oh, gosh, no, no, no; it’s all sorted now”.


“Well it’s not rocket science is it, therapist? I went out and I bought a bigger and a better car. I’ve had it for an age now. Bought it last week. No, no, no. I’m just coming here because Gloria’s been harping on about her cognitive behavioural therapist. Brought her therapy diary in for us all to see, even suggested we have it as the Book Club read! Can you believe it?! I’m surprised she can even fit her fat kids in it – they take after her by the way. She’s started going the gym with him, the therapist! Word on the gated community is they’re having an, you know, a-f-f-a-r-e. Not that I expect you go the gym much, or that…euw! But regardless, she’s been parading him around like she’s some poor troubled artisan who has a genius for baking cupcakes. So I had to get me one”.

This time she scooped around in her bag for longer, and brought out a tiny little dog.

“Do you mind? It’s just Halia – (thinks she’s all that because she’s married to a footballer – ugly one, mind, not even from Liverpool) - said that Gloria had been complaining about how her therapist never lets her take the dog to therapy, it’s the one thing she doesn’t like about him, that he never lets it have a run around in session?” she bent down and the mut’s paws, barely the size of pound coins, connected with the carpet. My eyes and mouth were the same size. It disappeared under a cabinet, where it defecated. Me, I was defeated.


“I can’t”, I was saying. “This is not what I signed up for”, I was saying, snapping the kettle on. Maureen was nodding at the side of my face, and placing a hand free of a coffee mug on my shoulder. “And what with everything…I’m sick to it, Maureen, sick to the back teeth of it, I wish I’d never trained in it even. At least with humanist stuff the ones I did get were interesting, even if I didn’t get many of them”, she was nodding nodding nodding like a nodding dog, like Rosaline’s dog, “Even if I didn’t get any of them. Maureen, I said. “I’ve just had another one in here. They’re all I get. Middle class neurotics and footballers' wives. Maureen, they don’t even have problems, just swanning in for a quick fix for the CBT. Because it’s the fashion. It’s not who I am?”

I leant back onto the units. She had commandeered the preparation of my tea. Opening up the stained cupboard, levelling out with a separate teaspoon three teaspoons of sugar, pouring in the milk artfully, hovering the bottle over, jerking it back, as though she might catch something from having her hand too close to the mug. The foil cap tumbled off the bottle and into the brown. I watched as she attempted to scoop it out with a third spoon. She was humming in agreement with what I had been saying.

“It’s at a point where I’ve totally had to relinquish my core beliefs, Maureen. I thought I could sort of, well, you know what they all say. I thought I might have the client-centred along with the CBT, but it doesn’t ever work of course. I’m not even a client-centred therapist, anymore. They’re just consumed with by this I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now culture. And then these businesses sending me all their OCD inflicted Lady Macbeths. I don’t enjoy it anymore, Maureen. The clients aren’t interesting people”, she handed me the mug, “They’re hideous in fact. All after the quick fix. Which is what CBT is, by the way”. She nodded, although CBT is the only modality she practises in. “I mean of course it works, I don’t doubt that it doesn’t”, I added quickly, “But it’s not a long term solution is it?”

“And especially with the stress you’re under”, she was saying, our shoe-capped toes touching in the gallery kitchen, her resting on one side of units, me on the opposite.

I didn’t say anything. Sarah, the only psychologist at the centre, peered into the room from down the hall, stepped forwards, and then walked away again.

“Snotty cow”, said Maureen. “Did she make you your tea earlier? And did you tell her? You like three sugars now, not two?”

“She didn’t make me tea”.

“Well of course she put three sugars instead of two, that’s the kind of person she is”.

“No, she offered, but she didn’t -

“I would have been here, you know what the traffic’s been like recently. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the time. I thought Oh Christ, poor Mervyn, his tea”.

I nodded.

“So…”, she said.


“Has it?”

“Pardon?” I sipped at the ah hot hot hot tea. I straightened up and moved past Maureen’s shoulder to the unit she was leaning against to stir my tea some more. She turned at a right angle – towards me and my tea. “Has it…you know…come through?”

“Yes”, I said. I brought up the spoon and clinked it on the side of the mug, put it on the side. “I assume it has come through, yes”.

“But you haven’t looked at it?”

I coughed a low, groggy cough. “Not yet, no”.

“Oh Mervyn!” she said.