Wrestling with her conscience Sally let the faded silk ribbon trail between her fingers. Traces of a rich blue azure still marked the underside as she teased the texture between her thumb and her forefinger. She dropped the bundle on the coffee table as if touching it would burn her hands. Letting go of the ribbon she sat back on the sofa, chewing on her lip; the bundle of letters like a beacon flashing on the coffee table.
Although it wasn’t a coffee table at all really, just an old leather luggage trunk she had found in the attic when she’d first moved in. The attic hadn’t looked like it had been used in decades, so she really didn’t know where the trunk had come from or how long it had been there. But when she’d been searching for bits to furnish the flat, she’d fallen in love with it. She’d already spent months scouring the flea markets and charity shops for ‘classy chic’ which in reality had turned into ‘classy cheap’. So the old trunk had been perfect. There had never been a key, until today.
She had been foraging in the attic again when she found a carefully folded piece of linen; an embroidered handkerchief with a trail of tiny violets wrapped around the initials, J.W. She’d opened the hankie and a key had fallen onto her lap. She had somehow known what the key was for. Back in the lounge she’d carefully placed the key in the lock and turned; the expectant silence broken by a tiny click inside the trunk. She’d stilled. Opening the lid with a touch of trepidation, excitement catching her breathe, speeding it up and making her hands a little sweaty and unsteady.
Inside, the lining was worn and barely discernable against the wooden framework. The trunk had been empty and she swallowed her disappointment. Until she spotted a bundle pressed tightly into a corner at the base of the trunk. She lifted it out, twenty or so envelopes wrapped with ribbon. Sally felt an involuntary shudder somewhere deep inside, like someone had just walked over her grave. She closed the lid, holding the letters in her hand. Then she put them down on the table and sat back.
She looked over at the bundle, her curiosity going into overdrive as she reached for her glass, downed the contents and picked up the letters again. She gingerly pulled the ribbon, loosening the knot, letting the silk float to the floor. The one on top had a worn red stamp in the left hand corner ‘Return to Sender’. She gently flicked through the pile, noticing the same faded stamp on each. She pulled her feet up onto the sofa, tucked her legs underneath and opened the first letter.
Check back next time to see what it said……………………………………….