Peggy started getting the letters a few weeks after that awful Thanksgiving. She thought it was a bit strange that she would receive an envelope with the SC&P logo addressed to her own home, but she just assumed it was the formal letter confirming her promotion to assistant director of creative at the firm. She transitioned quite easily to the new position (and the generous pay raise), taking over most of Don's old accounts. She didn't even mind that the partners had brought in another man, Lou Avery, to be the director of creative. They got along quite well: he did his work, she did hers, one never finalized anything without the other, and they got things done. She didn't know him well, and he did not express any desire to get to know her on a personal level. He treated her as another executive at a busy Madison Avenue advertising agency, and she liked that just fine.
Peggy opened the envelope, thinking about where she could put up the framed letter in her apartment, just to remind herself that her career success was all real. She glanced at the page, and her stomach lurched when she saw the familiar scrawl.
I had to write to you because I really regret how we left things between us. I'm 3000 miles away from you, and yet I think about you every day, about what we both want but can't have. It's been very tough for me to get settled in her in California, not knowing whether you could forgive me for leaving.
I know I hurt you, but I hope you understand that I did what I thought was best for you and me. I really, really want to be with you, but I can't destroy my family, and I can't stand the thought of other people thinking of you as the home wrecker. You have such a good heart – that's one of the reasons why I fell in love with you. And I know that deep down, you wouldn't want me to ruin those lives, especially the boys.
I love you so much, and no amount of distance can ever change that. My heart aches so much, being away from you, but trust me – it's better this way. Think about it – now that I'm in California, you've finally gotten the real promotion you deserve, and no one can accuse you of having slept your way to your success. Your career can really flourish, without you having to live in my shadow. That's a nice silver lining, isn't it?
Please, Peggy, I hope that you can forgive me, and find some love in your heart for me.
"Go to Hell, Ted Chaough," Peggy growled, tearing up the page into tiny pieces. Ted's betray stung, and for a few days after Ted left, she had berated herself for ever believing that things might work out with her former boss. But, as with every other setback in her love life, she soon pushed aside the hurt and devoted all her energy to her work. With her new responsibilities at the firm she was too busy to dwell on the damage Ted inflicted on her. Now, with one simple sheet of paper, Ted brought back all the feelings of hurt, betrayal and anger.
Peggy stomped across the living room to her liquor cabinet, yanking her bottle of whiskey out and slamming the cabinet door shut. She poured herself a glass and drank it in one single gulp. Her chest heaving from breathing so rapidly, she grabbed her phone and dialed. She barely heard a ringtone before the call was picked up.
"Nan, I told you I was working late today," Peggy heard Ted's exasperated voice on the other end of the line. "The more you call, the longer it's going to take for me to come home."
Peggy tightened her grip on the receiver. "How DARE you!" she shouted, hands trembling.
"Peggy?" Ted's voice sounded like a whimper.
"Are you that stupid to think that a LETTER would somehow magically make me feel better? Huh?" Peggy hissed.
"Listen, I thought-"
"No, YOU listen," Peggy interrupted. "Don't you dare pull that righteous martyr bullshit on me, and don't you dare guilt trip me into accepting your so-called apology or forgiving you, because I can see right through it all."
"Please Peggy, I love you. You know I didn't want to hurt you. Can't you hear me out?" Ted quivered.
"Shut up!" Peggy said emphatically. "You don't get to pin this back on me, and you don't get to take the moral high ground. Not when you're the one who kissed me in the office. You're the one who decided to wait at my doorstep when you should have been home. You're the one who decided that your marriage wasn't working, and you're the one who decided to leave your wife before you had really thought things through. You're one who decided to run away instead of face the consequences. Don was right about you. You're not that virtuous, you're just a coward. I'm tired of you making decisions for me and then leaving me to deal with it. You know what? I've decided that I'm done with you forever, and someday, you'll be glad I made this decision. Deal with it." Before Ted could even respond, she slammed the phone down and pulled the phone cord out of the wall.
Peggy collapsed onto the couch in her living room, hot tears streaming down her eyes. This was the first time she cried after learning about Ted's departure, the first time she had really let herself feel the full brunt of her own anguish, and it felt oddly cathartic. She picked up her orange tabby cat and nuzzled her chin against his head.
"Oh, Zeus," Peggy whispered, "You're the only man I need in my life."