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by Taylor Kincaid
Description: Are you to taking a pilgrimage with Chelsey? Chelsey is making a pilgrimage which she hasn't made in years. Though she has chosen one of the coldest days of the year, she is determined to unearth the precious keepsake box she and Jason, her childhood sweetheart, had buried long ago. As she unsuccessfully hacks away at the frozen ground with her little spade, she is interrupted by an impudent stranger who seems angry to find her there. He demands to know what she thinks she is doing. When she explains her mission to him, he reluctantly agrees to help her dig. He finally succeeds in removing enough dirt to uncover the box. But to Chelsey's horror, there is nothing there to find. Her box of precious memories has disappeared. How was that possible, since the only other person who even knew the box existed was dead? And who is this insolent stranger who has offered to help her? Is this a chance meeting or some strange twist of fate?
eBook Publisher: Red Rose Publishing, 2008 2008-09-25
eBookwise Release Date: November 2008
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [30 KB]
Reading time: 13-18 min.
If someone had tampered with their bandanna, which had remained untouched for all those years, could they have somehow found their box of beloved keepsakes too? She knew her panic was unrealistic and unfounded. The chance that anyone would even think of digging up the earth beneath that old tattered piece of cloth was ridiculous. No stranger could know what that cloth had represented. Perhaps the new bandanna was simply a prankster's joke.
Still, she couldn't seem to rid herself of the fear that gripped her. She grabbed her shovel and began to chip away at the frozen ground in a panicked frenzy. She needed to make sure the box was still there. She had to reassure herself.
But, her progress was slow and practically fruitless. The ground was so solid that every stroke of the spade only chipped away a tiny bit of earth. She was determined to unearth that box if it took her the rest of the day. She was startled by the gruff masculine voice that came from behind her. She twirled around to see who had spoken to her in that impudent tone.
A tall figure of a man stood only inches away from her. He loomed over her, in fact. She couldn't see anything of his face except his eyes, for he was as wrapped as she was. Her eyes were watering again as she squinted up at him. He again found his voice and bellowed at her, his tone angry,
"What do you think you're doing with that thing?" He grabbed the little spade out of her hand with a jerk. "You have no right to be here digging up other people's property," he bellowed.
"This is not your property, Mister. We're standing in the middle of a wood," she bellowed back. "Give me back my shovel. You're wasting precious time," she insisted.
"What do you think you're doing with that little spade on this frozen ground? Who in their right mind would be digging up a patch of dirt on a frigid day like this? Don't you have anything better to do?" he queried incredulously.
Chelsey looked at him defiantly and said with more confidence than she felt, "I'm on a mission."
"What kind of mission?"
"A personal one."
"What kind of personal?"
"If you must know, I'm searching for something that means a lot to me."
"And that something is buried in the ground beneath this tree?" his tone was incredulous.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, it is."
"And how do you know there is something buried here?"
"Because I'm the one who buried it, that's why!" in an exasperated tone.
"What did you bury here, a beloved dog, perhaps?"
"No, not a dog."
The man studied Chelsey intently with those suspicious eyes of his. Then he said, "I feel sure there is nothing for you to find down there; but if you are determined to do this thing, I guess I could help you dig the hole."
He took the shovel and began chipping away at the solid ground. He made more progress with the shovel than Chelsey had. He was digging vigorously at the frozen ground and before long, he had accomplished what it would have taken her an afternoon to do. He had unearthed a lot of dirt and had exposed a gaping hole in the ground. But, that was all he had exposed. The hole was empty. There was no metal box to be found.
Chelsey felt panic stricken as she realized they should have uncovered the box by now. There was no way it could have been buried any deeper than the man had already dug. The hole already was deeper than it should have to be. She had to accept the fact that the box simply was not there. Her precious keepsakes, her precious trinkets representing her and Jason's history together, all gone...
She sat down near the empty gaping hole and began to cry. The man hurriedly stooped down before her and began to wipe at her face with a huge gloved hand, saying,
"You can't be doing that out here. It's way too cold. Why are you so upset? What was it you were expecting to find down there, anyway?"
Chelsey replied between sobs, "A little metal box that held trinkets, a keepsake box."
"And what was in that box that was so important?"
"Only ten years of precious memories that can never be replaced!" she wailed.
He leaned over and placed his hands firmly upon her arms and brought her to her feet. Her eyes were swimming, but she could tell the man was peering at her intently. His voice changed from one of irritation to one of concern.
"We can't have you out here in this weather if you insist on keeping up that awful crying. Come with me. I have a little cabin not far from here where you can warm up, and I will make you some soothing hot tea."
