11 April, 2019
"Justine?" Jennifer was going through her father's belongings and found the questionable manila envelope in a box that had been packed up from his office. She was his only survivor, so the company that had packed up his house outside Philadelphia shipped all the cartons to her in the frozen tundra of North Dakota.
The name didn't ring any bells. Not even from the strangers she had met when she flew out east for his funeral.
Her mother had been Cathy, and Jennifer was their only child. An only child of two "only child" parents, there were no aunts or cousins to bear that name, either. She sat in the wingback chair that arrived with the delivery and leaned into the comforting upholstery, envelope in hand. The chair had been her dad's, too. It still smelled like his reading room: musty books and pipe tobacco. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, letting the envelope rest in her lap for a minute.
When she opened her eyes, she examined the envelope. It was flat, but full. There was weight to the envelope, and the edges, worn with age, creased around the contents. It was old. Did she dare open it?
On the front of the envelope was simply one word, the name "Justine", written in Dad's neat print, in a black ball point pen. The word looked small on the 9x12 package. Turning it over, she saw the back was sealed and taped shut, no more words, no markings of any kind.
Pressing her index fingers into two corners of the envelope, Jennifer flipped it over and over.
Were the contents intended for this "Justine", or were they about some Justine from years ago? Was she even still alive? Jennifer didn't want to open it if it belonged to someone else. Then again, she was the sole survivor. The only one to inherit Dad's life, for good or ill.
In a sudden movement, she placed the envelope on the credenza next to the chair and squatted next to the box to dig around some more. If there was more information in the box illuminating who Justine was, maybe she could find this person and deliver the package. She kept eyeing the corner of the envelope where it poked over the edge of the credenza, curious.
Why had she never heard the name? She was sifting through papers and notebooks quickly now, trying to get to the bottom of the box. If she was expected to deliver something - anything, to anyone - after his death, you'd think he would have introduced them. Or at least mentioned the name in passing.
Finally, Jennifer leaned back on her haunches. Nothing. The box was empty, with no more hint of Justine. The weight of what she was about to do held her to the floor. She had to open the envelope. Whatever was in it - was it a secret of her father's? Was it trouble? Was she going to end up chasing down a rabbit-hole? She wished as never before that her mother was still alive to help her.
Jennifer went into the kitchen and turned on the kettle. Mom would have a cup of chamomile whenever her mind was spinning out of control. Maybe it would help now.
Tea in hand, she returned to the envelope and sat back in Dad's chair. Picking up the envelope and a box-cutter, Jennifer stopped. Smelling and feeling Dad's chair while reading something left for her by him might be sensory overload. She got back up and crossed over to her usual reading chair. Placing her teacup on the side table, she sliced open the envelope.
"Whoever is reading this, know that this has been a dark time for Cathy and me..." As Jennifer read the top page from the envelope, her eyes filled with tears.
Thank you for visiting my #AtoZChallenge! My theme is "Audience Participation" (read about it, here) and now it is your turn. Each day will be a new story based on suggestions from your comments. Suggest anything: a word, scenario, character, location... I will be keeping a list of suggestions, so if yours isn't used tomorrow, it may show up later.
Today's post was inspired by the prompt "envelope", suggested by Isa-Lee Wolf (of A Bit to Read), given in comments on my D post (here).