by Hadley Stevens
“I’ve carried three secrets for nearly all my eighty-five years. The first would have lost me my home. The second would have lost me my children. The third, well, the third would simply have lost me my life.”
Pouring tea, she smiled.
“They don’t hang many women this far north, Mr. Andrews, especially ones so fair skinned as myself. I’m sure they would have made an exception for me.”
The young reporter shifted in his chair. “Can you tell me?”
“Most of it hardly matters anymore.” And time was almost up. “Are you married, Mr. Andrews?”
He could see this would be a puzzle then. “Yes. Ten years.”
“And do you love her?”
She looked out the window. Light was fading. “It will be hard for you to imagine, then.”
She hadn’t realized she’d said the words aloud, but she met his gaze. “To have to choose.”
“Your children, or your spouse.”
“And did you?” he asked. “Have to choose?”
“Mmm.” The sound was neither a denial nor an acknowledgement. “Do you like chocolates, Mr. Andrews?”
Patience was difficult. “My wife has a taste for the sweets.”
“Then you must take her this box.” She held it out. “As a gift. Please.”
Andrews walked the narrow lane. He didn’t hear the footsteps approach, or feel the blade as it sliced. The box tumbled when he hit the ground, his eyes dead as the man reached down to gather what lie in the thistle.