The Letter: Part 12

brown bear plush toy on bed

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

JUNE 1949

He’d been standing in the driveway for 15 minutes. Just staring up at the house. The neighbours must think he’s crazy. He just couldn’t go in.

“Dad!”

“Dad! Someone stole our money!”

The boys suddenly flew out the front door and were running down the driveway towards him.

“Dad! Someone came in while we were at school.” Victor shouted.

“They stole all of it.” Sam said, he had tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Nu-huh!” Victor said, turning to glare at him with his hands on his hips. “The losers left the best coins behind. Probably didn’t know they were rare. We must have fooled them.”

“Yeah!” Sam said. “We fooled them.” He half-smiled a watery smile, not quite sure why that was such a good thing, especially since most of their coins were gone.

“Boys, lets go inside. I need to tell you something.” He put a hand on each of their shoulders as he guided them inside.

When they were all sitting at the kitchen table, he couldn’t figure out where to start. They were staring at him from across the table. The silence felt like it was gaining weight as it crashed down on him. He could feel sweat breaking out along the base of his neck and forehead.

“I went to visit you mother today.”

“Without us?” Sam asked, his eyes opening wide.

“How? I thought we didn’t have enough—” He stared at Richard who watched the childhood veil of innocence slide from his eyes. One moment he was Victor’s hero. And now, that look of disappointment and accusation as the realization hit him. “You took our money?” he whispered.

Richard hung his head, unable to look at his son’s face anymore. But there was still more to say. He took a deep breath and was going to say that their mother wasn’t coming home. Both of them looked at him with hurt etched in their faces. Instead what came out when he opened his mouth was: “Your mom passed away this morning. I went to say good-bye.”

He was sure his own shocked face mirrored his sons’. He hadn’t meant to lie. But he’d just watched Victor realize that one of his parents was a loser. He couldn’t do that twice. Not in one day.

“You didn’t take us with you?” Victor’s face folded in rage.

I wanted to say good-bye,” Sam said, his face crumpled in sobs.

Victor stood up, glaring at Richard. As tears ran down his cheeks as he swept the coins that were sitting on the table away with one sweep of his hand. They scattered and rolled onto the floor. He stormed off stomping down the hall and slammed the door just as the last of the coins clattered to a stop.

Sam sat in his chair, his lower lip trembling.

“I’m sorry son,” Richard said. As he bent down to pick up the coins, Sam quietly slid off his chair and followed his brother to their room.

He picked up each coin and carefully dusted them off and laid them out on the table. Then he pulled out the remaining coins from his pocket and added them to the collection. He flipped open the book and began to read about the rare coins his sons had been searching for. He’d find a way to make this up to them.

The End

Up next: A Grave Mistake

The Letter: Part 11

abstract black and white blur book

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

SEPTEMBER 2018

“I don’t get it. So she didn’t die?” Sam asked, his head in his hands as they sat on the couch. Susan had just explained how they’d found the picture.

“I don’t know,” she said, hesitating. It definitely looked that way, but couldn’t bring herself to confirm it aloud.

“She had a family too. Grandkids?” he held Ernest’s obituary in his hand. Do you think they were her kids?”

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t believe she just left.” Suddenly, he sat up straight and looked at her. “Dad knew. Why didn’t he tell us? Why did he say she’d died?”

Susan pulled the second letter out and handed it to Sam.

“We didn’t open it.”

He slide his finger under the flap and ripped it open.

Dear Victor and Sam,

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I lied. Alice didn’t die. She was released from the sanatorium and went to stay at a friend’s apartment. It was supposed to just be for a few weeks. Just until she had regained her strength and the doctors were sure she wouldn’t relapse. But I knew when she first decided not to come home, that she wasn’t ever coming back. We were married young. Then I left for war. We didn’t have a chance to get to know each other. Then suddenly, I was back, and I guess she realized I wasn’t what she wanted. Getting sick must have felt like a free ticket out.

It wasn’t your fault and I never wanted you to think it was so I lied and told you both she’d died. I always meant to tell you the truth when you were older and could handle the truth. But like with most things, I ruined it all.

I am more sorry than I can say that I took your money. I panicked when I learned Alice had decided not to come home. I thought I could convince her to change her mind. I quickly saw what a mistake that was. I later saw how important your coin collection was. I tired to fix it. For years I’ve been collecting. Maybe you don’t care anymore, but it’s worth quite a bit after all these years. I know it doesn’t make up for everything, but hopefully it’s a start.

I love you both.

