Friday, March 14, 2014


Ellen McHugh had finally steeled her nerve to face the task of clearing out grandmother's home after her sudden passing. Ellen found a box of letters written to her grandmother. They weren't from her grandfather. The correspondence was signed by a historic figure. Who was this person? Write a flashy piece of fiction detailing grandmother's hand in an important event!



    Downright curiosity compelled her to read the contents of the box. After reaching the close of the first letter she debated stopping, tying the blue ribbon around into a bow, and burning all the numbered letters in a fire barrel. But she didn’t. Nor did the love she’d had for Grandma McHugh diminish even one single iota from how she had felt about her since childhood.

    “Dearest Antoinette,” letter number one (June 1954) began, “I fell in love with you that first moment I saw you. I know that sounds so much a line straight from the pages of Casanova’s black book or from a love sonnet by Elizabeth Browning. Believe me, Antoinette, every word rings true.”

    Had she not read the name at the end of the letter, she might have assumed Grandpa McHugh had written them. After all, it was evident to everyone how much he loved his Antoinette and how deeply she loved him. The way she stared at him, called him “My Patrick,“ even in their seventies when love ages to a less demonstrative display. They loved each other madly. Even Ellen could tell that. Growing up in her grandparents’ home gave her faith in love that paid dividends in her adulthood when she married Vaughn.

    She lifted letter number twenty-four, removed it from the envelope dated November 1955 and began reading. It was a letter of three words: “Maria passed away.” It seemed to Ellen it was a farewell letter, but the box was stacked high with further correspondence. Less than a year later he resumed writing to Antoinette, even mentioning his new marriage to Laura Archera, “to keep me from growing lonely since I cannot have you, dream lady, woman unattainable.”

    He wrote about Hollywood. “So different from the London I knew so well.” He wrote about movies like Jane Eyre in which he had a screenwriter’s hand. He told her of his impending blindness, the dystopian novels he had written, the refusal of modern society to avoid the outcome of those novels.

    Grandma McHugh died a few days after her one-hundredth birthday, fifty years after her secret lover with whom she had shared a few hours in a Los Angeles hotel in 1954.

    Ellen brushed her tears from the last of those letters, a correspondence that lasted nearly ten years. She knew she was grieving the loss of Grandma McHugh, but also the sadness of a love that could not be.

    Maintaining the numbered order of the letters, she wrapped them with the blue ribbon, even tied them into a bow. It was December 2013. A bitterly cold one. Thank God for the roaring fireplace into which she now tossed those letters. She watched them crackle in the red-blue flames, then flake down like gray snow into a bed of ashes. Grandma was gone. With her those secrets she kept hidden so many years.

    She wondered what became of Grandma McHugh’s replies? Were they too burned in a fireplace or did Aldous Huxley conceal them somewhere for posterity to one day uncover?


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