By Ekta R. Garg
I started this story back in April on a lark, but it’s stuck with me since then. I don’t know how many sections I’ll write or if I’ll ever finish it, but I had to find out more about this sad protagonist who calls herself a “loser” and considers her life a total wreck. And who got the letters she found in the floor of her house. And who was originally going to send the letters. And why they were left in a box in the floor I the first place…okay, there’s a small possibility I might write more. :>
When I got the letter, I’d actually forgotten about the box in the floorboards.
Yeah, I know. Here I was, complaining about having nothing to do before my new job started. You’d think I would sit around all day and obsess about the letters, the box, who wrote them, and the person, Martin Randolph, who was receiving them. And I did spend a couple of days obsessing. But, honestly, something about sending the letters to Martin set off this…thing inside of me.
I don’t know, maybe it was because I felt like I’d accomplished something. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that. You’ll say getting the job was an accomplishment. Not really. This small school in this small town needed to up their game in terms of communications. I was an out-of-work communications major who needed a job and a new start. And when I got on the phone for my interview, I got the impression that not a lot of people had applied. As in, none.
So, really, the job fit me.
Two days before I was set to start work, the principal called me and invited me over to his house. His wife was cooking, he said, and all the other staff and teachers were coming. Apparently it was a yearly tradition.
I didn’t want to go, but when I was eight Grammie gave me a lecture about first impressions. My parents are great and all, but Grammie’s lectures have hit the hardest and meant the most. While I was on the phone with the principal, even as my lips were forming around the words, “No, thanks, I already have plans,” I found myself, instead, saying, “Sure, great. What time? And what can I bring?”
That night turned into other invitations. It surprised me. I wasn’t used to all the attention. People always praised my uber-smart older brother or gossiped about my flaky younger sister. They usually forgot about me in the middle.
Another reason why I thought I was a loser. No one could remember me. But anyway.
Suffice it to say, by the time school started and I got up and running in the office I shared with the school receptionist I forgot about the letters. School hours during that first week were spent in meetings with different teachers and the principal as well as the superintendent. It seemed like, even though this private school was small, it was actually one of those places that kind of set the bar for other schools in the area. So the superintendent visited. A lot.
That led to meetings with a few other principals, and, well, before I knew it, I forgot about the letters, the box—which I’d dropped back into the floor because I didn’t know what to do with it—and everything else.
Until I got a reply.
I wasn’t even really paying attention go the big manila envelope that came in the mail. Just grabbed it and all the rest of my stuff from the mailbox and came inside. At first I thought it was from Catherine at the district level. She had a whole bunch of forms for me to fill out. I’d gotten the job so close to the start of school that a lot of my official paperwork had been marked as “pending,” according to Suzanne.
Within my first 48 hours on the job, I discovered that not only was she the school receptionist, she was also the go-to person for all gossip in the district’s educational circles. I knew I’d have to be careful with what I told her. Didn’t need her to know about why I left home and came here.
So, yeah, I grabbed the envelope and the junk mail and made it indoors to my little kitchen. The place, really, was starting to grow on me. The more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of Grammie and Pop’s house. Not necessarily the layout or anything just…the air.
Okay, I know, that sounds hokey. You can say it. I’m a loser.
I started opening the big envelope and it slipped from my fingers. I managed to catch it, but the contents all fell out. Small, letter-sized envelopes. Several of them.
As I frowned at the floor where they’d fallen, I reached for them. When I realized what they were, I fell down hard in one of the two chairs at my little used table. Then I put a hand to my mouth.
Why did Martin send them back? I thought.
I leafed through them. They were still sealed. They all looked to be there, although I couldn’t be sure. I hadn’t counted how many came out of the box.
Then I noticed that one of the envelopes looked newer than the others. On the outside, instead of the address for Martin Randolph, it said, “To Sender.” I wondered whether I should open it—I mean, all of these envelopes, this entire correspondence, belonged to someone else—but then I shrugged. I was the one who sent them, so that meant I had a right to open the new envelope.
“Dear Sender,” the short note read. “I want nothing to do with these letters or the writer. Burn them and stop bothering me. You have no right to dredge up the past. It should stay where it is. Martin Randolph.”
I flinched as if someone had struck me. What did Martin Randolph think of himself? I was just doing him a favor. I’d only owned the house for two months, for god’s sake. And I’d spent money on the postage, money I could have put toward something else. I didn’t have to try to return his stuff to him.
For a minute, I considered throwing the letters in the recycling bin. If Martin didn’t want them, why should I bother? I even stood up to do it, but then I stopped.
What if someone had thrown out Grammie’s letters? Or the ones Pop wrote to her? If Martin doesn’t want them, maybe the original letter writer does.
It was tempting to open the letters and start reading them right away, but I didn’t want to do that. Not yet, anyway. That was a bridge I couldn’t cross back once I started.
I decided, instead, to get in touch with the real estate agent who sold me the house. Maybe she’d have some answers or could contact the family. Someone might have missed these letters for a long time. Since I bought the house, they became my property by law but not by right. I had to make sure they got back to whoever wrote them.
Reaching for my phone, I started scrolling through my contacts for the agent’s number.