“You mentioned a feud, years ago, with Mrs. Waterston and her daughter, and their efforts to blackmail influential officials though trapping them into having sex with her daughter.”
They hadn't needed much trapping.
She nodded. Why was she not surprised to hear that name again?
“I never knew any of that at the time for myself, or I would have pieced it together long before now and made noises of my own about my mail going astray.
“Mr. Waterston--her husband, a nice man-- had been the postmaster here about the time you went away.”
She hadn’t known that. “He died about then, and his wife took over from him. With the animosity she held for you, and for others in this town, she had no intention of delivering any of your personal letters to anyone except to your home address, and never, to me… one of those nasty Gallaghers that she’d always had a feud with. Her hatred covered your family too, and other families in this town, but it took a long time for it to catch up with her.
“She probably opened our letters and read them to see which ones had to be forwarded, and which could be held back. It would have been obvious to her that your letters and mine, were written surreptitiously, outside of parental control or consent, so she believed she was on safe ground to hold them back.”
It had also gone on for many years.
“I would guess she realized how she could be revenged on you, in some way, for forcing her to reveal her hand with that blackmailing scheme of hers to get you out of the school, and getting so many people concerned about their own survival. She had many enemies after that.
“A couple of months ago, she tried her old tricks again. She tried to blackmail another one of her enemies, into staying out of her way and her ambitions, but she tried that on the wrong man. She’d boasted to him how she had information, damaging to certain people, so he should expect to fail if he opposed her. She told him too much, which he could, and did, use against her. He defied her and called her bluff.
“He contacted the post office to let them know what he knew, when his own mail began to go astray soon after that. She was too obvious by then, drunk on her own momentary power.
"Interfering with any mail, is a serious criminal offense.
“It backfired on her. She got caught. No one was going to help her. They left her to twist in the wind and face the charges. They saw a way to be free of her at last.
“She faced enough charges from the post office, and she didn’t want to add to the charges by any more revelations or by dragging her daughter into her blackmail scheme too, to face jail time as an adult. They’re both finished in this town anyway. Her trial is ongoing.”
Babs had heard none of this. Everything that Waterston woman had done, had been something out of their control.
“There was a backlog of mail discovered in so many places. She’d held it up on a lot of people she didn’t like-- personal mail only, that wouldn’t be missed. Business mail, and anything sensitive, she had to let through, so she was crafty that way.”
“I may get a sudden flood of letters from you once they sort it all out, and after the case. Ten years of mail all at once. She also held all of my letters up that were addressed to you. So, that explains why I got none of your letters after that first one, and why you didn't get mine. I worried for nothing, I know that now, but I hope I never have to go through that uncertainty again.”
She knew that now. He continued, telling her something of his own life.
“While you were in Edinburgh, I got an education too. There was nothing else I could do while I waited.”
It had been the same for her.
“I finished my engineering degrees last year and joined my father’s business. We do a lot of work up here for your father, and share a lot of ventures with him. I needed to be close to where you’d lived all that time ago as I tried to learn where you were, but... as you said... you never wrote to your father.”
They both could have gone mad with frustration, but hadn’t.
“I left a small bundle of letters from me… ones I didn’t send… in one of your drawers, a few months ago. I knew there would be a time when you would come back here, and that you would see them. Your father always hoped, but he didn’t know about us. I guess you didn’t find them yet.”
That... perked her up. “Which drawer?”
“No.” He held her still, on him. “You are not going to rush away from me. We haven’t finished here yet. Besides, you’ve got me instead. the letters can wait, but I... can’t, and won't.”
She felt that.
“We have a lot to catch up on, and we will be very much alone tonight, to catch up. This is a warm fire; The company is the best; we have a comfortable bed that we can both share at last without shocking anyone, and we have a lot of ground to make up... talking, making love, making plans. Especially making love. Plans can wait a while. Where else would I find a woman who does not run screaming from me when she sees the oh-so-eager present I have for her.”
She laughed and snuggled closer to him.
“I never did run from you because of that. If anything, it mesmerized me, drew me to you... after a few seconds of a difficult start.
“Yes, my love.
“I hope you won’t be shocked, Steve, when I tell you again that I shall expect you to marry me, now that we are together at last. I think that was always the plan.”
“It was for me too. We did marry, if you remember, and I know you do remember that little ceremony, but that was only a temporary thing to make us both feel better, and it did.”
He picked up her hand and kissed that makeshift ring on her finger.
She knew where that other one of his was, but she couldn’t get to it at that moment. She'd check it, later.
“Why don’t we get ourselves comfortable up there…" he pointed up onto the bed... "and we can talk the night away, telling each other about the last ten years, and we can continue making love and holding each other close. Your father will likely be home tomorrow.”
And what a surprise this would be for him when he found out what would be going on under his nose, in his own house, with his only daughter, and with no hope of it stopping.