Part 12

The Letter: Part 10

black rotary telephone on white surface

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

JUNE 1949

He knew he shouldn’t call, but he wanted to give her a heads up that that he and boys were coming for a visit. He’d been instructed that her treatment involved plenty of rest and lack of stress. But he hadn’t heard anything for two months and enough was enough.

The nurse sounded excited when he told her the name of the person he wished to speak with. He was surprised. Generally, they didn’t like their patients to do much talking. Families were encouraged not to call as it was thought talking could stress the lungs.

“Oh, Mr. Brennaman! You must be delighted to have your wife coming home so soon!”

Delighted was not how he’d describe the emotion he was feeling. Instead cold dread was seeping from his head down his neck and shoulders freezing his chest.

When his wife picked up the phone, he asked if the news was true.

Silence. It may have only been a moment, but in the numbing quiet he lived a thousand lives over.

“I am going to be allowed to leave, but I won’t be coming home,” she said, slowly. Each word hurling a cracking the ice that seemed to have encased his chest. “At least not yet.” She added quickly. “I don’t want to infect you and the boys. And the doctor says I’m still supposed to keep exercise down to a minimum. With two young boys, I just don’t want to overdo it. You know?”

“Where are you going to live?” he asked. He was surprised to hear how calm he sounded. Inside he felt his head spinning.

“Oh, well, one of the girls here has an apartment. I’ve gotten to know her quite well. Anyway, she’s been subletting her place out while she’s sick, and her roommate wrote to say that their sublet will be leaving and she needs to find another roommate.”

“A letter?” he asked.

“What?” she asked.

“A letter. She wrote a letter. So clearly you do get mail there. Which is curious since the boys have been writing you almost ever day and yet they’ve heard nothing back. So maybe you only get letters? But then how did you secure an apartment if the mail service only goes one way?”

“Why do you always make things so difficult? Just say what you mean.”

“Fine. Why haven’t you written the boys? Do you know they’ve been scrimping and saving to come visit you? They miss you. You’re their mother!” He could feel his temper rising.

“Don’t be so dramatic. I wrote to them. And as I recall, you didn’t exactly write every day you were away.”

“Away? You make it sound like a vacation. I was at war!”

“Yes and I was stuck home with the kids. Now it’s your turn. I’ve only been gone 9 months. You were gone for 3 years.“

“Are you really not coming ho—”

“Oh, don’t be a bore about it. I really think it’s the best thing. I’ll come back eventually. I just need to get all the way better. You understand, right?”

Noise in the background that he couldn’t quite make out fell through the phone. Then he heard his wife laughing. He used to love that laugh. He’d fallen in love with that laugh. Now it felt grating.

“I have to go, hon! They’re calling us for dinner. Bye-bye.”

The line went dead.

A few hours later he found himself staring out the window of a bus trying desperately to push down the guilt that was threatening to overcome him. He knew his boys would be devastated when they found out he went to visit their mother without them, especially since he took most of the money they had been saving up to do it. He tried to console himself that he left them their coveted “rare” coins, but it didn’t ease the gnawing in his stomach. He would return with their mom and then everything would be alright. They would forgive him because he brought their mother back. Tomorrow everything would set right and back to normal.

Part 11

The Letter: Part 9

driving

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

SEPTEMBER 2018

Susan was already waiting for Barb at the car when she got there. “C’mon, c’mon!” Susan said.

“What is your hurry?” she said, laughing.

“I don’t want to get caught,” Susan said, as they got into the car.

“We didn’t do anything wrong. Now come on, open it.”

Susan shook her head, clutching the box in her lap. “No, drive. Let’s get out here.”

Barb laughed, shaking her head. “You always were a bit of a fuddy-duddy.”

Susan glared at her, but didn’t say anything.

They drove to a nearby coffee shop. After driving through the drive-thru for coffees, they sat in the parking lot and opened the box.

Susan opened the lid and they peered inside. Barb reached over and pulled out an old, yellowing photo of a woman and man in their mid-to-late thirties in a wedding dress and suit. The were posing for the camera, smiling. Her arm was slid into the crock of his.

Barb flipped the photo over and on the back it read, “Ernest and Alice – 1952.”

“Who are they?” Susan asked.

Barb shrugged. “I’m guessing it was his grave we were at, and that must have been his wife. But I don’t know who they are. Was there anything else in the box?”

Susan pulled out a piece of newsprint. “Just this.” She read out part of it: “Ernest Timothy Tremblay died on March 15, 1993 at the age of 79. Survived by his loving wife Lilly; daughter Sharon (Bill); son Tom (Mary); 5 grandchildren: Kaden, Ethan, Madison, Michael, and Jamie. He is predeceased by his two sisters; Louise and Janet.”

