The Letter

Brianna Hill


Setting: Father’s study. The walls are lined with bookcases of law books and everything is in immaculate condition. There is a large wooden desk in the middle of the room. Filing cabinets line the wall SR of the desk and there is a closet SL of the desk.

At Rise: MOTHER is walking around the study looking at the room in its entirety. She has never been in here for more than a minute without her husband. She calls offstage.

MOTHER

Charlotte, get in here.

(CHARLOTTE enters from DSR)

CHARLOTTE

Do we have to now? He just died. And personally I wouldn’t want you to go through all my personal possessions. For one, you might get scared.

MOTHER

(Sternly)

That’s enough. Now, we have to get this done before the house goes on the market.  

CHARLOTTE

I still can’t believe you’re selling the house. It’s been in Dad’s family for centuries. Is everything okay?

MOTHER

Everything is fine. Now go through that filing cabinet. I’ll check out the closet. The lawyers have already had the legal documents from when you were first born, but your father loved hiding things. (Beat) The lawyers encourage that we see if your father left anything more recent.

CHARLOTTE

(Hears the bite in MOTHER’s tone but pushes it aside)

We could make a game out of it. What kind of kink was Dad into? (Puts her hand in the filing cabinet like she’s digging)

Survey says: Case Studies! So Hot! 

MOTHER

Now I will not have you talk about him like that! If you can’t be respectful towards your father for once, then just leave me to this!

CHARLOTTE

I’m sorry, Mom.

MOTHER

(Beat)

How’s your family?

CHARLOTTE

We are well…

CHARLOTTE (cont.)

Bradley had his first steps a couple months back! And Leslie is doing well at the Studio. That woman is amazing with any medium.

MOTHER

That’s great.

(Beat)

CHARLOTTE

And my writing is doing well. I’ve still got the deal with Hallmark, and with Christmas in a couple of months, I’m staying busy.

MOTHER

(Pause)

We haven’t talked for a couple of months?

CHARLOTTE

I don’t think so. You’re always so busy with your Women’s Tea and all your other events. Your face has a permanent “Really, and how are the kids?” look to it. You’ve always been so good at those things.

MOTHER

I’m going to ignore that statement.

CHARLOTTE

Well Mom, it’s true! You are always so pristine and poised. Have you ever let loose?

MOTHER

Of course I have. You know I was a human being before your father.

CHARLOTTE

Mom, stealing panties from the Macy’s doesn’t count. That’s right of passage for any teenage girl.

MOTHER

You stole underwear?

CHARLOTTE

That’s beside the point.

MOTHER

Then what is your point?

CHARLOTTE

My point is that…. In all the 26 years of knowing you, studying you, and at one point trying to be you, I have never heard a dirty story or about any past lovers! So, tell me something to help the time past! What is the naughtiest shit, I mean act… That you’ve ever done.

MOTHER

I don’t think I should be talking about this here!

CHARLOTTE

MOM! Please let go for me! Just talk. God, you understand that I’ve never talked to you about sex, right? You took me to a therapist when it was time to talk about the birds and the bees. And having that conversation when you’re a lesbian is already awkward. (encouraging) Just let go.

MOTHER

Naughtiest shit, huh?

CHARLOTTE

(Smiles)

Yes. Naughtiest shit!  

MOTHER

Well I don’t know much about naughty, but did I ever tell you about when I played the tables. It was ages ago, but it got me through college.

CHARLOTTE

You “Played the tables?” There’s no way! I’ve tried to get you to play spades and you said something along the lines of “A lady doesn’t show she can play until after she’s already won.” I just thought you were off your meds again.

MOTHER

Again, I’m going to ignore that last statement. But yes, a couple of boys thought it would be fun to play a game of strip poker one night. Let’s just say I left with my clothes on and they left with nothing. That sparked my love for making men sweat by lifting just a finger.

(MOTHER moves to desk and starts opening drawers.)

MOTHER (cont.)

I’m scared to ask, but how about you, Charlotte?

CHARLOTTE

What about me?

MOTHER

What is the naughtiest thing you’ve done? What, Lesbian orgies or (Hesitantly) those plugs?

(She indicates to her derrière)

CHARLOTTE

Um, no. I don’t like foreign objects up my butt. Wrong kind of gay, Mom (laughs at her own joke)

CHARLOTTE (cont.)

The naughtiest thing I’ve done… was with Henry. You remember Henry, don’t you? It wasn’t sexual, it was personal.

MOTHER

What did you do to the poor man? One day you two were happy and we thought there’d be wedding bells in your future, but then everything just ended. We later found out that you’re gay but we never understood why his parents dragged him from John Hopkins.

CHARLOTTE

Yeah, that was my fault.

MOTHER

What did you do?

CHARLOTTE

I didn’t mean for him to have to transfer!

MOTHER

What. Did. You. Do?

CHARLOTTE

I was tired of being his beard. Okay?! Always having to dress up for those God awful functions, with those stuck-up boring ass people, pretending that I was in love with a man, knowing damn well, that we both wanted other people!

MOTHER

Charlotte?!

CHARLOTTE

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t take it anymore.

MOTHER

How does that have to do with him transferring school?! And for heaven’s sake, what is a beard?!

CHARLOTTE

We were gay!!!

(CHARLOTTE takes folder from the file cabinet and throws it)

We are gay.

(She collects herself while MOTHER sits in shock.)

CHARLOTTE (cont.)

