Her foot slipped and she started to fall, just when Paul held her by the arms and helped her stand straight.
As always when she saw Paul, Emma was conscious of a slightly giddy feeling. A feeling that it was incumbent upon her to be very matter of fact and unemotional. Because it was so obvious that even though Paul loved her, he didn’t love her the way she did. Just seeing him did something to her, twisted her heart round. Strange how a man, an ordinary man, should be able to do that to someone. That just the look of him should set the world spinning, that his voice should make you want, just a little, to cry. Love should be a pleasurable emotion, not something that hurts you to such intensity.
Paul is a 28 year old, 6 Ft. and 2 inches tall guy, who had smokey grey eyes and bleached blonde hair. He is loyal and forthright but can be outspoken at times. One thing about him was clear; he did not like devotion and extra adoration. So Emma was very careful not to be off hand and casual about it all.
Paul said, “Someone’s a little out of place today. What’s wrong darling?”
Emma pushed her hair behind her ears and stood in her place and moved her hands towards a piece of paper. “A note, someone sent me a note. It’s all misspell and ill-written, on a cheap pink paper.
I just… I don’t get it,” she blabbered as she continued to move her leg back and forth, proving how hesitant and unpleasant this note made her feel.
“Maybe I should just burn it,” she added.
Paul’s brows went up. His fastidious face stiffened.
“Hand it to me?”
Emma took a step back towards her desk and handed the letter to him.
Emma, this is to warn u to keep your hands off what’s mine. Back off while u have time and be kareful while everything u ever owned will be sucked out of u.
He handed it back to Emma with a frown of distaste.
“Yes! Definitely to be burnt!”
“Do you think one of the servants is just trying to mess with me?”
“I suppose. No one else is coming to my mind,” he answered, rather hesitantly. Similar notes have been showing up at Emma’s doorstep for weeks now. This is the first time Emma showed one to Paul, she did not want to bother with him such things. He had his own set of things to worry about — work and obviously their engagement.
“If you ever receive any more of these stupid notes you must let me know”. Paul said as his hands reached for the beeping phone and he walked towards the balcony.
“Yes, I’ll be there.”
“Honey, I gotta run. Don’t let these bug you, okay?
“Zack needs me at the office, I’ll meet you in the evening,” he said as he kissed her on her forehead and rushed to the door.
Emma fell back to the chair. She opened the first top drawer of her study desk and brought up a bunch of small similar pink colored papers. All read the same thing, “Back off while you have still have time”, “Leave what’s not yours”. With the date of the wedding coming up so close, Emma didn’t want to occupy her mind with stuff like this. She just closed the drawer shut and walked away.
Paul loved the countryside, that’s why he brought Emma here. He wondered if he and Emma would live here one day. He would like that since he preferred country life. He was not quite sure about Emma though, it was difficult to know what she wanted. She did not reveal much of what she thought — that’s what Paul loved the most about her. Reserve is always more interesting.
After work Paul wandered into the garden. Thinking about the day he met Maria, the girl who lived right beside the cottage. How his eyes suddenly met a girl who stood there with a posture of a model, emerald eyes which shone from a distance, long champagne blond hair fell till her shoulders into curls.
“Are you new here?” the girl asked.
“Uh,” trying to push away his thoughts, he answered, “No. My aunt used to live here. I used to spend my summers here. I’m here for my engagement now.”
“So, you’re Miss Nicholas’s nephew? You know how word spreads around a small town,” she said with her eyes fixed on the flowers she was watering.
“And you are?” Paul asked with much eager.
“Maria Johansson, I live next to that little cottage of yours,” she said as she chuckled.
“Oh my god, I remember you! Back when I was probably 10 or 11, when we used to play in the backyard, you had a lot of messy fair hair, all legs and arms. You turned out to be quite (he paused) different,” he added.
Maria just gave a smile and said, “Well I’ll go now, it was nice meeting you.”
Paul had to clear his thoughts, this was not right. This Maria girl would spoil all his plans. He was supposed to marry the perfect girl — Emma, nice to look at, witty, daughter of his dad’s best friend, everything was going as per his plan. Having anything come between their marriages would ruin their reputation. Thinking about her this way would do him no good. This was not him; he is the loyal guy — the one who always listened to his father, who would be the perfect husband for Emma. With no further thinking Paul rushed towards their cottage.
Before entering he noticed the cottage next to theirs. This is where Maria lives, he thought to himself. His eyes suddenly caught a young man entering into her house. Maria came out and greeted him with a kiss. “She has a boyfriend,” he said to himself.
Days passed, Paul and Emma got engaged. Emma went back to the city for work. And here Paul and Maria would meet every day by the garden and talk about how summer is the worst season because of all the heat and no new flowers, according to Maria. Which Paul argued with saying, summer is the best season since that’s when his hotel business was the most successful. They’d laugh at silly things, and seeing her would make him feel complete. Maria was still with her boyfriend, and Paul was still engaged to Emma. He believed calling off the engagement wouldn’t hurt Emma, he thought Emma was probably doing this for the sake of her family, just like him.
Then the day came, the day when Emma found out about Paul’s affair. She just arrived from the city to their cottage, she wanted to surprise him. Paul wasn’t home when she reached, but the letters were. The letters Maria wrote to him, love letters. She fell to the ground, crying.
One of the letters read:
“Dave is starting to suspect me, we should end this, you should go back to your Emma. I should go back to my normal life.”
Emma returned back to the city the next day, right after Paul called off their engagement.
She hated Maria for ruining her perfect life, with the love of her life. Maria had no right to suddenly come in and take Paul away from her, she hated her. This woman must have been the one sending those notes, “stay away from what’s mine”, she believed Paul was hers.
The next day’s paper’s headline read “Girl murdered at her own cottage.” Maria Johansson was killed and the only person who looked guilty was Emma Becker. Everyone in the town was talking, everyone believed only she had the motive — jealousy. Emma was not the kind of girl who would go and shoot someone. Sure, she had hated her, but murdering someone, no that was not like Emma.
The Becker family hired Conrad Evans, the best defense attorney in California. Mr. Evans sat on his chair and looked at the pictures from the crime scene, how can so much blood come from one body? The holes in her skin told of a messy end. That’s what a bullet to the brain would do, though she was dead after the second shot. The other 11 had been pointless.
The case went on for fifteen days. Where, in seven days, the prime suspect shifted from Emma Becket to Dave — Maria’s boyfriend. Whose motive was visible after the letters were shown, he killed Maria off because he found out she was cheating on him at least that was their theory. Mr. Evans plan was to somehow put this theory in front of the jury and take Emma off the hook.
At the final day of the trial, with Emma standing beside Conrad Evans, the judge asks “Emma Becker, you stand charged upon this indictment with the murder of Maria Johansson. Are you guilty or not guilty?” After a long pause right before Emma starts speaking — a voice interrupts. The whole courtroom’s eye moved from Emma to a sad eyed man who seemed to have not shaved for days — it was Paul. This was his way of mourning for Maria apparently.
“I know I didn’t love you or treat you right. Em, but I can’t see you get punished for something you didn’t do.”
“Take the stand and take an oath before you say anything,” the judge said.
Before Paul pleaded guilty for the murder of Maria he also admitted he had been sending those notes himself to Emma — to scare her off, and the reason he shot Maria mercilessly was rage. He could not accept that Maria would not break up with Dave when he went on and called off his engagement.
Leaving the whole courtroom in shock, Paul left with both of his hands handcuffed.