He took her gloved hand and pulled her along. She allowed him to do so, which was really quite foolish of her. She didn't know anything about the man. For all she knew, he could have been a serial killer or a rapist. Yet, she was too lost in her desperate thoughts to be careful, or to view her situation realistically. Within a few moments he was opening the cabin door and ushering her inside.
The man immediately stoked the little fire that was still burning in the fireplace by adding more wood. He motioned for her to sit down in a little wooden rocker in front of the fire. Then he went to the little kitchen area to make the tea.
Chelsey pulled off her gloves and sat there rubbing her numb hands near the warmth of the fire. Then she began to unwrap the muffler scarf from around her face and she took her jacket off and laid it across the back of the rocker. She stared into the flames as if she were in a trance. Even though her outer extremities were beginning to feel warm again, her insides felt numb. She couldn't believe her box with its precious belongings had vanished. What could have happened to it? She couldn't seem to make any sense of it.
Her thoughts were interrupted when the man brought a cup of steaming tea to her. She gratefully took the cup from him. She held the warm cup in her hands and sniffed the hot comforting aroma. She relaxed just a little and took a sip of the steamy liquid. She could feel the warmth trickle slowly down her throat. The tea was just what she needed.
The man took a seat in the rocker next to hers. He glanced her way, but she didn't look back at him.
He broke the silence then. "You can talk about it if you'd like. It might help. Why don't you tell me a little about this box of yours?"
Chelsey did as he suggested. She stared into the fire while she talked, as if the flames mesmerized her.
"Jason and I were friends from an early age. We loved spending time together, but we had to be secretive about it, because our families didn't want us to be friends. Our fathers hated one another and we were forbidden to play together. That's why we found that place in the wood and made it our secret meeting place. It was halfway between our houses, so it worked out perfectly."
"The box was a simple little metal thing, of no value in and of itself. It was what the box contained that was valuable, little keepsakes and whatnots, silly things actually. But, they weren't silly to Jason and me, at least not at the time. We were just kids when we first started collecting things to put in that box. We buried the box under that tree and then we hung a bright red bandanna on one of the lower limbs to mark the spot. When we had something new to add, we would dig up the box and add our newest treasure."
"I remember the first thing we put in there. It was locks of our hair. One thick black lock from his head, and a long strawberry blonde one from mine. We tied the two locks together with one of my hair ribbons. Then there was the time we decided we should become blood brother and sister. Jason took his pocketknife and poked a tiny hole in his thumb, and then I let him poke one in mine. We put our thumbs together and squeezed to mix our blood. We held a little linen handkerchief under our thumbs to catch the drops of blood. Then I carefully folded the hanky and placed it in the box."
"There was that summer when Jason spent an entire month sailing with his uncle on his yacht in New England. I missed him so much that summer. I thought the month would never end. One day mom took me shopping in town and I saw this little toy boat that made me think of Jason. I asked mom to buy it for me. Then when he came home, I presented it to him, and we placed it in the box as a memory of his summer in New England. And there was one summer my parents took me to France for a couple of weeks. I bought a tiny souvenir replica of the Eiffel Tower and we put it in the box."
"There was one of my report cards in there. It was the first straight A's report card I ever got. Jason had said we should preserve it in our box and we did. When Jason's beloved dog, Shadow, died, we took the bone shaped nametag off the collar and put it in the box as a loving tribute to his long lost friend. When my grandfather died, we put the bulletin from the funeral service in there."
"Jason gave me the most beautiful card on my sixteenth birthday and I wanted to keep that in the box. The last thing we placed in there was the prom picture from our Senior Prom. Not long after that, he ended up leaving because he had joined the Marines. The morning he had to leave, we met in the woods underneath our tree. We dug the box up and looked at everything we had placed there. It was a very emotional time for both of us. And then we shared a tender good-bye kiss under our tree. That was the last I ever saw of him."
Only then did Chelsey glance over at the man sitting beside her. Now he was the one staring intently into the flames. He had listened quietly as she had talked. He had allowed her to relive her treasured memories as she had recounted every one to an absolute stranger. Yet, it had felt good to open up and tell someone all of it. She had never before told anyone about the box. And had it not been for the strange circumstances she had found herself in that afternoon, she wouldn't have told him all that she had.
Before she knew what was happening, the man was kneeling in front of her chair, gazing at her intently. He stared into her eyes, a serious expression on his face. He then took his hands and smoothed her hair back away from her face. His right hand caressed her left cheek.