The envelope landed heavily into Hannah’s life like a choice already made. His face was branded into its white perfection, the nameless man who had likely stolen her fate. She picked it off the matt and held it ceremoniously in front of her as she took it to the kitchen, its weight a burden she struggled to carry. She flopped it onto the kitchen surface and turned her back, hoping to forget its unwelcome presence but it wasn’t long until she had no choice but to face it once more.
‘It’ll be fine.’ Her mother had assured her every day for the last three months.
‘What if it’s not?’
To this her mother had little to say because in truth, neither of them could be sure. The envelope could contain everything and nothing. It could free her or lock her in chains. This day had been so long awaited that its arrival should have heralded celebration but instead, she wished she could go back to waiting. When she was waiting, she was working towards a goal without having to face its reality.
She picked up the envelope and twisted it in her fingers, wondering how it could look so innocent when it was anything but. She couldn’t shift the blame for this. She couldn’t even blame the nameless man with the enchanting smile, although she had tried many times. She was God of her own mistakes. She had thought little about the event itself, so wrapped up was she in its consequences. She had thought little of the joyous laughter and rolling pleasure. Instead she focused on the bitter taste it had left on her skin and the way she may never be able to wash it off. She studied the envelope hard and held it to the light to try and gage its contents. She saw nothing but a blank space and chose to take this as a bad omen.
She hovered the letter over the bin, wondering how it would feel to never know. Innocence would be bliss but she already knew so much, how could she forget either way? How could she continue naively, doing to others what he had done to her? She couldn’t inflict that kind of horror. She needed to know, and then she would be able to move forward, to cleanse herself. The corner of the envelope had come unstuck and she pulled at it hesitantly, fear convulsing through her body. The contents were revealed bit by bit, the white paper looking as innocent as the envelope had before them. She unfolded the letter slowly, knowing it could all change in just a few simple moments. The health centre logo glared at her as she began unravelling the letter’s secrets and she took a deep breath. The letter was brief and of this she was glad. She skipped through the small paragraph to the bottom of the page, where the important information lay in wait. ‘HIV-Negative’ it stated, plain as day.