I sabelle was a woman I met later on in my life. It was an unusual circumstance. I got to know her through her sister Miss Jean, who lived in town up the road a bit from my house. Miss Jean would ask me to come by and write letters for her to Isabelle. Whenever she received a letter from her sister - sometimes two or more arrived together - I would sit and read them to her. Then I would listen to Miss Jean as she carefully spoke her words, and write a letter in return. After a while, I got to know Isabelle from the letters the sisters shared. She seemed like a fine woman. She was caring of her family. She was educated. And for me she held a certain mystery. I felt something weaving itself between the words of her letters. I didn't know what it was, but I felt it had meaning for me and my life.
Even though Miss Jean told me what to write, I made the letters even longer. I added bits of news about the weather or the town or what Miss Jean did over that week. This gave me more time to be in a place where I was something other than a washwoman. As the letters came and went, I began putting bits of myself into them, too. I was curious about Isabelle and hoped she would be a little curious about me. Usually, at the end of each letter, she would write a short note thanking me for being such a help to her sister.
One day though, and it took me by surprise, Isabelle started her letter with a question about me. Well, I'll tell you, nothing compared to the excitement that greeting brought to my heart. Of course, when I saw my name in the first sentence I tried not to show my jitters. I was afraid Miss Jean might take offense at being second in line. So, I fiddled with my glasses and fidgeted in the chair as if I was trying to get comfortable. All the while I was silently reading the part of the letter that was meant for me. It wasn't much. Just a few sentences. But in a way it was more than any man or woman had ever said to me. And it wasn't anything about my washing abilities. Miss Jean finally asked me what the holdup was so I told her my eyeglasses needed cleaning, and I pulled out my cloth and gave them a good rub to satisfy her. All the while I was smiling wider than I knew I could.
By this time I was pretty well known for being able to get even the deepest, most stubborn stains out of cloth. Sometimes I used secret formulas that somehow invented themselves as I needed them. One day though, I was frustrated by a spot the size of a fist in a pair of trousers I was laundering. It looked like blood. I could usually get rid of blood without a problem, but this stain just would not budge. Maybe it was real old blood that just refused to let go its hold, but there was no way of telling. In our town, no one ever asked what caused a spot of blood to appear on clothing. No one wanted to know the answer. I think they were afraid of it. So anyway, not knowing what I was trying to get rid of, I just kept at it. After trying a few different concoctions, I finally did manage to get most of that stubborn stain out. But that's a different story. I wanted to tell you about Lady Isabelle and what she wrote. I started calling her Lady Isabelle that day after I read her letter.
"Dear Hattie," she wrote. "I know little about you, but I believe in my intuition. My intuition tells me that you, my dear, are a gifted woman. Has anyone ever told you that? This sense I have about you comes through in the style of your penmanship. I hope that one day we have an opportunity to meet."
Sadly, the joy I felt from reading this was short-lived. The letter I wrote that day was the last letter I ever wrote for Miss Jean. Two weeks later, a drifter passing through our town invaded Miss Jean's home and killed her. He did not rob her. He did not rape her. He did not beat her. He just killed her. Slit