As an employee of a company that specialized in renovating vintage homes, Jake has found a fair share of weird and interesting objects under the floorboards, hidden storage units and basements of the houses he worked in. Usually, they were old books, a single earring, a watch or even a lighter, he loved examining each of his finds and rejoiced when the owner of the home said he can keep it and so his collection grew and his job resembled more of a treasure hunt than just 8 hours of tiring physical labour. His new assignment was to restore the floors in an old Queen Anne style house. It was a beautiful home, intricate and well thought out piece of architecture with red roof tiles and white accents. The building was old but it looked well maintained, two things that Jake liked to see one indicating possible exciting finds and the other promised not much work to do. Thus, he embarked on another treasure hunt.
He was right the house was indeed well maintained and clearly cared for over the years, so pristine that he did not even find a single penny when moving the couch or the dressers. This made him disappointed, the hope to find the treasure gone with the wind or at least that’s what he thought until he got to work on the floorboards on one of the landings. While assessing the damage – or the lack of it – he noticed that one of the panels was loose, moved with the slightest touch. Aha, this must be one of those hidden nooks he thought but after he knocked on the panel he sadly realized that there was no echo – his enthusiasm faded but he still proceeded to remove the board in order to clean it and glue it back in its place. When he did so Jake was meet with a pleasant surprise because when he pushed the piece of wood aside he found an old black and white photograph. He smiled and begun examining it closely, it was a picture of a meadow on a sunny day, in the middle of it stood a huge weeping willow and a girl in a white dress was – presumably – dancing happily around it. The picture was a perfect representation of a summer day, the promise of youth and appreciation of nature. Jake smiled just looking at it, turning the picture around hoping to find the date written down on the back he instead found a string of numbers which he recognized to be coordinates and a message ‘Let the branches of the weeping willow remember the courage of the girl, who stood atop the mountain's peak and screamed ‘I know there is more’’
Jake stared at the soft curves of the cursive writing and wondered, why would someone hide this picture instead of holding it close to them at all times. The memory seemed too beautiful to let it be forgotten so he decided that he would talk to the owner of the house when he arrived at the end of the workday and hopefully the man would return the picture to the person who owned the house before him.
Sadly, the owner didn’t know who it belonged to before him and did not recognize who was the woman in the picture.
“Are you sure?” Jake asked
“Yes, I don’t recognize the place or the woman. I’m sorry but you can keep the picture if you want. I won’t have any use for it” So that’s how the conversation ended, Jake was disappointed but happy to have a new addition to his collection. When he arrived home that night he couldn’t keep his mind from wondering about the tale behind the photograph, so after showing it to his wife they talked about possible stories over dinner.
“I think it’s a story of a teenage romance, you know Romeo and Juliet style but without the dying part.” His wife explained “She was a rich girl and he was the farmer's son or a factory worker and they couldn’t be together so they would meet under the willow whenever they could and got to spend that summer together” Jake giggled at the cliche approach.
“I think the person who took that picture was a writer,” he said “I don’t recognize that poem so they must have written it themselves” his wife hummed sipping on some red wine.
“So, a poet and his muse?” She asked and Jake nodded.
“I wish we could know for sure,” he said with a sigh but then his wife perked up.
“Have you checked the coordinates?”
“No, I assumed that they would be somewhere far away to be honest” Jake replied but understood what his wife was suggesting. She took out her phone and reached for the picture. She quickly typed in the numbers and smiled widely. “What is it?”
“It’s a 2-hour drive from here” she replied looking at her husband with a wicked smile “And since tomorrow is Saturday…”
“You want to go for a trip?”
“Hell, yeah I want to go for a trip” She replied and Jake thanked the universe for a wife that loved adventure as much as he did.
The next day around noon Jake and Melody got in the car and drove. It was a beautiful day and Jake was happy to just enjoy the adventure even if they ended up not finding anything out about the photograph. He was content with just driving and listening to Melody singing along to the old songs she loved so dearly.
The GPS lead them through forests and fields of corn, they even spotted a few cows along the way the scenery was beautiful, to say the least, and it made the two-hour drive pass by in a flash. Turns out the coordinates lead to a small farm in the middle of nowhere. It was the kind of farm you see in movies, full of animals and brightly coloured but serene at the same time. Next to a huge barn stood a white house, the windows were open and the car that stood in the driveway indicated that its owners were home. Jake parked next to the owner’s car and both he and Melody got out to knock on the door. They did not wait long for it to open. He immediately recognized the smiling old lady standing in the doorway as the woman from the picture. Her smile and bright eyes looked identical and the wrinkles on her face somehow did not matter she still looked as youthful as she did in the picture.
“Hello, darlings” the woman greeted “Can I help you with anything?”
“Hello! Sorry for the interruption.” Jake responded smiling back at the lady “My name is Jack and this is my wife Melody” he said gesturing to Mel who waved at the woman “I renovate houses and at the last house I worked at I found this picture, we saw the coordinates and wanted to give it back to its original owner and I think we have the right person” Jake continued handing the picture to the woman. She took it from him and grinning even wider she turned over her shoulder and yelled into the house.