A beard is someone who plays the heterosexual partner, so that no one is suspected of anything. They play the part, do the dance, and in the end it’s supposed to end before it all gets out of hand. But then I overheard his parents talking about marriage and I freaked out. How could we have let that façade get so out of hand! It was completely exhausting acting as if everything was cool waters while my soul was screaming bloody murder! Being the trust fund baby that he is, Henry didn’t care about how I was feeling, as long as he could still get off with his boyfriend and keep his money.

MOTHER

So, what did you do?

CHARLOTTE

I gently guided Henry’s parents to the room where I knew he and his boyfriend would be. I didn’t think that his parents would go as far as take him out of school and send him away to a conversion camp. I just wanted to be free of the disguise. I just wanted to be myself and not groomed to be another trophy wife.

(CHARLOTTE is quiet. MOTHER goes over and hugs CHARLOTTE)

MOTHER

I’m sorry.

CHARLOTTE

What?!

MOTHER

I’m sorry. I’ve never wanted to put this much pressure on you. I just wanted you to be accepted in the world and not have to worry about your future. Would it have been that bad to be a politician’s wife? I did it for 30 years.

CHARLOTTE

It’s not what I wanted. My family is what I want.

(MOTHER kisses CHARLOTTE on the forehead.)

MOTHER

I understand.

(MOTHER goes over to the fallen papers, picks them up, and goes to put them back in the file cabinet. She notices that an envelope is taped to the bottom of the drawer. It has her name on it. CHARLOTTE goes over to her.)

CHARLOTTE

What is that?

MOTHER

I don’t know but it’s your father’s handwriting.

CHARLOTTE

Open it.

(MOTHER opens the letter.)

CHARLOTTE (cont.)

Well? What does it say?

MOTHER

That son of a bitch.

CHARLOTTE

What?

MOTHER

THAT SON OF A BITCH!!!

CHARLOTTE

Mom?! You’re scaring me!

(CHARLOTTE snatches the letter out of MOTHER’s hands. MOTHER stands there in shock.)

CHARLOTTE

Holy shit.

MOTHER

He can’t do that to me! He can’t! I’ve been married with him for 30 years! I have had to deal with his old wrinkly ass for the 30 years! I’ve had to do the unthinkable for him for 30 years! This can’t be happening. NO. This just can’t!

CHARLOTTE

What do we do with this kind of letter? Would the lawyers consider this a new Will?

MOTHER

I DON’T KNOW! (Panic) I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

CHARLOTTE

Mother, please calm down. I’m sure you could keep the Colorado house. And you probably have enough money stored away to live frugally but comfortably. I just don’t understand why Dad would do this to you?!

MOTHER

I HAVE NOTHING.

CHARLOTTE

Mom, that’s not true! You have me and my family!...

MOTHER

You don’t understand. I have nothing. No savings. Nothing stashed away. No deposit boxes. Nothing.

CHARLOTTE

How? That doesn’t make sense.

MOTHER

(She frantically looks through the letter again to confirm what she just read.)

(To herself) Only your father would come out after he died. Coward.

CHARLOTTE

No worries, you can come stay with me!

MOTHER

I have to go, right now.

CHARLOTTE

Mom, that’s not happening!

MOTHER

I never stopped gambling, Charlotte! I never stopped! I am so in the hole right now; I can’t breathe! I’m always looking over my shoulder.

CHARLOTTE

What?

MOTHER

I had everything under control. I had an exclusive club that I would visit, but only once a month. Learned how to gamble with everything; tables, cards, sport, the works. It was incredible. Some months went great, while others cost me a pretty penny, but for the most part, it evened out. Well the older I got, the harder it was for me to keep up with the game. Debts started piling up and after everything I had was gone, I had to turn to your father for help. He was the only one who knew how much I owed and we agreed that maybe it would be best for him to pay of my debts off with the assets that we had left and I’d stop gambling. That was a year ago. Your father started to resent me. Pushing me away. I figured it was because of the money, so I reached out and found a bookie that would take my bet. One last bet that would set us up for life. Obviously that didn’t go as planned. And just like that, I was in the hole for $5 million dollars.

CHARLOTTE

(Flabbergasted) Mom…  

MOTHER

Your father’s accident was an incredible miracle. (Beat) Don’t look at me like that, I’m heartbroken that your father is gone, but they started threatening your life, Charlotte. I had no means to pay them and I knew your father would never consider selling the house. He didn’t love me enough for that. I basically already promised them that I’d have the money once the house sells.

CHARLOTTE

Mom…

MOTHER

How was I supposed to know that your father wanted to give the house to his lover?

(Looks at letter again)

Paolo? Really?

(MOTHER laughs to herself. She walks over to CHARLOTTE and hugs her tight)

MOTHER (cont.)

At least I got to see you one last time.

CHARLOTTE

Mother, why are you talking as if you’re gonna die? There has to be something else we can do! Go to the Police, maybe?

MOTHER

And what are they going to do? No crime has been committed.

(Beat.)

CHARLOTTE

Then we burn the letter.

MOTHER

What?

CHARLOTTE

If this, Paolo, knew that he was getting the house, don’t you think he would have said something by now?

MOTHER

But I…

(CHARLOTTE snatches the letter out of MOTHER’s hand and throws it in the fireplace.)

CHARLOTTE

There’s no way I’m going to let you die. Especially since we’re just getting to know each other.

(CHARLOTTE embraces MOTHER. Blackout.)