Five Nonthreatening Letters

Submitted into Contest #2 in response to: Write a story in which someone experiences discrimination.... view prompt



The first letter was addressed to Phoebe’s boss. The second letter was addressed to Anna’s boss. The third letter was addressed to Pheobe.

The first letter was typed on plain white printer paper in Times New Roman, font size 12. The second letter was written neatly in blue pen on stationary, evenly spaced with perfect grammar. The third letter was hastily and crudely scrawled in green crayon onto a piece of lined paper, the left side still jagged from being ripped out of a notebook instead of torn on the perforated line.

Phoebe and Anna agreed that the third letter was the scariest, although none of them had any direct threats in them. Phoebe thought the third letter might even be from a different person than the first two, but Anna disagreed. 

The first letter was planned. The second letter was precise. The third letter was passionate. 

All three said more or less the same thing. That Phoebe and Anna both deserved to be fired from their jobs for living an impure life. That Phoebe was living a lie and needed to pick a side. That both girls were dirty and unloyal and couldn’t be trusted. 

The police wouldn’t help. They said they couldn’t because no threat was being made. 

“But this letter says that this person follows me,” Phoebe said for the third time, pointing at the letter written in crayon. “That seems like a threat.”

“I’m sure they mean on social media.” The policeman had been polite and kind the entire time, but he still refused to file a police report. The woman sitting at his side had not said a word the entire time, although she had read over all three letters. 

“Can’t that count as a threat so that we can file a police report?” The policeman shook his head lethargically. Phoebe felt jittery. The man whose help she required looked like he was falling asleep. Phoebe took a deep breath but did not speak. This was the third police station she had been to in 72 hours, hoping someone would help but they all said the same thing, more or less.

Not threatening. 

Not threatening enough. 

No real threat. 

She understood that none of the letters had not been explicitly malicious, not even this one. Anna did too. What neither of them could understand was why this anonymous person thought that neither of them deserved to have jobs, a salary or money for rent just because they loved each other.

“What does LGBT stand for?” the policeman asked, pointing at the return address on the third letter. Unlike the letter, it was written in pencil. The “G” was scribbled over another letter, as though the person who initially wrote it got the initialism wrong the first time but didn’t care enough to find an eraser. 

“I assume it stands for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual community.” The policeman nodded, writing that down in his notepad. 

“Do you know why it might say that?”

“I don’t know. I think the person is trying to say they’re a member of the community. Most people in the community would refer to it as something else though, even just LGBTQ to include queer and questioning.” The policeman looked confused. Phoebe felt confused, too. 

“Why would they want you to be fired?” Phoebe wanted to cry. She was sure the policeman knew why, but needed her to say it for reporting purposed. 

“Because I’m a woman dating another woman. I think the person who sent these is also upset because I have previously dated men.” The policeman wrote that down and looked up at her, expectantly. When he didn’t say anything else, Phoebe asked, “Is there anything else I can do?” 

He gestured to the spreadsheet she had made. It was named “Harassment Timeline” on her Google Drive account, but he didn’t know that. It dated each event that had occurred and linked to any information supporting her claims. It started on November 2, when the first letter was received, and ended on February 6, when Phoebe met with the Human Resources department at her office about being concerned for her safety. In between were the dates the other letters had been received, the dates of any email correspondence between Phoebe and HR and the dates, times and locations of the other two police stations they had visited. Scans of business cards from police officers they had talked to, lists of social media followers on private accounts and links to audio recordings of conversations with law enforcement officers were also included.

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s all you can do right now unless this escalates.” 

Phoebe knew better than to suggest that she seemed to be doing his job for him. She stood up, gathered her papers, thanked both the police officers and left. This was her last hope. Phoebe and Anna both accepted defeat. 

Two more letters came in over the next three months. They were both typed. Both were essentially copies of the other, with one using Phoebe’s name and the other using Anna’s. The police wouldn’t help then either, for the same reasoning. The letters did not have any threats in them, just words of malice and hatred.

The letters stopped in July of that year and neither Phoebe nor Anna ever received another one. They never learned who sent them. They never learned why one was written in crayon and addressed from “LGBT”. They never learned how the author of the letters had figured out where they worked or who their bosses were. They never learned why they stopped.

Years later, Phoebe still checked her mailbox daily, half expecting to see another letter. Sometimes, she hoped for another one. She had this idea in her head that another letter could give her some kind of closure or could give her a hint as to who did this and why. Maybe another letter would convince the police to get involved and they could finally have answers. 

The answers never came. 

August 12, 2019 21:25

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