This story is by La Wanna Gean Parker and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Laura looked at the envelope Aunt Lynne had just left for her with no explanation before leaving except they would talk later. The letter addressed to Laura in her sisters’ handwriting. The envelope was yellowish with age and wrinkled as if handled numerous times. Why did Susan give the message to Aunt Lynne instead of me?
“To be opened by my sister, Laura Reed, about March 5, 2020, or when Laura becomes overly worried about me”.
She was careful as she turned the envelope over. There was a postmark stamped on the back-covering seal and date stamped April 1896.
I wonder where Susan is and where she found this old envelope. Inside she found a single sheet of paper.
“Laura, go to the end of the porch on the right side if you are facing the house. Dig about six feet down, and you will find a metal box and key that explains where I have gone.”
Your sister, Susan
What kind of joke is this? Laura thought, even as she went to the shed to find a shovel. She had not heard from Susan for almost a month. She was used to Susan going on long trips since she was a freelance writer and always searching for something new and different to write about, but usually called once or twice even when she was onto a perfect story. Laura was starting to worry and called her Aunt Lynn to voice her concerns. Her Aunt came over and gave her the letter from Susan and said they would talk later.
Laura reread the note and started digging where directed. She dug for about an hour. Every so often, she stopped to wipe the sweat off her face. Digging was hard work. She stopped to pull her gloves off and began flexing her hand and fingers. After a couple of minutes, she bent forward and backward, arching her back and twisting side to side, trying to relieve the aches.
I should have just waited until tomorrow and let the gardener do the digging. But no, like a fool, I’m out here digging in the ground because of some note my sister left for me. If this turns out to be a joke, there is going to be hell to pay.
She soon became thirsty and went into the house for a bottle of water. She took several swallows before returning to the digging. After a few minutes more of digging, she hit the end of something metal and changed directions still digging. Within minutes she had the box and a leather bag.
Better be worth all the hard work of digging!
Laura carried the box into the house and placed it and the bag on the kitchen table. It took several minutes of twisting and turning the key in the lock before the box opened. The odor was musty as it assailed her nose. After a few seconds, she looked in the box and found pictures, a journal, an old Curve right foot tennis shoe that had long since seen better days, the watch she gave her sister for her birthday last year, and another letter in her sister’s handwriting. This letter was also on old paper and smelled stale and mildewed.
Laura picked up the watch. What the…? It was Susan’s watch. How did it get in here? She looked at the tennis shoe but did not touch it. This doesn’t make sense. This box looks like it’s been here for years. This shoe looks like one of the pair Susan wore when they went jogging the last time I saw her. What’s going on?
She picked up the pictures. There were four. One was of her sister in a wedding gown that appeared to be very plain with a simple bouquet of what looked like wildflowers in her hands—standing beside a very handsome white man. The man’s jacket, vest, and pants with a string bow tie that looked like an outfit Burt Lancaster wore as Wyatt Earth in “Gunfight at OK Corral.” The only thing missing was the gun, holster, and hat. Susan looked beautiful and incredibly happy as she looked up at the man with his arm around her.
The second picture was of her sister standing beside a chair wearing a dark long sleeve jacket and skirt with boots. On her head, a hat with several feathers sticking up and strands of her dark hair hanging loosely about her head. Her hand on the chair with a little girl of about three or four sat. The little girl had a big grin on her face as she looked up at Susan. The man stood on the other side of the chair wearing a light-colored long sleeve shirt, a dark vest, jeans, boots, and hat with holster and gun on his hip. The boy stood to the front and side of the man dressed similarly except for the weapon and holster. The boy looked to be about seven or eight and looked just like the man. The girl featured Susan, but you could see enough of the man in her to know he was the father. The third picture was of the boy and girl. They appeared to be teenagers in western wear. Her hands shook when she looked at the fourth picture. Her sister was much older in this picture, as was the man. The boy and girl were now young adults.
What is going on? How could this be her sister? She had no doubt it was Susan in the picture. Who were the others? These pictures were old and fading. She grabbed the letter and started reading.
I have missed you. I believe I have been missing for about three or four weeks and you haven’t heard from me. I know you will find this difficult to understand. I still have trouble accepting it after all these years. I was sitting on the porch late one evening thinking what it must have been like to live a simple life in the Old West. The last thing I remembered was a strange fog that night. I must have fallen asleep. I woke to discover I was in the year 1886 in Texas with no idea of how I came to be here or how to get back. I met Logan Reed. It was his ranch I found myself on. We fell in love and married.
I included the pictures, the watch you gave me, and my shoe (I kept the other as a keepsake) to help you accept what I am telling you. And to say I have lived a beautiful life with the man I love and my two beautiful children, Jake and Mary. Do not feel sorry for me. Life has been hard at times, but the good times have been great, and sharing this life with Logan has been worth it.
I have missed all the modern conveniences, the bathrooms, and running water. Using outhouses during the day and chamber pots at night has been the most challenging thing to accept. (Can you believe I sometimes use corn husks for toilet paper?) It took time, but Logan finally came to admit that I came from the future. (It was the only way he could accept my undergarments and my Curves tennis shoes). We kept that to ourselves. We told the kids when they were adults and asked that they say nothing but to keep the letter and pictures going so it would eventually get to you.
I miss all of you so much. I miss our talks, television, and those steamy novels I enjoyed.
Take care of yourself and live a full and happy life. I love you. I regret I can’t be there for you, but you’re strong, and Aunt Lynne is there for you. As you may have guessed, Aunt Lynn probably knows some of what happened to me. I hope the letter reaches you so you can read what happened.
It would explain why Aunt Lynn used to watch me and say things to me that didn’t always make sense. Read my journal and give Aunt Lynn my love.
Your sister forever, Susan
Laura laid the letter back in the box on the journal and wiped the tears from her eyes and cheeks. Her sister was gone. She would never see her again. Never share stories of her adventures.
Oh! God! How could this have happened? How could she handle that her sister she had seen only a few weeks ago, was now dead for about the last hundred years?
She got up from the table to fix a cup of coffee. When she had time to accept what she had just learned, she would read the journal and speak with Aunt Lynn. Maybe tomorrow she would wake up and find this was all just a dream. For now, it was still just too much to accept all at once.