Lost Love In A Heart-Shaped Box – A Short Story

     Moving was so much work! Shelley had spent the last week finishing packing up all the things from her old house and getting ready to move into the farmhouse she had bought. The house sat on an acre of land and that was more than enough for her.

     She couldn’t even believe her luck when, several months ago, she spotted the for sale sign in the yard. This farmhouse had been very well maintained, at least as far as Shelley could tell just from passing by it for so many years. She loved the look of it and knew that the older couple that had been the owners had been farmers for years. 

When the husband had passed away, the wife, after much soul searching and talks with her kids, had decided to sell the farmhouse. The farm land had been sold several years ago when they retired from farming. With her husband gone, the woman decided it was too much house for just herself and, with the blessing of her family, put it on the market. She had found a wonderful retirement community where she already knew several people. She would miss her farmhouse and all the memories, but she was happy knowing that Shelley loved the house as much as she did.

Shelley worked as a photographer and did quite well for herself. She shot mostly nature photos, some landscapes, mostly outdoor stuff, but also did some product photography. Her photos had been published in lots of places and she made a nice living doing something she loved. That nice living afforded her the opportunity to buy a house that could easily be considered her dream home.

She had lots of help with the whole moving process. Her family and several friends had helped sort and box up things from the old house. She even had a yard sale to get rid of some things she no longer wanted or needed. 

On the day she closed on her new home, she also got the keys. She took a ride to the farmhouse when she was done signing the paperwork. Putting the key into the lock, turning the knob and walking into this house that she had admired for so long was a dream come true! She took the time to walk through each room of the house, imagining what she would use each one for. Shelley knew she would need more furniture, but that would happen over time. She had everything she needed to move in and get somewhat settled. New things could wait.

Now it was moving day and Shelley had decided to rent a truck so that they only had to make one trip with all of her things. Her old house was small, so there was not a ton of stuff to move. Her moving crew was happy for the donuts and coffee she had provided that morning and everyone pitched in to help.

Loading the truck took a few hours but lots of hands made the job go smoothly. She knew she would need to come back to do a final clean before she gave up the keys. She had done some cleaning as she packed but she would come back and do a thorough cleaning once the place was empty. 

Her small house had sold pretty quickly. A young couple just starting out would be making the house their first home. That made Shelley happy. She wanted the place to look great for them and she would leave them a bottle of champagne so they could celebrate their new home.

Once everything was loaded into the rental truck, they drove the few miles to the farmhouse to begin unloading. Shelly showed everyone where things should go. She had chosen the biggest of the three upstairs rooms to be her bedroom. There was also a full bath upstairs.

Shelley had a few boxes of mementos from her childhood. She wanted them to go into the attic. This farmhouse had a great attic space, with walk up access. The attic stairs were behind a door at the end of the hallway outside the bedrooms. Carrying one of the boxes she wanted to store in the attic, she flipped the light switch at the top of the stairs and the space was lit with one dim light bulb. She would replace that with a new bulb. The attic also got some natural light through several windows. It was a pretty good space and she wondered if maybe she could make use of it as something more than a storage area.

The attic was empty with the exception of two small cabinets that had been left behind. They looked like old end tables and were pushed up against one wall. She could use them to store a few things for now. She walked over and set the box on top of one of the tables. After bringing up the other two boxes of her mementos, she took a second to look into the cabinets to see how much space was in them to put things. When she opened the second cabinet door, she was surprised to find a heart shaped box. She pulled it out, smiling at finding that the box was decorated with beautiful pictures of flowers. They looked like they were magazine photos that had been cut out and glued to the box. She was surprised it had been left behind.

Shelley lifted the lid off the box and found a stack of letters tied together with a ribbon. She pulled the stack out and saw that the front of the top letter said My Dearest Lizzie. She knew that the woman she had bought the house from was Elizabeth. Lizzie could be short for that. These must be love letters of hers. But why would they have been left behind? They must have been overlooked during the attic clean out.

She noticed that under the stack of letters were a couple of photographs, old black and white ones. The woman in the photos was clearly a younger version of Elizabeth. But the man in the photos was familiar to Shelley. The face was not the man she had seen in family photos when she toured the house while it was on the market. Instead, the photo looked like a carbon copy of her brother. How could that be? And then it dawned on her. The man in the photo was her grandfather, a very young version of her grandfather. There had been many comparisons over the years of her grandfather when he was younger and her brother. They looked almost like twins.

As tempting as it was to want to read the letters and find out why there were pictures of her grandfather in this long forgotten box, Shelley had a lot of work to do to get herself settled in this house. She carried the box down the attic steps and put it in her bedroom. She would deal with it later. But should she say something to her mom? She decided she would not say anything to anyone just yet and would come back to the box later.

