The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

Nicola Moriarty's contemporary story of female friendships and the secrets and issues which lie beneath. Read on for the first chapter.

The Fifth Letter

I’ve betrayed my friends, I’ve judged my friends, I’ve pushed my friends to breaking point

‘Sometimes I felt a bit guilty about that. Like, I wondered if they were lonely. Or if they regretted giving us the choice. I mean, as much as I was starting to doubt the whole ‘existence-of-God thing’ – no offense – I did sometimes miss getting all dressed up and the whole family piling into the car together at twilight and the church would be warm and glowing and there would be those families that you only sort-of knew, because you only ever saw them once a week and if you ran into them anywhere else, they’d be completely out of context. And sometimes, Mum and Dad would take us to Pizza Hut for dinner afterward – and the best part of that was the all-you-can-eat dessert bar with the giant vat of chocolate mousse.

‘Sorry, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Anyway, the point is, I was going to talk to a psychologist. Or a psychiatrist. I never know what the difference is. But then I started ringing around, and they were all either booked out for weeks and weeks, or else they wanted me to go to my GP first and get a referral and get put on a mental health plan or whatever. And I couldn’t really waste that kind of time. Besides, you don’t cost anything, so that’s a bonus.’

‘Um, thank you?’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘Not to rush you, love, but did you have something you wanted to confess?’

Joni hesitated, thinking. How was she supposed to do this? Just come right out and start listing off her transgressions like a sinful shopping list?

I almost cheated on my husband.

I’ve compromised my own morals in my work.

I’ve betrayed my friends, I’ve judged my friends, I’ve pushed my friends to breaking point.

And now I don’t even recognize one of my friends anymore. I don’t even know who she is.

And if I’m honest, I guess I’ve been lying to myself as well.

‘Sort of. Well, yes, a few things, actually. It’s just hard to know exactly where to start, you know?’

‘I understand. Start at the beginning. My mother always said it’s a very good place to start.’

Joni snorted. ‘Did you seriously just say that?’ ‘Yeah, fair call. But come on, work with me here.’ ‘Okay, okay. The beginning. Well, I could start with

the girls’ holiday. But you sort of need to know the girls first – the dynamic. Otherwise, you won’t be able to help me figure it out.’

‘Figure what out?’

‘Figure out who wrote the fifth letter. The point is, Father . . . I’m not the only one who’s sinned.’

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