Regret is a funny thing. Some days it flows through every vein in my body. I feel it in me & I wear it like a sweater, hood up and all-consuming. Having just turned 25, I look back on the first half of my twenties and physically cringe at each decision I made that led me to move back into my childhood bedroom. The genesis being getting into a relationship at twenty-one with Eddie from history and ending with believing his, “It’s nothing. I don’t even know her,” when regarding suspicious emails between him and Theresa from Accounting. Having worked for the same company as my then-boyfriend seemed like the perfect situation until walking into the storage closet for more pens and catching the two “strangers,” with their pants down. Literally. The only thing more humiliating were my coworkers knowing looks as I brought my resignation to my boss.
I packed up that night and went home to Summerville. The weather ironically agreed with my mood and tears as the downpour of rain that came so fast my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. I arrived at the house with my parents waiting out front. As I prepared myself for the hugs and “Oh honey,” I was sure to receive from my Mother, a knock on the window startled me out of my daze. My dad was trying to open my car door and signaled through the window asking me to unlock it. I gave him an apologetic smile and a weak wave before pressing the button to unlock the car. He then pulled the door open, stepped back, and spread his arms with a sympathetic smile on his face. Trying to hold it together I wrapped my arms around him as he squeezed tight and said quietly, “I am sorry Savannah. This too shall pass.” He let go and began towards my trunk to grab my luggage. My Mother gave me a quick hug before ushering me inside to get out of the rain. Once inside I sat at the table where I had my first real food, lost my first tooth and ate with my childhood friends and just went into a daze while mom moved around me and talked to me at what I felt like was a dizzying pace. I remember I saw very little and heard less that afternoon. Mom rambles about how she “never trusted Eddie,” and something about how you can always tell the integrity of a man by the way he styles his hair. She always talks very quickly like this when she is unsure about what to say. As she starts on about how Eddie’s overly gelled hair came across as condescending, I take a moment to look at her. We truly look nothing alike. Her tanned, olive-tinted skin and dark hair make her look like she has just returned from vacation. Or like she lives anywhere other than Summerville, a town contrary to its name, exists under a constant gloom. I tune back into my Mother’s one-sided conversation and stop her mid-sentence. “Thank you Mom, really, but the last thing I want to talk about is Eddie.”
I had left without saying one word to him. Not when he chased me across the office while scrambling to put his belt back on, and not back at the apartment when I was on my way out the door with suitcases. Leaving was all so surreal, like I was watching myself in some flimsy movie where you yell at the screen or a book you throw across the room because the character is so pathetic. Only now did I begin to feel the gravity of my reality. No job, no friends, and no discernible identity or traits that weren’t directly linked to Eddie. I truly have no idea who I am, or what I even want to do with my life. Not even a concrete pipe dream to hold onto. I fell back on my bed, eyes closed feeling the quilted fabric beneath my hands. It was the same bedding I had since I was eight. Pale pink with ballerinas. The entire room is just as it has been since I was eight. The room was perfect then and it was perfect now.
When I open my eyes I glance at my phone and notice I haven’t changed my background from the picture of Eddie and me from the night we attended the “Sip and Paint” event our work had set up. Annoyed at the reminder of why I am here, I quickly change the wallpaper to a random picture of flowers I had saved. Just then I hear my mom shuffle into my room. She says, “Oh honey.” I smile and laugh as I say, “Mom stop saying that. I’m fine.” She says, “I don’t know if this is the best time to bring this up, but what are you going to do now? I may have an opportunity for you down at work!” I look back at her. “You can work the front desk!” “Mom,” I said, “I don’t know if I am up for any new opportunities at the moment.” “Just think about it, honey,” she replied. My mom had worked at Creekwood Assisted Living for my entire life. I had only met a handful of her patients, but what I quickly learned was how much my Mom meant to the people she cared for. She was often asked for by name and even on a few occasions, written into someone’s will. She loved every second of her job and often remarked it as her “God-given purpose.” I really wish I had a given purpose.
