Charlotte was raking the yard and part of the field between Grandmal's house and aunt Carrie's. She had a fire going and she was in heaven. I'd never seen anyone like my mother and Charlotte, that loved raking so much and burning a huge smoking pile of crunchy crackling wonderful smelling leaves and brush! We used to tease Charlotte that she was a pyromaniac and that it was probably her who had set her neighbors garage on fire a few years back. I secretly was serious about the accusation. I think she accidentally did it of course. She was never charged.
Ellen was in a cooking mood. She could bake! Her homemade bread would melt in your mouth. I was afraid we were all going to leave twenty pounds heavier. I couldn't afford to gain anymore weight. I had always been the smallest of the sisters up until my first two children were born. After that I just started piling it on. Ellen and I were constantly on a diet. Mother who had a weight problem most of her life, was now quite slender. Charlotte who was always tall but never over weight, was now getting up there too.
We all knew we didn't have much longer to fulfill our agreement so I guess we had started to try harder to make some good memories. It was working. We were beginning to enjoy each others company, at least some of the time. We also figured it wouldn't be long before the money would be our reward for time served.
The sun was unusually hot for an October day. We were having a late Indian Summer. It was beautiful. I couldn't breathe in enough of the delicious weather we were having. I decided I would do a little house cleaning, looking through closets that we hadn't done that first week we were there. They looked like they haven't been cleaned out in decades. I stretched out on the floor, ready for a day of exploring, hoping to find some treasure long forgotten. A secret hidden away where no one would suspect. I never expected to find what I did.
I read them over and over, unable to grasp what I had seen written. Could it be true? The letters had been tucked away in an old hat box, inside the hat itself. There were dozens of them maybe fifty or more. Each one on it's own was enough to tell the story.
How I have thought about you every second since we last spoke. Not a moment goes by that I don't regret leaving. That I swear to myself I'll come back and fight to be with you, no matter the cost, no matter the guilt. Then she calls me and I have to go to her. She is so weak these days, so unaware of the month or even the time of year. I know it's selfish to think of you so when she is suffering as she is, but I can't help myself. It's like I've gone mad. I'm sorry to ask you to bear this burden with me. I never should have allowed my feelings to touch you. I'm sorry for deserting you my love, but I can't help but believe that one day we will truly be together again. Until then all my love and admiration.
There was no signature. I searched the other letters for one, none were there, and each being in their own envelope had no return address. Could it be, did Grandmother have a lover, but who and when. There were no dates on the letters and the envelopes postmarks I was unable to make out. The letters were very worn, as if she had read them over and over. Maybe Grandmother had been involved after Granddaddy died after all she was still a young woman when he died. Why had she never spoken of this man? Was it because of this person he spoke of in his letters? It certainly made it seem that he was speaking of a wife that was bed ridden or something. That must have been the only reason they hadn't been together. Surely it was after my grandfather's death!
I hid the letters back where I had found them. Would I share this discovery with Ellen or Charlotte probably not William, certainly not Mother and not Daddy. Maybe aunt Carrie knew something about this man. After all Grandmother had lived with her and my uncle the last few years of her life.
I decided I wouldn't tell anyone about the letters for the time being. Each day for the next week, whenever everyone else was busy outside the house, I scurried to the closet again, re-reading each letter for some clue as to who this mystery man in my grandmother's life was. Rev. Quentin McDonald kept coming to my mind. Was he the one? Had he returned to his love when he heard she was ill, only to find she had died? Maybe that was why he was interested in Grandmother's house, but why would he want to live in this old house anyway? He had too be close to eighty or so. If it was him Queenie had certainly been robbing the cradle! This was all too insane. How was I going to not tell anyone about this? I wondered if I could possibly keep this awful but delicious secret.