The Lone Letter

Written in response to: Set your story in a post office.... view prompt

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Adventure Friendship Inspirational

 “This letter has been here, unclaimed, for months.”

“And? Not much we can do about it.” Lena is giving me a look, dark brows touching her hairline as she stares at the plain white envelope in my hand. No return address, just the recipient. A soul named Eve Hutchinson. A soul whose mail ended up here, unopened after not finding its doorstep.

“But don’t you wonder about it? Wonder why it ended up here and who it really belongs to?”

She gives me another look, which reminds me of an angsty teenager with smudged black eyeliner. “Isn’t there other, more interesting things to wonder about? Like why that’s your seemingly biggest question?”

“I’m just curious. Most people don’t send letters without a return address. Why would someone do that?”

“Maybe they’ve never seen a letter before? Not everyone has.”

Lena walks out of the mail room, leaving the letter in my head. The work day is almost over. I have no choice but to return the letter back to its lone spot on the shelf.

***

Who is Eve Hutchinson? The question lingers in my mind, haunting my mind as my hands guide me home, tapping on the steering wheel. Is this a vital piece of her story that she’s missing and doesn’t even know? I’m no heroine, but isn’t that letter something she should have?

That thought leads me to do an overly involved thing: while staring at the envelope tossed on my passenger seat, commencing a google search in the front seat of my car, parked in the driveway. No obviously correct answers come up. The internet’s address book, also known as Canada 411, has no listings for an Eve Hutchinson in the area, and certainly not at 277 Cherry Lane. Not a simple “E.” either. So if Eve Hutchinson is not at 277 Cherry Lane, who is?

The second crazy thought that sputs my mind into action is googling 277 Cherry Lane. My phone selects the road across town, bringing up directions to the street. Pulling out of the driveway, I follow my phone’s voice. But I don’t find a 277; at least not in the way I expect.

277 Cherry Lane is a ghost town. No cars in the laneway, no lights on. I pull to the side of the road across the street, not knowing what the next play is. There’s a cherry red door that looks like it needs re-painting, what looks like a blue mailbox sitting crooked near that door. But beyond that? The structure is falling to pieces. The only true part of that house left standing is cherry red with white trim. Is this why the letter remained undelivered? I imagine the postman looking at the house, letter in hand, not walking up the pathway to a house that is no more. I can see it so clearly.

But what happened to who lived here: maybe Eve Hutchinson, but maybe not? Looking around, I see an older man with streaks of white in his hair putting something into the back of his truck. He’s one laneway over on the same side of the road. Chances are, he’s been here long enough to know something. I’m out of the car before the thought even crosses my mind twice.

As soon as my feet hit the pavement, I put a smile on my face and start talking. “Hi, this may seem strange, but do you know what happened to that house?” I ask, gesturing towards the decay. “I’m looking for someone who used to live there.”

“Oh hello,” he says, a tight smile showing the semi-formed wrinkles on his face. “That house had a fire. Burned the back pretty bad. Who did you say you were looking for?”

“Her name was Eve. Eve Hutchinson.”

“Ah yes, Eve. She hasn’t lived there for quite some time now, a few years at least. Definitely before the fire.”

“Do you know where she went after? I must have an old address.” Or at least, whoever sent this letter must have an old address.

“I guess so. She said she moved a couple towns over, waited to be closer to her daughter if she ever reached out.”

“Do you know which town, by chance?”

“I believe it was Portsmouth, if I remember correctly. Why were you looking for her again?” The question is asked casually, but I can feel the tone of warning.

“Just someone with something that belongs to her. Thank you so much for your time.” The last thing I notice about him is an odd smile before I turn and run. By the time I’m back in my car, he’s back doing whatever he was up to before.

Opening up Canada 411 again, I search for an Eve Hutchinson of Portsmouth. Turns out, there is one and only one. The address is a 40 minute drive away. Is it worth it? Should I do it and pick up some food on the way? My brain has decided before I even think about, hitting the phone navigation start button and setting it down beside me.

