Even though I live in a fairly small town and have for years, there's always something new to discover. My second latest discovery, a hole in the wall bookshop has led me here, an antique clothing store.

Silver bells jingle as I open the door, a blast of warm air hitting me and stinging my cheeks due to the sharp contrast of the air outside.

"Welcome to Oldies But Goodies." A woman calls from the front desk.

She has a shock of grey hair combed neatly into a bun, a youthful gleam in her eyes despite clearly being a senior citizen, and it's clear she still has pep in her step and perfect posture as she steps out from behind the counter to greet me.

"What are you looking for my dear?" She asks.

"I don't really know," I admit. "Something exciting and unique, if that exists in clothes."

"I have just the thing in the back." The woman says, the twinkle in her eye turning into something like a cross of excitement and mischief.

She turns away from me and disappears to the back of the store and I rock on the balls of my feet while I await her return, eventually deciding to sift through the racks of old clothes.

Everything is immaculate. All the clothes are in pristine condition, washed and ironed and neatly hung up.

A silver dress catches my eye so I pick it up then I hold it up to myself in a mirror.

My cousin's wedding is coming up and even though the style is nineteen-forties, no one would be surprised given my taste for old things. Not to mention the silver is just perfect for a winter wedding, and I just bought the perfect shoes for this dress, oh, and some of the jewelry my grandmother left me would be just gorgeous.

"I knew you'd like that one."

I jump and find the saleslady standing a respectable distance away, watching me admire the dress.

"Oh, yes it's wonderful," I agree. "How much?"

"One-hundred and ten." The saleslady replies.

"One-hundred and ten?" I repeat, my spirits falling.

"Fifty for the dress, sixty for this little gem." The saleswoman amends.

She hands me the coat and I hand her the dress somewhat awkwardly. I stroke the exterior of the coat gingerly.

"Only sixty for the coat? This has to be genuine mink, I'd be robbing you by buying this." I say.

"I give discounts to certain people, like special young ladies who remind me of myself. Besides, today is my last day before I retire, my daughter takes over from me tomorrow so I guess I'm in a generous mood." The saleswoman replies smilingly.

"Why don't you just make it one-hundred-fifty? Just for my sake, then I'll buy it." I say.

"Of course, dear!" The woman says happily, then we move to the front desk where she rings up my purchases, humming under her breath.

"Have a merry Christmas, dear." She smiles.

"Absolutely, merry Christmas ma'am." I reply, returning her warm smile.

I walk home, inexplicably pleased with myself. In my jolly mood I make myself some apple cider and gift my cat, Tiffy, with her favorite treat, homemade catnip cookies and milk.

I can't help but try on the dress, and to my delight it fits perfectly. Just to make sure the whole ensemble works I slip on the coat. It's heavier than I expected but it's warm and just gorgeous.

I put my hands in the roomy pockets and swish them around and to my slight surprise I feel a piece of paper. I take the paper out of the pocket and smooth it out.

It's not a receipt as I expected but a yellowing sheet of paper. I unfold it, curiosity getting the better of me.

It's a letter, dating January 6, 1942.

I begin to read it, excited at the prospect of finding something so precious.

My Darling Mary,

I'm so sorry I couldn't be with you for your birthday, but as you know the military doesn't let out for special occasions, even soldier's fiancee's birthdays. I'm enclosing a late birthday gift with my next letter that should hopefully make up for the lateness. This war is terrible but I hope to be home with you to take you dancing as I promised by this Christmas. Sweetheart, I can't tell you how much your photo helped not just me but all the men in my squadron. Seeing someone so beautiful and full of joy is a change from the dreary things we see all around us. While work is hard, dangerous, and often scary I don't despair because I know you're at home waiting for me and doing all you can to help on the home front. I can't wait to see you and tell you how proud I am of my little darling tending the home. I miss you and hope to see you soon. I promise though to marry you Christmas Eve under the mistletoe when I get home.

Love From the Bottom of My Heart,

Your Martin

I fold the letter back up carefully.

Did Martin ever make it home? Did he and Mary ever get married under the mistletoe or go dancing? What was the gift he mentioned? Why was this letter the one in the pocket? Were there other letters? Who were these people?

A million and one unanswerable questions fly around my mind, and I'm dying for an answer to all of them.

I think back to the saleswoman in the antique store. Did she know the letter was in there when she sold me the coat?

There's almost no daylight left so there's no way I could go back to the store in time to interrogate the woman. Oh how unfortunate that she retires today of all days!

But I guess some things are meant to remain mysteries. Maybe I could leave this in another coat I donate for someone else to solve.

I smile at the notion.

I'll take a whack at my little Christmas mystery, maybe write an ending, then send someone else on an adventure.

Who knows what could be discovered?

December 04, 2019 00:17

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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