Annie opened her eyes, her body shivered violently despite the warm summer air. The house was silent and dark. She had been having a strange dream involving snow and gunshots. Despite being awake, she could still feel the cold snow surround her.
She cuddled underneath the blankets, pulling them tightly around her body. Slowly she began to warm up. Once her body reached a normal temperature she tried to go back to sleep. At first she just gazed at the ceiling, hoping that boredom and exhaustion would win over. They did not. Next she tried counting sheep (how cliché). That did not help. Finally, she squeezed her eyes shut, attempting to force herself, unsuccessfully, to go to sleep. After thirty minutes she gave up.
She looked at the clock on her phone: 1:00 A.M. it read. She pulled out her tablet and searched for a book to read. Eventually she settled on her favorite, Jane Eyre. She had loved the book the first time she read it at the age of twelve. Her grandparents had bought her a first edition copy of it when she was inducted into the National Honors Society four years later; it had been a glorious testimonial to their faith and support of her. It was something that she had sorely needed after the doubt that her father had shown her. That book was safely ensconced in a special case in the library, it was far too special for her to ruin. Instead she kept a copy of it on her tablet for when she decided to read it, which happened quite frequently. She had just started the second chapter when her door blew open.
The tablet fell out of Annie’s hands down to the bed. Hesitantly, she removed the covers and got out of bed. She wandered, cautiously, over to the door and quietly shut it. She was halfway across the room when the door opened again. Annie felt her chest tighten with fear. Her senses sharpened until she was aware of every sound around her: the sharp inhale-exhale of her breath, the fast, but steady thump-thump of her heart, the quiet blowing of the AC. She tip-toed towards the door and peaked out into the silent hallway.
She crept further into the hallway, moving as silently as possible so that she would not wake anyone. She passed by her sister’s room first, then her parent’s. Nothing was amiss. She was about to turn around and go back to the comfort of her room when she saw a faint glow coming from around the corner. She followed the light and was relieved to see that it was only the hallway light on. Someone must have forgotten to turn it off before they went to bed.
Annie quickly flipped the switch, expecting the hallway to be plunged into darkness. She was surprised when a faint light still emerged. She searched for the source and noticed that the attic door was cracked open. She hurried along the hallway but stopped at the door, listening for any sounds that would indicate a person being up there; none came. With great trepidation she pushed open the door just wide enough for her to squeeze through and climbed up the stairs. Blessedly the attic was unoccupied by any person besides herself.
She searched the wall for the light switch and was about to flick it off when she noticed a trunk that she had never seen before. The lid was wide open. Curious, she walked over to it, anxious to see what was inside. The house had been built before the American Revolution. Originally it had belonged to a loyalist family. But after the American’s had defeated the British, her great-great-great-great grandfather had bought the home. Who knew what historical treasures the house could hold? She tenderly examined the contents of the trunk. It contained mostly moth eaten clothes and family trinkets. A silver pocket watch lay on top of a man’s shirt. Annie opened it and examined the inscription:
No arrangement of words
Can express my feelings for you.
I will remain yours
Through all time.
All my love. A.
Annie placed the watch to the side then dug deeper into the trunk. She found clothing, both men’s and women’s clothing, a couple of pairs of shoes, hats, etc. Nothing really of much interest, other than the watch. She was about to give up for the night when she felt an aged folio against the side of the trunk.
She removed the folio from the trunk and examined it. There were no initials or any other type of identifying marks. The folio was made of dark leather and was held together by two leather ties. The leather was soft, and well-worn with age and use. Annie tenderly pulled the leather ties and opened the folio. Inside were page after page of what appeared to be personal correspondence. The pages were yellowed and brittle with age.
Annie scanned the front page and determined that the letters were in fact love letters. Conflicting feelings of curiosity and invasion warred inside Annie. She was curious to read the letters, to discover who the authors were and what their story was. At the same time she felt that reading such intimate words would be a severe invasion of privacy. In the end curiosity won out. Without doubt the authors of these letters were long dead and buried.
Her mind made up, Annie closed the folio and left the attic. She returned to her room, shut the door, and sat down at her desk. Flipping on the desk lamp she carefully spread a few of the letters across the desk. She examined each letter as if they were scholarly texts and not personal letters. First she searched for a date. The first letter displayed the date July 22, 1780. The rest of the letters appeared to be in chronological order after that. The last letter was dated November 10, 1780. Satisfied that she would not have to arrange the delicate pages, she pulled out a notebook from her desk drawer and began reading the first letter, jotting down notes as she went.
Halfway through the first letter she noticed that these were not normal love letters. The salutations of the letters were all the same: To my dearest love and they concluded with the same cryptic signature: Your Lady. Sure they had typical phrases like, “My love, you are missed so,” and “I long for the day that we can finally be reunited,” in them. But other phrases seemed out of place. Phrases such as, “Our dear friend, Mr. A, has been overly attentive lately,” and, “I look forward to my dinner with him later this week.” Why would anyone mention attention and engagements with other men in their love letters? Furthermore, the letter had an odd flow about it. Despite the personal nature of the notes, the letters were disjointed.
Resolutely she pushed on, reading the next three letters. Each letter was a mixture of words of longing and information concerning meetings with Mr. A. The more she read, the more she became convinced that there were more to these letters than met the eye. She continued to read until the first rays of dawn peaked through her curtains. Finally, her eyes heavy with exhaustion, Annie stumbled back to bed, and fell into a deep sleep.