***

The drive is serene, peaceful. Nothing but me, the car, and my anticipation of who or what I’ll find. There is a chance Eve doesn’t want this letter, but there’s a chance she really does. It could be life changing. And it’s hard to know either way unless she has it in her hand.

I’ve made the executive decision that food can wait; the thrill of the hunt is keeping me going, as some might say. My fingers are tapping to the music, my phone is telling me I’m only five minutes away. Two turns, maybe three? It’s not long until a little house sits in front of me, marked as number 235 on Hollyhead Lane. This time, the door is an emerald green amid a soft grey exterior. The house is whole with a couple lights on inside, meaning someone is indeed home. Am I really about to do this? Intrude on a stranger for the sake of a letter hopefully addressed to them?

Once again, my very being says yes and I’m out the door, walking up the short pathway with lush green plants on either side. I knock quickly before I can overthink it, and a shadow moves inside the house.

An older woman answers the door, a mix of grey and white hair pulled back with a clip. Dark glasses highlight her light eyes, crinkling with a kind sparkle as they greet me. “Hi honey, what can I do for you?”

“Hi. This might seem kind of strange, but I have this letter that I believe was addressed to you, but with an old address. I thought you might want to have it.” I thrust the letter out in my hand, carefully watching as she takes it in her hand, taking it in. Maybe she recognizes the writing, I’m not sure.

“I did used to live at that address,” she tells me. “Why don’t you come in?”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“Nonsense. Especially when you’ve driven all this way. Aren’t you from Anglewood?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Come in. I’ll get you something to drink. It was so sweet of you to make sure I got this.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. I just wanted to make sure you got it.” Nevertheless, she waves me in. Awkwardly, I follow her into the house, taking off my coat and shoes, leaving them at the door. Her house is small but warm, full of wood tones, and the lamps give the room a soft glow. She goes further into the house, to what I assume is the kitchen. “Is water okay?”

“Water would be great, thank you.” I find a spot on the couch as she comes back into the room, a glass of water in one hand and a plate of cookies in the other.

She settles into a worn chair near the spot I’ve chosen, setting down the glass and plate on the coffee table. The letter sits on the table, waiting to be opened. What twist of fate could it hold, if any?

Carefully she leans forward, picking up the piece of paper as if it’s treasured gold or a forgotten relic. “Thank you so much for bringing this to me,” she says, staring at the writing in awe. “I don’t think I can thank you enough.”

“You haven’t opened it yet,” I tell her cautiously, watching the hope grow in her eyes.

“That’s true, I haven’t. But I will very soon.” From the tiny table beside her, she pulls out a small knife, tearing the envelope open along the top. Inside, there is a folded piece of paper and a picture that falls from between the words. She looks at the picture first, then looks back to the folded paper. In the lamplight, her eyes glisten. “It’s even better than I hoped.” As I sip my water, I watch her eyes read every letter before they move back to me. “I don’t know if ‘thank you’ will ever be enough to express my gratitude.”

Biting into one of the cookies tastes sweeter, hearing those words. “So it was a good letter?”

“The very best. My daughter has decided to forgive me and even included a photo of my granddaughter. She’s willing to try again.”

“That is amazing,” I smile, “Truly.”

“I can’t thank you enough in making sure I got this letter, dear. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.”

“It was my pleasure,” I tell her as she gets up from her chair, the largest smile on her face as she gives me a bear hug.

***

That was two years ago. Eve Hutchinson is no longer just a name, but a part of my story. My life. She tells everyone how I am the stranger who went the extra mile, the reason she has a relationship with her daughter. She’s even gone on to call me her other daughter, the gift she never would have dared to ask for. To think, it all started with a lonely letter I couldn’t get out of my head and a crazed level of impulsiveness to find its owner. I thought it was only her fate that might change with the letter; I didn’t think a change in hers could affect mine.

August 26, 2023 03:58

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