“It’s not right. Not fair!” Collette Haben slammed the hand-tied pink bouquet on the closed piano-forte in a flurry of petals and leaves. “It’s not. It’s not. It’s not!”
George, her husband and most frequent sparring partner, pressed two fingers between his eyes, grimacing like he always did. “Dear-”
“My Dear,” he began reaching for her, but she backed away, hands on her hips, indignance at its best. “You know I agree with you,” he tried anyway.
She scoffed, shaking her head at some imaginary spot in the corner between the plaster walls and newly refinished ceiling.
But he still pressed on. “I am as disgusted by this as you are. You know that.” Though he screamed his plea at her, his voice was a barely audible whisper.
She kept shaking her head, but yet, her chin puckered.
“Surely you must know that.” With smooth strides, he conquered the distance between them. His fingertips had barely come into contact with the skin of her elbow before they were interrupted.
“All done here!” The man was short and squat, with shiny black boots that no matter how they sparkled, could never outshine his bald, pink head. “Thank you for your time Mr. Haben. I hope this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.”
Collette couldn’t help but chortle. Just once.
“My apologies, Ma’am,” he bowed his cherry head, even as he walked the long corridor with a brown box balanced between his hands. It was practically bursting at the seams with all the files and papers he’d pulled form their home-office. “I can see you have a lovely day planned.”
His beady little eyes looked her up and down, and she had to swallow the urge to spit on him. Or slap him.
George draped an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “No apologies necessary. As I said to your boss, we have nothing to hide.”
As if on cue, three more shiny-shoed minions appeared in the hall, each carrying their own box and before Collette could bore a hole in their heads simply through glares and strength of will alone, George showed them to the door.
With the deadbolt clicking in place behind them, it took everything Collette had to keep her feet glued to that floor until they could be certain the men had left. Moments took an eternity to pass, but eventually, they were in the clear.
Just one peak in the office, and the duo let out a simultaneous breath of relief. The desk was unmoved, the panel in the floor undisturbed, and that?
That was everything.
It meant they were all still undiscovered. All of them. Anonymous. Undisturbed.
For it was the loose panel in the floorboards that held the secrets so many police officers, politicians, doctors, lawyers… an endless list really, were after. It was those secretes they believed themselves entitled to. For you see, concealed within those four panels of wood was a list.
A very special list.
It boasted the new names and contact information for innocent, honest women and children seeking a new start. A new life. It was also a contact list of all those who either had, or were willing, to help them along that journey.
In this day and age, society had decided women were simply to take angry or drunk punches and then go about their day, a smile plastered on their face. Battered women and children had few friendly doorsteps to turn up upon. But the Haben doorstep? That would always be a safe haven, no matter how fake a smile the Habens wore, all to ensure those victims could smile freely again.
So, Collette fixed her flowers. She straightened the band in her hair. And she walked arm and arm with the kindest, bravest man she knew as they headed to their photoshoot.
Of course, this wasn’t your typical photoshoot. No. You see this? This photographer was married to a lovely young woman named Gloria. Gloria’s sister had recently visited the Habens and told of a once jubilant little sister who had been beaten within an inch of her life dozens of times in the past few years.
A story, about a photographer’s wife, who needed some light shone back into her life.
* * * Note: if you are interested in buying the original photograph, please visit Mr. and Mrs Haben – Flappers and their secrets | Etsy Once sold, the instant short story and use of photograph in short story will remain unchanged.