This post is in response to this week’s Red Writing Hood challenge to write a piece of fiction around this prompt: You or your character find a forgotten letter or card from someone important in your life–whether good or bad. What does it say? How does it affect you or your character? What is done with it?
Adrienne, the oldest sister, and Caitlin, some 18 years younger, were charged by their brothers to inventory the belongings of their recently deceased sister, Brianna, so that family memorabilia could be distributed among the siblings and other belongings could be sold to help settle Brianna’s estate. The relationship among the three sisters was strained, mostly as a result of decisions executrix Adrienne had made a few years earlier to settle their father’s estate. In fact, Adrienne had not spoken to either Brianna or Caitlin during that time.
Adrienne lived most of her adult life far away from the family’s hometown, but had recently moved back after retiring from her civil service career. By contrast, Brianna and Caitlin had only ever lived in their hometown and had often heard their father brag about Adrienne’s educational and professional successes. That he chose Adrienne to administer his estate made them feel even more inferior to their older sister.
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Entering the front door of Brianna’s house, Caitlin said, “I can’t believe I got roped into this job! This is going to take forever!”
Looking around, Adrienne could only agree. Brianna had always been a saver, so every surface in the house was covered with stacks of stuff. “You’re right, how about if we start by sorting out obvious trash like junk mail and newspapers? For now, we can put all that into trash bags…”
“Yeah, that will work—we can get the boys to take it to the dump later,” Caitlin said, “and we can sort out things like letters and pictures and books as we go.”
“Okay, but watch out for bills and financial statements too, because we have to give all that stuff to the attorney when we’re done,” Adrienne added, “and we need to agree on one other thing.“
“Like what? Let’s just get started. This looks like it’s going to take the rest of my life already!” Caitlin said, as she started toward the dining room.
“Wa-a-a-it!” Adrienne called. “We need to promise not to take anything out of here without telling each other, and we have to be respectful of Brianna and the boys along the way.”
Over her shoulder, Caitlin shouted back, “Okay, WHATEVER!”
Their first few hours in Brianna’s house went by without incident. The hours turned into days and the days merged into weeks before Adrienne and Caitlin were able to work their way through the house. That first day, everything seemed special and they each took time to savor whatever they found. As time went on, they found themselves laughing and crying together over some of the things they found. Before long, they actually started to enjoy being with one another.
Along the way, Caitlin noticed the growing stack of mostly unopened envelopes, each bearing Adrienne’s return address. Investigating, Caitlin sorted the envelopes by the date they were postmarked and found that Adrienne had sent a letter to Brianna every week since their father had passed away.
Finally, she decided to read the earliest open letter.
“Dear Brianna, I know you’re angry at me, but I hope the time will come when we can settle our differences. We’re family, and that should be the most important thing to each of us. Do you remember the time Dad…”
“Dearest Brianna, I hope you’re doing well. I think of you every day and just wish we could talk. Pick up the phone next time I call, will you? I’d love to hear your voice. Hey, do you remember how Mom used to answer the phone?”
And yet another.
“Hey, Sis, I’ll be in town next week. Can we get together for coffee? I came across some pictures from when we were in elementary school…”
Caitlin saw the pattern in each letter: a plea for reconciliation and an invitation to reminisce. She knew some of the family stories, of course, but there were also many that she had never heard.
Finally, hesitantly, she approached Adrienne and said, “I’ve been reading some of the letters you sent Brianna. I appreciate that you didn’t give up on her even though she didn’t respond to you, and I’ve enjoyed reading your accounts of family stories. Do you mind if I read the rest of the letters?”
Teary-eyed, Adrienne replied, “Oh, please do…I had fun writing them and I’m glad you like them enough to want to read more. They may not have persuaded Brianna to reconcile, but I’m glad we took on this job and found a way to mend our relationship.”