(sequel to The second letter)
I was in the kitchen, reading and sipping my third cup of coffee, when my grandfather came to the house. He never knocked, even though he no longer lived here. He looked for me in the living room and then when he couldn’t see me, he called. “Joan, where are you?” He followed my voice and came to the kitchen door smiling. I thought the gentleman from the past had a weird influence on him. My granddad never smiled in such a strange way.
“I hear you have a letter for me”, he said. It took me a minute to gather my thoughts. I had no letter for him, the only letter I had was for an unknown mystery lover whom Mrs. Browning wrote to many years ago. Oh! I looked at granddad in amazement, speechless. “Well, do you have a letter for me, or not?”, he insisted. “I have a letter that belonged to certain Mrs. Virginia Browning, but I am quite sure it was not meant for you. She would have been much older than you, and she wrote to her long lost love”. I said, resolutely, not quite knowing myself why I was trying to convince him that the letter was meant for someone else. Surely I didn’t know who it was meant for, why pretend like I do? I sighed. Granddad noticed I was not at ease so he came and sat next to me, pulled the chair towards the kitchen table, looked at me and explained. As he was speaking calm entered the room, not only from his words but the way he was uttering them was filling the space with unusual sense of peace.
“I knew Virginia when I was a young lad, before I married your grandmother. She was much younger than her brother, whom you met earlier I believe. His father married a younger woman after his first wife died, and so Virginia was born many years after George, the brother you met. My family was selling one of our properties at the time, that’s how I got to know her. Virginia and I fell in love but I recklessly went away one summer, to pursue my own career. I was going to come back the year after and marry her but she took my departure as a sort of a goodbye. She was already married by the time I came back. I left a note in her favourite book, the one she read and reread many times, explaining why I had to go and promising I will be back. She must have never seen that note, or else she saw it too late. If you have that letter, it would mean a lot to me to read it, Joan. I loved your grandmother, never doubt that, but Virginia was my first love and I need to see her before…”, he had to fight the tears before he was able to continue speaking. “George told me she is ill, these are her last months or weeks or even days on this earth. I must see her and ask forgiveness. I never meant to let her go, certainly not the way she thought I did.”
Again I could not really think and it was all a bit much for me to take in, but I run to my room and took the letter out of that box. I gazed at it for a few seconds and thought, “how much love must be hidden in these words, half a century of wondering about your once lost love”. I rushed down and handed the letter to granddad. I wanted to go with him, to meet Virginia, to witness their encounter after so many years. But I knew I couldn’t, it was their story and their moment alone to share. I fought back tears myself as I saw him leave the house and hoped and prayed it will not be too late.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 25th April 2015)
Photo by © Iva Beranek