I jerked open my junk door looking for some batteries, Monk was coming on and the blasted remote was dead. The drawer’s catch broke, and I flung the drawer across the room, sending it’s contents over the kitchen floor. Between my curses I find a long forgotten treasure causing memories of my past to come flooding back. Jessie’s voice sounded as clear as the day she said them, “I have something for you,” holding up a key for me to see, “it is for a red bound book in my library. You’ll know the one, it’s the only book with a lock on it. And no, it’s not my diary, it’s much more important than that, but you have to promise me, don’t open it until I show it to you or unless something happens to me. You have to promise that.”
I made that promise that day so many years ago. I placed the key in the drawer as she watched, and until now, forgotten all about it.
They say women has this sixth sense about them, I believe that to be true. Six months to the day later, a man walked into the grocery store and shot at his ex-wife, only mine was standing between them. The doctor said she felt no pain, that death was instant. I guess that was intended to make me feel better, there are some strange things people say during times like this.
Now all that I repressed is welling itself back up. I started questioning why now that I had to find that key. Why now that I was starting to get my life back together, why now when I felt like I was ready to love again?
“Why, God, why now?”
I close my fist around the key, she was the last person besides me to touch it, the sensation of that thought rippled through my body. I suddenly could feel her touch, smell her scent, and hear her voice. Her face shone in my memory and her smile, I’d forgotten how wonderful her smile was.
“Why God, why Jessie?” I must have asked that question a million times, and a million times the answer I recieved was silence. Still, I’ll ask it again one day, and the day after that, until either I join her or God reveals the reason someone as wonderful as Jessie was taken so early in life.
I walk to the room Jessie made into her library. This was her favorite room, all her books were here and here is where she loved to be. She had her favorite authors, Snyder and his drunk Basset hound made her laugh, Weiland took her to castles and knights in shining armor, Yezak took her back to her biggest dream, riding in a rodeo. Those books were right beside the big red book.
You can tell it has been years since it had been touched, dust covered it and the bookshelf where it laid. I blow the dust off and place it on her reading table. The key slid in and the lock popped open. I hesitated before opening the heavy cover, my mind full of what I’d find, but it slowly opened, dust flying as it landed with a thud on the table.
The first page was a dedication, I guess you’d call it that, that spoke of how Katie Lynn Mathis received this book from her mother on her eighth birthday. Katie Lynn, who was Katie Lynn? Mathis was Jessie’s maiden name, but her full name was Jessica Gail Mathis. Who was this Katie Lynn?
I turn the first page and there is a light blue envelope with my name on it. My stomach tightens as I pick it up, I look at Jessie’s handwriting. My tears land on the envelope beside existingssmudges. Jessie’s Teardrops? I pull the letter out, two pages handwritten by my first and only love. The emptiness came back and tears blurred my vision. Oh, how I miss her. I miss her laugh, her smile, the way she’d twist the Frito bag closed. I miss her scent, her soft snoring, her touch. It’s amazing how two sheets of paper would open up those memories.
I unfold the letter and begin to read, “My darling. If you are reading this letter then I know I must be gone. I am sorry, I wanted to tell you but I didn’t have the nerve, the opportunity or the words. I hope you are moving on with your life. Be happy.
Love again, even if it is painful, you are too wonderful to be alone. So find love, but remember, I loved you first, and I still love you. Now there is some things I must tell set straight.”
“This red book was a gift I gave someone very special in my life. Katie Lynn was my daughter. When I was fourteen I thought I was in love with a seventeen year old boy. We made love and I became pregnant. Everyone tried to make me get rid of it, but I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. Katie Lynn became my reason for living. We weren’t only mother and daughter, we were best friends. On her eighth birthday I gave her this book to write her most inner feelings and dreams. She was quite a gifted writer for her age, read her entries and you’ll see what I mean.”
“About a week before Christmas that year, Katie and I were shopping for Grandpa Robert’s Christmas gift. She was beside me one moment, and the next she was gone. I don’t know how they grabbed her without someone seeing, but they did. The police gave up looking after a couple of months saying that after that amount of time, chances were slim that she’d still be alive. I know better. I know she’s still alive, still out there prisoner of some sick perverted mind that keeps her away from me.”
“This is the reason for this letter, please keep Katies memory alive,one day she will return home, freed from her prison. Welcome her and tell her I loved her with all my being. Tell her that my heart ached everyday for her hug and kisses. Tell her that you will be her father if she will let you. Open not only our home to her, but open your heart. When you marry, make sure she will love her also. I know your love, I have felt your love, and I know you’ll love her with your whole being, I can rest easy, knowing that.”
“I never told you about her because I didn’t want you, my hero, to go riding off on your stallion to rescue her. I know you wouldn’t have stopped until you found her and I couldn’t take that chance of losing you also. I am sorry that I didn’t trust you with this, but I couldn’t survive losing you.”
“Now my love, I’ll leave you to read what was in Katie’s heart, and what I hope still resides there. I know you’ll develop a love for her from her words, amazing words of an eight year old. Also know that I love you with my whole being, physical and now spiritual, also know that one day I’ll meet you as Jesus leads you into paradise. All my love, Jessie.”
I slowly turn the page and look at the scrawlings on it. Definitely written by an eight year old. After several pages I put the book back on the table and wipe the tears from my eyes. The words were amazing, so full of life, so full of hope, so full of wisdom. She definitely was or is her mother’s daughter. Jessie was right, her words put a love for this little girl in my heart.
I stand and start down the staircase, as I reach the bottom I hear a knock at the door. I open it and there stands Jessie;s dad, Robert, and a young teenage girl. Robert’s eyes are red rimmed as if he had been crying, but they were dancing with delight. I look at the girl and see Jessie’s eyes, her nose, her shy smile. My heart skips a beat as the reality of who she is floods my mind, “Katie?” She nods and we fall to our knees, sobbing as we embrace. I look up at Robert who has tears running down his cheeks, he said, “She was taken my a couple of old maid sisters who wanted a child to raise. They loved her as if she was theirs and treated her like the princess she is. When they read about Jessie death, they decided Katie needed to know what was left of her family. It took them some time to prepare Katie to meet her real family.”
Her real family, that sounds good, no, that sounded great. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Welcome home Katie Lynn. Come inside, your mother has something for you. A key to a red bound book where you can write all your thoughts and dreams.”