“But who is he?” Barb asked.

Susan sighed. “No idea. I told you Victor wasn’t in his right mind at the end.”

Disappointed, they drove back to the ferry.

* * *

“How was the trip?” Sam asked as they walked through the door. He kissed Susan on the cheek as she passed him into the kitchen.

“Uneventful, but good to get away from packing for a bit.” She set her purse on the counter.

“What is that?” he asked, looking at the top of the wedding photo that was sticking out of her purse.

“Um,” she stalled, not sure how to explain how they came across the photo. She had remembered too late that she hadn’t told him yet that Barb had taken his father’s letter.

“Where did you get this?” he asked, yanking the photo out to get a better look? “What is this?” he asked, his face going red.

“I don’t know now. Barb and I found it. It’s nothing. We don’t know who they are.”

He pointed at the woman. “That’s my mother.”

“What?” she asked, startled.

“Why is she with this man?” he asked, glaring at her.

Part 10

The Letter: Part 8

blur close up composition craft

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

MARCH 1949

It had become their little routine. The boys would come home from school, dump their books in their room then race out into the neighbourhood to do see if they could scout out some odd jobs. Then they’d meet at the kitchen table while their Aunt Dorothy cooked dinner. They’d inspect their new change they’d earned from mowing lawns, delivering papers, and doing odd jobs around the area. By now most of the neighbours knew they were trying to earn money to visit their sick mother and were more than happy to hire the boys. Most of them were thrilled the boys requested to be paid in small change. Today, their dad came in came in sorting through the mail. Immediately, the boys looked up and watched his face to see if a letter had come from their mom. Lately, this had become part of the routine as well. At first, Alice had written nearly every day. Then, once or twice a week. It had now been six weeks since her last letter and Richard and the boys were growing more and more anxious. Richard had already gone through the stack of envelopes once, but he kept rifling through them, not wanting to see the crestfallen look on his boy’s faces again. Victor caught on and dropped his head to keep inspecting his coins, but Sam kept watching him. Finally, he shook his head and set the envelopes on the counter. Sam’s lower lip quivered, but he didn’t cry. He picked up another penny and held it up to the light twisting it so he could see the front and back. Richard reached into his pocked and pulled out loose change. Like he’d been doing for months now, he picked out the pennies and put them into a small pile on the table for the boys. “Thanks,” Sam said. Victor immediately grabbed one of the pennies. “We’re going to find rare coin one of these days,” he said. “Then we’ll be rich.” He grinned at Richard. Richard smiled at him. “Of course you are.” He was hurt that Lilly wasn’t writing to him, but he was angry that she wasn’t writing to the boys either. He hadn’t told the boys yet, but he had a surprise for them. He was going to take them to the sanitorium this weekend to visit her. He’d been pulling extra shifts and between what he’d made and what the boys had scrimped together, they would be able to make the trip. The doctors could tell him she was improving all they wanted, but he needed to see for himself. And he needed answers for her silence.

Part 9

The Letter: Part 6

pina-messina-465028-unsplash

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

OCTOBER 1948

“Mr. Thomas paid us to rake his leaves!” Sam said, running through the front door holding up a quarter, a giant grin on his face.

“You shouldn’t have taken his money, Sam.” Rosemary, their dad’s sister said, frowning at him. “And take your boots off. You know better than to wear them in the house.”

For the past month and a half she had been helping with cleaning and cooking while Alice was away in the sanitorium.

“I didn’t steal it! I earned it,” Charlie said, clutching it tightly in his fist. “Victor and I are saving up to visit Mom!”

“Really?” she said, turning around to face him. “How much have you saved up so far?”

“Uhh?” Sam looked back at Victor who had walked in behind him.

“Let’s count it,” Victor said, racing up the stairs and down the hall to their bedroom. Sam was hot on his heels. Victor grabbed the coffee can from underneath the bed and it jangled as he raced back to the kitchen. He stretched out his hand to Sam for the coin.

“No, I want to put it in,” Sam said, still clutching it tight. “Ok fine.” Victor peeled the lid off and Sam dropped the quarter in with a clang. Then he dumped the contents out onto the table. The coins skittered about and Sam quickly clamped his hands down one a couple that were trying to roll away. Once they’d settled, Victor began to count and sort the change.

Rosemary stood over them watching, looking heartbroken.

“How much do we have?” Sam asked.

After a moment, Victor said, “8 dollars and 46 cents.”

“Is that enough?” Sam asked.

Victor frowned and looked at Rosemary.

“No,” she said, her voice cracking. “Not quite.”