“I need a fresh start. An adventure! At least for something interesting to happen,” I think to myself. I go for a walk and when I get home, my dad is sitting in his office typing. I say, “Hey dad,” as I head up the stairs to my room. He calls after me, “Oh Savannah, you got some mail sweetheart! It’s on your desk.” Once in my room, I walk over to my desk, retrieve the single postcard sitting there, and plop down on my bed to read it. A postcard? Who sends postcards? The front of the card had a photo of a family that I have never seen. In the black and white photograph, there was an older woman with her hair done in an updo, standing next to an elderly gentleman. Kneeling in front of them were three adults that I am assuming are their children. None of them were smiling. Creepy. I flipped the card over to reveal that all that was written on the back was the date October 15, 11 am, and an address. So many questions run through my head as a feeling of uneasiness rises in me like a simmering volcano, making it all the way up to my throat. I take a deep breath before heading downstairs to ask my dad more about the mail only for him to tell me he has no idea.
I inspect the card more closely. Flipping it over to the side with the cryptic message, I type the address into Google maps. GPS reveals that “444 Mayfield Lane,” is only twenty minutes away, close enough. The date and time written on the card are for tomorrow at eleven a.m.
I spend the night tossing and turning thinking only of this postcard. Somewhere around my millionth time weighing the pros and cons of “just checking it out”, I made the definitive decision to make my way to the address at the allotted time. The curiosity got me. Leaving at ten-thirty and telling my parents I was going for a drive, I made my way to the address. Driving down long winding back roads surrounded by nothing but trees. I followed the GPS and turned right onto a long driveway that led to a large Victorian home. I was lost in thought as I took in the image of the beautiful and seemingly empty house in front of me when my phone chimed, “Arrived.” The house was painted green and had a large wrap-around porch. A beautiful garden of pale pink roses to the right of the steps. A familiar feeling of confusion and uneasiness came over me as I ended the navigation, grabbed the postcard, and exited the car. I followed the brick path and up the steps to the front door. Taped to the door was one of those large orange envelopes that people put all their important papers into. Written on it in messy handwriting was, “I have cities, but no houses. I have mountains, but no trees. I have water, but no fish. What am I?” A riddle? I typed the phrase into my phone and found the answer on a Reddit thread about hard-to-solve riddles. “Map?” I questioned aloud as I reached for the envelope to see what was inside. Upon opening it, I realized there were two pieces of paper inside. One with words, and the other a map. I turned my focus to the paper with writing on it. It stated, “Congratulations. You have been chosen to participate in a search for the Friedman family fortune. Per the request of Ruby and Daniel Friedman, upon their death, each relative will be invited to look for the inheritance. If you are reading this letter, you are the first Friedman descendant to take on the challenge. The first relative to find the prize will be bequeathed the entirety of the Friedman fortune, the estate, and all its assets.” “Friedman? That's mom's maiden name” I think to myself. I pull out the postcard and look at the photo once more. I begin to notice the similarities between my mom’s features and those in the photograph. From the high and defined cheekbones to the shape of their eyes it became impossible to deny the resemblance. I thought about the few words my mom had shared about her family from when I was a kid and asked why I hadn’t met her parents yet. “All they do is play games, Savannah. It gets exhausting.” I didn’t realize she meant it literally.
I shift my focus to the map found on the second piece of paper and notice that it depicts the house and the property surrounding it. The cemetery marked on the map shows it is located on the back of the property and has a faint red circle around it. “Easy.” I think as I head to the first location. The cemetery has several graves scattered about, but the two newest headstones belong to Ruby and Daniel Friedman. I read the engraving on the headstones. They both said the same thing, “Here lies Daniel and Ruby Friedman. Both are huge fans of the story of Caudral.” Caudral? “It’s an anagram I believe.” a voice said from behind me. I jumped and made a noise that didn’t sound human. “I didn’t mean to scare you.” I turn around to see an elderly woman. She was very short and incredibly skinny. Her voice sounded as fragile as she looked. “I’m Beverly Fontaine. I am the caretaker of the estate. I have been with the Friedman family for many years. I didn’t think anyone would respond to the postcards!” She must have seen my hesitation because she immediately followed up with, “Can I help you with the search?” Unsure how to proceed, I turn back to the headstones, and reply, “An anagram? For what?” She smiles sweetly at me before saying, “Well, they were avid readers my dear, so perhaps it is the title of a book?” Impatient, I immediately type “Caudral anagram” into Google and see the first result, and