At 1.51am on Monday 2 July, the woman finished the seventh of the letters that marked the end of her life. She sat at her writing desk in an apartment that overlooked Tokyo, her waist-length black hair providing amusement for her thin black cat, Suki.
The shadowy apartment crept with shy sounds; the washing machine finishing a rinse cycle of her partner’s white work shirts. Suki’s diligent licking of her paw, tongue pulling roughly at her fur. The woman’s sobbing which, although conducted by her entire body, could seem as though she was merely sniffling through a cold.
Suki made a figure of eight around the desk chair leg, then neatly occupied her original position.
The woman sealed the final envelope, ironing it smooth with one fist. She placed the seven gold envelopes in a row on her writing desk. All but one was addressed in an elegant, slanted script. The woman pushed the tears from her cheeks, smiled and sighed. She turned in her seat, one strap of her bamboo-coloured nightgown slipping from a too-thin shoulder. She had been trying to eat more recently. The woman tickled Suki’s whiskers. The black cat pushed her face at the woman’s slender fingers.
‘Hello, little girl.’
The woman picked up the animal, held her to her chest and padded across the landing to the bedroom. Letting Suki down, the woman stepped into the legs of a pair of jeans, fastening the button across a stomach still etched with pink scars. She pulled on a cream sweater and flat shoes. Taking six of the seven letters, the woman crouched to kiss Suki’s cool nose before exiting the apartment.
Outside the air conditioned apartment, the weather was humid. Her skin grew clammy, but she breathed in the air as though she could sense the onset of Spring. She smiled and nodded at the little door man, whose face looked like he was permanently sneezing, and walked the block to the convenience store. She mailed the six of the seven letters, just one through internal mail, the remainder via the international slot, and then returned to the apartment. Nodding again at the doorman.
The seventh letter she hid somewhere only she would think to look. She texted a kiss to her partner, knowing that in his timezone he would already be in the middle of an eight hour sleep. He would find it in the morning and smile. Perhaps it would ease his recent doubts. She responded to an email from her mother, asking about her father’s recurring migraines, and making a vague arrangement to try and fly home for his seventieth that summer. Finally, she resent an invoice to an old client who was always late with payment and did not mind the prompting.
The woman settled into the firm, high bed and took her usual sleeping pill. As her partner would testify, such was the woman’s difficulty around sleeping, the pill was not always helpful. But that night, she slept easily. It was the best few hours sleep she had ever had in her entire life.
At 4.53am, someone let themselves into the woman’s apartment. They crept towards the bedroom, nudged Suki aside who had jumped from the bed to say hello. The woman stirred at the cat’s thud, but the person continued forward. They removed a plastic bottle of mineral water from their coat. The water looked murky.
The police would later find Suki licking vomit from the woman’s slack mouth. The finished bottle of mineral water would be stood on the woman’s bedside table, together with ten packets of English paracetamol. The metallic packets would all be opened, with only her fingerprints upon them. After a thorough investigation, the verdict, seemingly corroborated by the autopsy and the six letters the woman posted hours before her death, would be suicide.
The seventh note sat in a secret place, just waiting to be found.