Rated: ASR · Short Story · Romance/Love · #779465
When her great aunt dies and leaves her a chest, Connie doesn't know what to think.
“She bequeathed me what?” I gasped and then coughed up a peanut that had gone down wrong.
The lawyer, my brother-in-law, stopped slapping his hand on my back and handed me a glass of water.
I gulped and tried to understand. “What do you mean a box? Like a pirate’s trunk full of jewels and silver coins?”
I choked again and took another sip of water. “Gold?” I came up raspy-voiced and hopeful.
Christopher glanced at me and chuckled. “No, I mean gold is what a pirate's chest contains."
I took a long breath. Before I could send a barrage of questions his way, my brother-in-law stood up and said, "Let's not play guessing games. Why don't we just go over to the bank and check out this safe deposit box she left you."
My sister sure is lucky. Christopher’s a smart guy.
At the bank, the teller led us into an enclosed vault where the safe deposit boxes were found. Aunt Thelma's was at the bottom. With the key Christopher handed me and the bank teller's master key, the outer door opened like a magician's trick box. The teller pulled out my aunt's box, carried it into a private room, and left us to unveil my inheritance.
With trembling fingers, I opened it. There really was a small treasure chest inside. The sharp lights of the room shone on an exquisite miniature chest of polished cherry wood. I let out a gasp of admiration. If this were my inheritance, I was really pleased.
With awe at its beauty, I raised the clasp and slowly opened it. Inside was an envelope that said, "Carol, read this first."
Gingerly, I took it into my hands and sat there a moment with a bowed head. "Aunt Thelma," I whispered. "Thank you for remembering me. Thank you for loving me."
I didn't open the envelope right away. I knew Christopher was impatient, but a letter from someone you love, a remembrance like this has to be cherished a moment. The person you love has to be loved in return.
I dropped a tear, sniffled a bit, and rolled a private memory or two around in my mind. Then I shut my eyes and said, "I miss you, Aunt Thelma."
Ignoring Christopher's impatient throat clearing, I brought the envelope to my nose. Yes. I could still smell the faint fragrance of Elizabeth Arden’s, True Love . It was Aunt Thelma’s favorite perfume.
"Are you going to open the envelope or not?" Christopher urged.
With his eyes on me, spoiling my reminiscences, I shrugged and tore open the envelope. When I saw Aunt Thelma's scratchy and frail writing, with its perfectly formed, thin and distinctive letters, I felt crushed by another rush of sadness.
“Well, what’s it say?”
I wiped my eyes and began to read.
If you're reading this, then I am dead. I had a good life. Do not mourn me, my dear. I felt an abundance of love, and I gave an equal measure. What more can a person ask from life?
Now as to you, my darling child, I’m not quite through gentling that stubborn streak of yours. I love you, child. You know I always have, but you are a bit overly self-sufficient. . . just like Carl’s boy. You don’t know about him, but Carl, my second husband, had an affair I’m afraid, and the result was Gregory.
From what I’ve observed, you and Gregory are perfect for each other, and I intend to see that you have the opportunity to test my theory about it. No, don't get your resistance up. I won't be there to nag at you. Just do this for me; try to open to someone else. You must remember what I always said to you: "Love is what lets in the sunshine."
The memory of how my aunt always worryied about me brought back my tears. Christopher handed me a huge, white hankie. I dried my eyes and blew my nose, and then I read on.
Gregory is getting a letter just like this one. In both notes there are directions that you must each obey:
You will arrange to meet Gregory. (His address follows.) The hundred-dollar bill inside this envelope is not a bribe, dear. It's to pay for the elegant dinner that you will have together with warm, sparkly conversation and a bit of hand-holding, I hope. (I must trust that you and Gregory will follow an old woman’s wishes on this.) After you have spent both Gregory’s hundred and yours on two separate, intimate evenings, then you are free to use the key enclosed in this envelope to open the second safe deposit box.
I sighed loudly. “Aunt Thelma says there’s a second box,” I told Christopher as I relayed the rest of the details.
My brother-in-law shook his head scornfully and used his finger to make the crazy sign. “Was this aunt a little touched?”
I smiled.“Well, she did have some strange ideas. She used to tell me that her final goal in life was to get me married so I’d be as happy as she'd been.”
He snorted. “Well, obviously she didn't get her wish. Come on. Let’s go see what that second key opens.”
"No, I told him, shaking my head as he had, but for a different reason. Ignoring his lawyerly arguments, I dropped Gregory’s address into my purse, put the key back into the beautiful cherrywood box, and then lifted up the safe deposit box to take back to the teller.
Christopher took off, impatient as always. I was relieved when he did so, for I was soon doing exactly what he'd told me not to do: I dialed the number on my aunt’s letter and spoke to Gregory, who sounded very nice. He'd gotten the same letter, he told me, and had already called my house.
We talked for a few minutes about Aunt Thelma and then agreed to meet for dinner that evening. Laughing, we decided on a restaurant and a time.
After I hung up, I fingered the hundred-dollar bill and lifted it to my nose. It, too, had the scent of True Love.
"Ok, Aunt Thelma," I said with a smile. "I'll try." Then I placed the bill back in my purse and went home to get ready for my date.