Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

“No explanation needed,” she said, “but you will never do this again. I, too, have a personal life, Hannah. We all do. Personal struggles do not entitle us to shirk responsibility.”


I straightened my back. “I understand. Thank you.”


“And Matthew Sky is my client,” she went on. “Will this be a conflict?”


“No.” I shook my head hastily.


“Did you know he was alive?” Pam’s shrewd eyes narrowed.


“No.” Yes. But I couldn’t dispute the story Matt told the papers. He wanted to take the fall alone. “I only found out when he showed up at the condo. I … moved out.”


I chewed my lip while Pam digested my lie.


“Smart girl,” she said. “He’s absolutely insane. Absolutely.”


“Are you going to drop him?”


I held my breath.


Pam’s brassy laughter filled the office.


“Drop him? Please, Hannah. I think his little cult following tripled in light of this stunt. Americans love their deranged artists. I could almost kiss him, if I weren’t so furious.”


I waited for Pam to say more. I wanted to hear why she was furious: because she missed Matt, because she’d grieved for him, because she loved him, in her way.


Matt and Pam never said that, though. They refused to acknowledge any feelings for one another. She’s a shark, said Matt. He’s insane, said Pam. But together, they were almost like family, and I envied their closeness.


“At any rate,” Pam said, “you have a lot of catching up to do.”


I know a Pam Wing dismissal when I hear it. I nodded and moved toward my office, but Pam spoke again as I reached the door.


“Ah, speaking of Matthew—he’s scheduled to appear on the Denver Buzz in May. May fourteenth. Gail made a special opening for him.”


I tried to picture Matt surviving a major talk show, and I felt a fierce, reflexive protectiveness. Leave him alone.


“Great,” I said. “That’ll be invaluable exposure for him.”


“Yes, exactly. We chatted about it this morning. I’ve e-mailed you his talking points, and I need those on index cards by the end of the day. He’ll pick them up tomorrow.”


“Sure. Of course.” I thought about Matt saying he had things to do, and I knew he was lying. Pretending he had a life outside of his writing. “I … still have a key to our mailbox at the condo, actually.” I made my voice indifferent. “I could drop them off tonight.”


“Even better,” Pam said.




I left work at seven thirty.


I could have spent another hour in my office—I was way behind—but I wanted to catch Matt when he came down to check the mail. An ambush. I needed to see him again.


I drove to the complex and let myself into the lobby, which was quiet and smelled of linoleum. For twenty minutes, I dawdled by the wall of mailboxes. I jingled my keys and paced.


Ideally, Matt would find me here, as if we met coincidentally the moment I entered the lobby. Better than Matt finding me opening his mailbox. If this was still his mailbox. What if he’d moved out? God, he probably moved out. Or maybe he’d already checked the mail.


Maybe. What-if. So many possibilities.


I wiggled the mailbox key into the lock on box seven.


I tapped the packet of index cards against my thigh.


The longer I waited for Matt, the more miserable I felt, because I couldn’t remember the simplest details of his routine. When he picked up the mail. When he ate dinner or worked out.


And I wanted to know those things.


I wanted to forgive him and be his little bird, but I’d alienated him completely with my lie about Seth. Then, to make matters worse, I went ahead and hooked up with Seth.


God, what had I done?


With a whimper, I wrenched open the mailbox.


A small voice in the back of my head reminded me that tampering with mail is a federal crime. I almost laughed. It would serve me right, ending up in court for this.


I flipped through Matt’s mail without removing it from the box. Okay, he still lived here. He had two bills, a book of coupons, the latest issue of Poetry magazine, and a padded manila envelope. I pinched the corner of the package and slid it out enough to read the return address.


My eyes didn’t get past the sender name: Melanie vanden Dries.


A chill rippled through me.


What in the actual fuck?


My propriety—and any concern for legality—vanished. I yanked the envelope from the mailbox and tore it open. Bubble padding snapped in the silence.


The package contained a marble composition book and a letter.


They’re keeping in touch. Matt and Melanie. Lovers. Of course. Of course!


I shook open the letter with unsteady hands.


Dear Mr. Sky,


Thank you so much for the opportunity to review LAST LIGHT. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your material, I’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for me. I wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.




Melanie vanden Dries (:


P.S. I bet you haven’t gotten a letter like this in a while. Keeping you humble, Mr. Sky.


My brow furrowed.


Again, I thought, What the fuck? Is this some kind of inside joke?


I slumped onto the ground, clutching the notebook. I felt sure that what I was about to read would break my heart—and I was right, as it turns out.