“My Love come here we have guests!” and turning back to Jake and Melody she stepped away from the door to let them in. “Come in, come in darlings! I’ll make you some tea.” Jake hesitated for a bit but not for long as Melody came into the house following the old lady. When they reached the living room are the lady started speaking again. “Oh, I always wondered if anyone ever found the picture. I’m so glad that you did and decided to go on an adventure” she said gesturing for Jake and Mel to sit on the floral couch. “Where are my manners. My name is Margorie Cane. Welcome to my home”
“It’s really nice to meet you Margorie” Melody replied before Jack could. Margorie opened her mouth to continue talking when a man looking to be around her age entered the living room wiping his hands on a cloth-covered in paint of various colours. He was just as friendly-looking as his wife to say the least.
“This is my husband John.” Margorie said as John sat down next to her on the couch opposite to the one that Jake and Mel were sitting on “He is the one who took the picture!” she continued handing the photo to her husband who by the look in his eyes seemed to recognize the picture immediately just as Margorie did. “This lovely young man found the picture while working at the house and came here with his wife to give it back to us” she explained. John let out a soft laugh, the kind of laugh you hear when someone marvels at the complexity of the universe and life itself.
“So our plan worked,” he said
“What plan?” Jake asked and John smiled at him softly.
“I took the picture ages ago, wrote down the coordinates and we hid it in the old house as a …” he paused “a promise of sorts and a way to maybe someday share our story to those who were curious enough to ask”
“I guess we did it,” Margorie said and reached out to grab her husband’s hand.
“We would love to hear the story,” Melody said, anticipation evidence in her voice.
“I lived in the house back in the day” Margorie began “I was born into a rich family; you know the type that only cared about money and status. They wanted me to be an accountant but I never saw myself doing that so I just did my own thing and learned about plants and animals and counted the days until I could leave that place and become a farmer. Those were some happy but lonely years for me until..” she stopped and looked at John to continued
“Until my family moved in next door, a similar story. The rich family that wanted the middle son to be a doctor but I was and still am an artist at heart. When I saw Margorie for the first time I immediately knew that she was just like me. A free spirit who wanted and knew that there is life beyond money and the customs that our families followed. When we started seeing each other our families were delighted. Thinking that we finally grew up, that we will get married, have successful carers – the ones they planned for us – then have kids and move to town to continue the ‘legacy’” John laughed shaking his head “What they didn’t know was that we spent each minute together working hard to follow our own dreams and become the almost exact opposite of what they wanted”
“John took the picture on one of our ‘learning adventures’. This place she said gesturing to the house “once belonged to a farmer and his family obviously and he agreed to teach me everything he knows in exchange for some help. Which was good for me so I agreed. John agreed to come with me and we spent the entire summer doing what we loved. I worked with animals and plants. John spent his days painting, writing and taking pictures.”
“On one of the free days we decided to go on a long walk and we found that willow” John pointed to the tree in the picture “Margorie loves it till this day and when she saw it for the first time she just started dancing and I don’t think I saw anything more beautiful than that” he continued and Jake instinctively reached for Melody’s hand and squeezed it. “I took the picture and then I started thinking and got reminded that soon we will have to go back to town and to our families who never understood us and got sad. But then Margorie said ‘We will come back here one day. All of this is going to be ours, because I know we deserve more than the life that they have planned for us. And she was right.”
“I’m always right” Margorie added and all of them laughed at the comment before John continued.
“But I still had some trouble believing so I came up with an idea. Insurance of sorts. When we came back to town I developed the photo and wrote both the coordinates and the sentence on the back of it and told Margorie that I will do anything in my power for us to have that life, the one we want. I wanted to give it to her but she had a different plan”
“I came up with hiding it under the loose floorboard in my house” Margorie continued “I said that one day someone will find it and bring it back to us, to the farm, to our home and that we will share our story with whoever came by. A lesson and a sign that we made it” When Margorie was done telling the story, Jake couldn’t believe his luck, that he and Melody found so much more than a photo, they found a story. A story of love and perseverance, a story that proved that nothing is impossible. At that moment he was so grateful for being there with the love of his life. Then he heard a sniff coming from his side and turned to see Melody crying silently, he quickly put his arm around her shoulders and brought her closer to him. Mel wiped her tears and spoke.
“I’m sorry it’s just a really beautiful story,” she said and laughed softly.
“Ah you must be an artist then,” John said and Melody looked at him surprised. “I’ve only ever seen artists reacting to our story in such a way and I just recognize an artist when I see one” John laughed.
“She’s a writer” Jake explained and looked proudly at his wife.
“And what do you do?” John asked
“I renovate old houses but…” he paused “I always wanted to make furniture for a living” he continued
“And he is damn good at making it” Melody commented “You just work as a renovator so I can write,” she said a hint of guilt in her voice.
“You’re still young my darlings,” Margorie said smiling cheekily and looking at John as if they knew something that Mel and Jake did not know yet. “Who knows what’ll happen in ten years. Now!” she clasped her hands together “Would you two like to stay for lunch?”
They ended up staying for dinner as well. John and Melody talked about art and writing while Jake helped Margorie with the food and some minor repairs in the barn. The day was full of laughs and content smiles that’s why it was so hard to leave when it was time to do so. But Jake and Melody promised to visit the couple again and they both had a feeling that it was only the beginning of a whole new adventure.