Chapter Two Part One
By Ruth O'Neil
I dumped the contents of the envelope onto the table and they fell out with a clunk. I pushed aside the papers and smaller envelope to discover a credit card and key. Instinctively, I knew what it opened, but just in case I hadn’t known, Grammie included a tag with “Home” written on it. The key was for the old farmhouse we had lived in before our parents moved to Boston when I was eight. All the locks used skeleton keys unlike many of today’s modern locks. I took a breath before unfolding the note then looked at Grammie’s familiar handwriting.
They say, “home is where the heart is.” For this stop in your journey, I want you to go home. I hope you can find the child’s heart you left there. I think you will be surprised at what you discover.
P.S. I think there’s enough on the credit card for your whole trip’s expenses, as long as you don’t start dining at five-star restaurants!
The three-acre plot we had lived on would always be home. That’s where I remembered being the happiest.
Sighing I looked at my watch. Too late to do much of anything but pack for now, I went to my bedroom to pack the warmest clothes I owned. New York was cold in December. There would be much to arrange tomorrow. I’d have to talk to Bertie about taking a six-week break from work; I could just imagine his reaction to that. I’d also have to let the college admin department know I’d be back next quarter.
That night, I was too restless to sleep. I pulled out the scrapbook Grammie had made for my sixteenth birthday. I hadn’t read it in a long time. As I opened the front cover, waves of emotion assaulted me. The thought came to me that Lauren had one just like it. Had she also tucked it away, along with all the sadness of the past? I gazed at the pictures that told the story of my life from birth until then. Grammie said that we should add our own pages, but I didn’t have the heart, not after Lauren left. Who knew so much would change in our lives that next year.
It took me two days to arrange everything. Bertie initially flew into a rage, but when I told him it was for Grammie, he softened and agreed to keep my job open until after the first of the year. With that—and all the college paperwork resolved—I could catch the morning flight out of Houston to Syracuse, New York. This is a little crazy, you know that Grammie? I must have said a few hundred times along the way.
By late afternoon, I had cruised through Elbridge and was finally steering the rental car into the driveway of our old home. “For Sale”—the sign stood boldly on the lawn. It seemed wrong that this sanctuary of my childhood memories could be traded by strangers. Pushing down the irrational resentment, I looked over to where the old barn used to stand. It had been a playground for Lauren and me when we were little girls, playing house, solving mysteries, and sharing daydreams of what we would become when we grew up.
I smiled. Lauren and I had planned to live near each other forever. We figured we started this life out in the same womb, so we were going to finish it as close as possible. I was going to use the barn foundation and build a house while Lauren would live in the main house. We would always be together, always there for each other.
Of course, all that changed the day Lauren and Steve betrayed me. Pushing down the anger threatening to surface, I walked toward the house, which appeared deserted – abandoned and lonely – much like I felt since Grammie died. I couldn’t resist peeking into one of the ground floor windows. Cobwebs fluttered where curtains used to hang, and the interior was dark and empty. I tried the front door, but it was locked. Grammie’s skeleton key wouldn’t work in the modern lock, so I didn’t even try it.
I walked around the outside of the house, looking up to the second story window of the room Lauren and I had shared. One of its walls had been covered with paintings of fairies and unicorns, horses, and princesses. “Paint is cheap,” Dad used to say, and he and Mom had celebrated every picture painted by our hands as if Picasso himself had created them.
I spied the path that led through the woods. For old time’s sake, I decided to take a little hike, but ... each step further into the woods brought back more memories. I walked past the tree where we had pledged our commitment to be there for each other forever.
“Are you going to do it?” Lauren had asked.
“Why should we do that? I think it’s stupid.”
“To prove our promise to each other. We need to be blood sisters.”
“We’re already blood sisters. Everything about us is the same,” I said.
In those days, my sister, my womb mate, had been my best friend, but who could have foreseen what was to come?
Come back here tomorrow to read Chapter Two Part Two of The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt.
Grace takes delivery of a package and her life is turned upside down by nine sealed mystery envelopes from her late grandmother. Grammie’s instructions require Grace to take the journey of her lifetime, not only to far off places, but also into the deepest parts of her heart. As she follows the trail laid out for her and uncovers her family’s darkest secrets, Grace is forced to confront the loss and betrayal that has scarred her past and seek the greatest Christmas Treasure of all.
Learn more about this fun project at Write Integrity Press.
Ruth is the Featured Author today at WIP, so drop by to read her Favorite Christmas Memory and Recipe.
Don’t forget to pop over to Magnificent Hope’s Christmas Party! We’ll see you there.