She was a classy lady, I thought to myself.
Standing there in the middle of this small, little old cabin, I saw some semblance of a comfortable home. It was there alright, nestled quietly under the dust and mess that comes when a place is abandoned. In the dim light, I strained to identify the lumps and objects laying about. Gradually, by leaning towards the light coming through the once sunny windows, the shapeless objects on either side of them became curtains. Square shapes in the shadows formed into tables and chairs. The odd piles on the floor became rugs, now covered with dirt and curled up at the edges. An assortment of papers, books, bric-a-brac and other interesting items lay scattered about.
There in the living room was a desk. The drawers still held stationary and an assortment of greeting cards for every occasion. Papers and file folders lay on top, looking as though someone had recently looked through them. But the amount of dust on them indicated otherwise. There were books too, and many were first editions. There was a lamp, also a comfortable reading chair. A vase stood in one window, waiting for a bouquet of fresh spring flowers that never came.
Except for the dust and dirt, the tiny kitchen had been left neat as a pin. Some silverware was scattered about, but enough pots and pans remained in the cupboards for me to know that at one time, everything here had its place. A woman’s presence had kept everything orderly, from the hot pads hanging from a wall hook to the flowered little dishes above the sink.
The bedroom was, of course, most telling of all. In the closet were dresses, as well as a garment bag containing a fur coat. Clothes lay on the bed, apparently placed there as she packed to leave. I knew she was going, because a packet of old letters said so. They were lovingly tied in a bundle with a faded pink ribbon, and most of them were from a man. His return address bore an “APO, New York” address, telling me his mail came through a central Army post office because he was overseas. The letters were interesting, telling of this man’s adventures but also saying how much he missed her. He couldn’t wait for the day they would be together, he said. As that day grew closer, the letters became even more emphatic.
The last letter lay loose, placed purposely on the bedside table. Either it had not been tied into the bundle with the others, or it fell out. I turned it over, and saw the envelope had never been opened.
I held onto the letter as I wandered back to the living room. My imagination fairly ran wild thinking about what it might say. Why didn’t she open it? Should I open it? Who was this lady, anyway? My fingers ran over the papers on the desk. Some bore the classic archaic letters of an old typewriter. There were forms in the folders, also hand-outs and a resume which told me her name. The resume also revealed that at one time, she was Dean of the Women’s College at Colorado College.
“Aha,” I said aloud, and nodded. This explained a lot. The funky little cabin had originally been built by pioneers long ago. Later, this place and several others were offered as a retreat for college professors. Had she come to the retreat and left for an emergency? Was she on sabbatical, or perhaps retired? All of her things were here; why had she left them behind? And what became of the mystery man who promised to love her forever?
I looked again at the unopened letter in my hand. The answers to my questions may be inside. With a sigh, I carefully tore the envelope open. A single sheet was enclosed, folded with the ink on the other side. As I turned it over and began reading, my heart fairly sang for this woman, now long dead and who never knew me. “My dear,” read the letter. “If you don’t get this letter, it is because you are on your way to meet me in New York. I cannot wait for the day I can hold you in my arms, my sweet, and we will begin our lives together at last.”
After some minutes, I put the letter back in the envelope and laid it carefully on her papers. Looking around one last time, I smiled at her fortune and the fact that yes, dreams really can come true. Closing the door behind me was like closing a good book, one that you want to go back to again and again. But I knew the story would never be told the way it was that day.