* * *

The next day, Rosemary had a surprise for the boys when they came home from school. On the table she had brought over her husband’s coin collection.

“What’s this?” Victor asked, dropping his coat on the floor.

“Not where that belongs,” Rosemary said.

“Sorry,” he picked it up and put it away.

“Have a seat,” she said, when both boys were back in the kitchen.

“This is your Uncle Bob’s coin collection.” She took one of the coins out of the tissue.

“Neat,” Sam said, reaching for it, but Dorothy pulled it away.

Victor frowned. “Why are they all wrapped up?”

Rosemary sat down beside them. “Here, look at this.” She held out the coin and pointed at the writing. “The coin was double-printed.”

“It’s still worth money though, right?” Sam asked.

“Definitely, in fact, if you can find one like this, it could actually be worth a lot more.”

Both boys looked up at her. “Your Uncle Bob likes to collect rare coins. Every day, he takes the change out of his pocket and carefully goes through each of them.”

“And he found all of these?” Victor asked, his eyes scanning the tissue wrapped coins that Dorothy was unwrapping.

“Yup. None of them are worth much yet, but maybe one day. I thought maybe you’d like to start going through your own collection. Maybe you’ll find something.” She smiled at them and handed them one of Bob’s old coin collecting books. The pages were yellowing and starting fall out, but hopefully they’d still find it interesting.

The boys grinned at each other and raced to their room. Dorothy could hear the sound of coins being dumped out on the hardwood floor. She wrapped the coins that were on the table again and put them back into the box. But she left the book on the table for them to look through later.

If she had the money to give them, she would have, but maybe keeping them distracted with a hobby was better for now.

Part 7

The Letter: Part 5

white ship traveling through vast body of water with white birds flying beside

Did you want to start the series from the beginning? The Letter: Part 1

SEPTEMBER 2018

Barb and Susan were in Barb’s car driving down the highway. Barb had finally convinced Susan to take a break from packing and grab some lunch. What she didn’t know was that they were going a bit farther than Susan thought.

“Where are we going?” Susan asked, looking out the window. “We just passed the last exit before the ferry. You’ll need to pull into the drop off area and turn around.”

Barb didn’t say anything. She just stared out the windshield bracing herself for the inevitable fight that was about to come.

A few minutes later: “You’re in the wrong lane, Barbie. You’re heading to Vancouver in this lane. Barb!”

Their car passed the turn-off for parking and continued to one of the lines for the toll booth. “Barb! What are you doing?” Susan had her seatbelt of and was sitting forward in her seat looking out the rear window. “We have to turn around.”

The car in front of them had finished paying and pulled through. Barb pulled up to the toll booth window.

“2 passengers?” the lady asked.

“Yes.” She grabbed her credit card from her purse and passed it over to the lady. Susan’s mouth swung open as she stared at her, momentary rendered silent.

“Thank you,” she said, as the lady passed her, her receipt.

She drove down her lane until she came to the last car and put the car in park.

“What. Are. You. Doing?” Susan asked, her voice breathless.

Barb shrugged her shoulders looking a guilty. “Now before you say anything. You owe me.”

Susan sat up straight and her eyes bulged out. “I owe—”

“Just a second. Hear me out,” Barb said, quickly. “You’re moving away! I’m losing my best friend. What am I going to do without you! We need to have one adventure before you go.”

“Where exactly are we going?” Susan said, softly, clearly still furious.

“To find the coins from Richard’s letter.”

Susan sighed in annoyance. “I told you. There are no coins. Richard was crazy. He was a terrible father to Sam and Victor and I think he just wanted to have something to give them. But he was dirt poor. You should have seen his apartment. It was bare.  If he’d had coins like the ones he mentions in the letter, he wouldn’t have been living in that hovel.”

Barb frowned. “Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure? Aren’t you just a little bit curious?”

“I have to get back to packing. We leave in less than—”

“2 weeks. I know. I know. Come on. You have plenty of time. One day. That’s all I’m asking for.”

“I don’t have any clothes or toiletries.”

“I packed them already.”

“What? When?”

“Um, when I was supposed to be packing kitchen.” She grinned sheepishly.

“Thanks a lot.” Susan said. “Still, I haven’t told Sam I’m leaving.”

“I did. I told him I was taking you on a surprise trip.”

“And he was ok with that?” Susan asked, surprised.

“I think he was relieved to have a day free from packing actually.” She arched her eyebrow.

“Ok, I guess.” Susan slumped back into her chair. “Where are we off to?”

“A graveyard in Chilliwack.” She grinned at Susan.

Part 6