This short story is fictional but based on an actual event.
When she stepped outside to check the mail, the sun made her retinas ache. She squinted and kept going, leaving the front door ajar on purpose. Her keys were in the front pocket of her jeans, just in case.
Sure, the twins were sleeping but one of them was going through a phase. She kept finding locked doors. Her bedroom, the bathroom, even the front door. She’d already been locked-out once. The panic she lived for the next ten minutes (until she remembered her bedroom window was open) was burned into her brain. Indelible.
The mailbox was empty and she’d heard the truck go by about an hour ago. She squinted her way back into the house and locked the front door. Three locks, top and bottom. Out of habit. “Never put your safety in other people’s hands,” her husband would say. And it made sense.
The house was quiet. She crept into the nursery for a peek and .. yes! They were still sound asleep. She guessed she had about thirty minutes before they woke.
On the way to grab the broom, she saw it. Sitting there on the counter she had just cleared and washed before her trip to the mailbox. A white business-size envelope. She picked it up. It was thick like it held many pages. The typed letters said it was meant for her husband, but there was no return address. No stamp.
A chill ran through her.
She walked around the house and double-checked all the doors and windows. Everything was locked. The twins were sound asleep. The gate to the backyard was padlocked. The dog was lazily sunbathing.
She went back to the kitchen and grabbed the letter. Tore the envelope open.
It was a letter. Typed, single-spaced, printed on both sides. She started skimming the pages:
Please read this entire letter before you make any decisions. You are receiving this letter because you are worthy.
For the past year or so, we have been watching you. Surveilling you. In your home and at work. We have spoken to several people about you. Gathering the pertinent information we require in order to consider someone for the prestigious honor that is represented by this letter that you are now reading …
You have a lovely family. Intelligent twin boys, a loving and loyal wife. All of these are requirements that must be met before an invitation can be extended. “An invitation to what?” you might ask. An invitation to wealth, to a brighter future in your chosen field. An invitation to a kind of security and friendship like you have never known. Our affiliates are located all over the globe and we look out for our own. We want to look out for you and your family, too …
We know you have questions, but before we can provide answers, you will need to trust us. You have to promise never to mention this letter to anyone. Do not tell your wife. Do not ask anyone in your place of work, your church, or anywhere else, about this letter. If you do, we will know and the invitation will be rescinded. You will not be considered worthy and you cannot be invited back.
Throughout the reading, she kept saying things like, “What?” “That’s not creepy at all.” “Oh hell no.”
Her ears perked up at the sound of babies waking. She stuffed the pages back into the envelope and set it inside the junk drawer. She wanted to call her husband. Hell, she wanted to call the police. But the letter said she wasn’t supposed to know. Whoever sent it had gotten into her house. They’d placed it on a spot where she’d find it. If this organization or club, or whatever “they” were, knew as much as they claimed, then they’d probably know if she called her husband. They might even listen to the call.
She picked up both boys, one on each hip, and took them to the living room. She laid them on a fuzzy blanky and began the ritual of double diaper changing. They fussed a little, then began smiling as she made silly faces and talked, telling her boys how amazing and smart they were.
The twins kept her busy until her husband came home. He set his binders and laptop down, then made a beeline for the boys, as he always did. He hugged them and kissed her. He was in such a good mood. She decided to wait to show him the letter.
After dinner was done, after the house was re-cleaned, after the twins were down for the night, she drew all the curtains closed and checked all the locks again. Then and only then did the Faithful Wife open the junk drawer.
She brought the open letter with her and sat beside him.
“Yeah?” His eyes were on the TV.
“This letter … appeared on the kitchen counter today.” She held the evidence.
He looked at her. “What do you mean “appeared”?”
She went through the whole thing with him. Every detail repeated at least twice. Then she watched him slowly read the letter. Three times. It was typical of him. He was a “details” kind of guy. It required a tone of patience on her part in times like this.
Finally, he turned to her. “You opened it.”
“You read it?”
“I know you don’t like me opening your mail.” She couldn’t help being irritated. His reaction was off-topic as far as she was concerned.
“We’ve talked about it. Several times. I don’t open your mail.”
“That’s what you’re worried about? I found it in the house. Someone left it here for me to find.”
“Did you ever consider that was part of it? Like they were testing you?”
“Who are ‘they’ and what gives them the right to test me?”
“You could have blown a major opportunity for me.”
“Oppor- what? They’re spying. On you, and us.”
“Babe, think about it.” He pointed at his temple. “It was an invitation to become a Mason. And you and your nosiness ruined it. I don’t get a second chance”
Her brain seemed to bend as she looked at him. Why was he so disappointed?
“Well … Maybe not. You didn’t tell me about it.”