smile. “Dracula,” I say, “Do they have a library or a bookshelf or something?” “Let me show you to Mr. Friedman's office, my dear.” Beverly replies before showing me into the study. The room is smaller than I expected, but the back wall had floor-to-ceiling dark mahogany bookshelves with a black ladder attached. Beverly and I get to searching. She takes the lower shelves and I get on the ladder and search the top shelves. It takes me only a few minutes to find “Dracula,” on the very top shelf in the middle. I tug on the spine and pull the book out. I step down from the ladder and go to show Beverly before we hear a loud click. The bookcase rotates open to reveal a black metal spiral staircase. My adrenaline shoots up as I look at Beverly and smile wide for the first time in a long time. I am so excited to find the next clue and am loving this game. Maybe I am a Friedman. I speed up the spiral staircase before finding myself in the attic. The smell immediately hits me, dust and old books. I look around at the stacks of boxes and antique furniture, unsure how to proceed. I decided to just dive in and look around. Beverly joins me upstairs a few moments later and says out of breath, “Sorry. I am slower than I used to be.”She begins opening boxes and looking through furniture. For what felt like forever we are searching the attic in silence. I approach the wooden desk in the center of the room. It has a thick layer of dust and three drawers on the side. The first two drawers open with ease and are empty. When I go to open the third drawer, I discover it is locked. I call over Beverly who points out a heart-shaped keyhole under the handle. I immediately feel defeated. “A key?” I ask. “There is no way I am going to find a singular key in all this mess.” Beverly nods quietly, blankly staring at the floor. Suddenly her eyes light up and she gasps. I look at her, eyes widened, assessing to see if she is okay. Beverly clutches her necklace and says, “Mrs. Friedman gifted me this necklace the day before she passed!” She reveals it to be a small heart-shaped key on a silver chain. Her smile wide, she unclasps the necklace and puts it into the lock. We hold our breath as she goes to turn it to the right. When it unlocks I grab Beverly Fontaine and hug her so tight I thought she might crumble in my arms. She mutters, “Oh my,” before I let go and open the drawer. Inside was a small black leather-bound journal. “A diary!” we both say in unison. I open the diary quickly flipping through the pages before I notice a date on a certain page was circled in the same faint red as on the map. I read the date aloud, “10/15. That is today!” I skim the entry and notice that certain letters in random placements are capitalized. I immediately begin typing the capitalized letters into the notes app on my phone. We soon see that they spell out, “MY HEART BELONGS HERE.” When Beverly notices the phrase she immediately smiles. “I know this. She used to say this to me each time we watered her rose garden. Her children had that garden put in for her one year for her birthday. It was her favorite place.``
Once we made our way down to the rose garden at the entrance of the house I crouched to look under the bush in the dirt before I noticed out of the corner of my eye writing on one of the bricks in the path before the garden. I looked closer and laughed when I read, “10/15” scribbled across the brick. I pulled at it and it immediately came loose. B I pulled out a small piece of paper that read, “Congratulations. You have discovered the Friedman fortune. The Friedman Estate and all its assets belong to you.” The back of the note had the address to the office of the executor that handled Ruby and Daniels' will as well as instructions on obtaining the inheritance. Beverly gently placed her fragile hand on my back. “How does it feel my dear?” she asked, “You have discovered today that you are more than capable of doing anything you set your mind to. You did not think you had what it took to do this and you did it!” Unable to form the words to explain that what she said was exactly what I needed to hear, I beamed at her with tears in my eyes. Her tightlipped smile and slight nod showed she heard every word I couldn’t get out.
After catching up with my parents on what was going on, the three of us went to the executors' office to sign the necessary paperwork. It took more than one run-through of the event for my dad to understand just what was happening. My mom understood immediately and said, “That sounds like my family. This explains the weird postcard I received at my work.” I was given the deed and decided to give it to my parents. They kept Beverly on as caretaker, although her only responsibility was to tend to the rose garden. Which she did happily. I was more than lucky to stumble into the position I had found myself in. I took the money and decided to set out and find my purpose and discover who I was without Eddie. Now that I didn’t have to worry about money, I closed my eyes and pointed to a spot on the map like they do in movies. Four months from the day I left, I received a text from Eddie. “Savvy. I have been thinking about you. What have you been up to?” Seeing his name flash on my screen hurt, but I knew that I was changing. I was becoming a whole person again. Before I had time to overthink it, I deleted his contact from my phone. I had a flight to catch.