After getting everything unloaded from the truck and getting help with moving furniture where it belonged, Shelley bought pizza for all her helpers. They enjoyed talking about her new home and how excited she was to really settle in. 

After cleaning up from the pizza party, everyone left so that Shelley could begin to really go through boxes and figure out where she wanted things. She spent a couple of hours getting her kitchen set up the way she wanted it. She figured it was a good place to start since she would spend a lot of time there. Once all of the kitchen boxes had been emptied and their contents put in place, Shelley moved on to the upstairs bathroom. She hung a new shower curtain and set up the vanity drawers with all of her things.

She found the box with bathroom towels and pulled out a bath towel to use in the morning. That was enough for today. She was tired. She went downstairs to make sure the doors were locked and the lights were off, then headed back up to her bedroom. 

As soon as she walked into her room and flipped the light switch, she spotted the box of letters on her bed. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she lifted the lid and pulled the letters out again. She slid the top letter out of the stack and pulled it out of its envelope. The letter started the same way the envelope was addressed, To My Dearest Lizzie. Shelley was uncomfortable reading the letter since she knew who it belonged to. It felt too private. She was, however, curious about who the letters were from. At the bottom of the second page, it said, With all my love, Jonathon. That was her grandfather’s name.  

So apparently her grandfather and Elizabeth at some point in their much younger years had been a couple. What a coincidence that Shelley would buy this house from Elizabeth and then find out about the romance between her grandfather and Elizabeth. She couldn’t remember her grandfather ever talking about anyone before her grandma. She couldn’t wait to tell him she had found the letters. Her grandparents had had a long and happy marriage until her grandmother had passed away a few years ago. Would he remember Elizabeth? Sometimes his memory was not the best.

She also knew she needed to return the box with the letters and photos to Elizabeth. She had talked about the retirement community she was moving into when they closed on the farmhouse. Shelley knew it was on the edge of town and would make a point to stop there one day soon with the box.

Three days later Shelley had made it through almost all of the moving boxes. She only had two more to take care of and they were full of paperwork and other things for her photography business. She had set up an office in one of the first floor rooms and only had those two boxes to get through. She was thankful she had not had any photo assignments since the day before she moved. It gave her time to settle in and that is exactly what she had done. 

She was in her home office sorting through the boxes when her doorbell rang. She walked to the front door and found her mom and her grandfather standing on the porch. She greeted them with a big smile and a hug. Mom had told her she wanted to bring grandpa over to see the house and Shelley was happy to see them.

Of course he wanted a tour of the farmhouse. Shelley was happy to take his arm and show him around. He loved her bright kitchen and all the windows. After seeing everything there was to see on the main floor, they slowly made their way up the stairs. She showed him all the rooms, saving hers for last. He loved the choice she had made for her own room. 

Her mom saw the heart shaped box on the dresser and asked Shelley what it was. Shelley asked her grandpa to sit on the bench at the foot of the bed so she could show him and her mom what was inside. She put the box on his lap and he lifted the lid. He pulled the stack of letters out and right away noticed the handwriting on the front of the top letter. He looked at Shelley with confusion written all over his face. Her mom had the same look. 

Shelley told them how she had found the box in the attic and was so surprised to see a photo of her grandfather in with the letters. She was going to make sure the box got back to Elizabeth, but was happy to be able to show it to her grandpa.

Shelley asked her grandpa how he had known Elizabeth and how long they had been together and what happened between them that they both ended up married to other people. 

With Shelley and her mom so eager to hear about Elizabeth, Jonathon told them that he and Elizabeth had been high school sweethearts. They were in love and it was pretty much assumed that they would marry one day. But Jonathon got sent to fight in the war and was overseas for a little over four years. These were the letters he had sent to Elizabeth.

When Jonathon had finally returned from the war and got back to his home town, Elizabeth was married to someone else. Jonathon knew she had said she would wait for him, but he also knew it was a long time for her to wait and he knew it had been difficult. He knew her family had been encouraging her to get back to living and stop moping around so when letters from Elizabeth had stopped coming, he figured she had moved on. While seeing her married to another man was hard for him, he wished her nothing but happiness. And it wasn’t long after he returned home that he had met Shelley’s grandma. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What a story! Shelley was amazed that a heart shaped box full of letters had led to this tender story from her grandfather’s past. She told her grandpa that she was going to return the box to Elizabeth at the retirement community. He asked her if he could accompany her to deliver the box. Shelley told him Elizabeth knew she was gonna be stopping by but she didn’t know about the box of letters. Shelley thought it would be better if she went alone and then once Elizabeth saw the letters, Shelley would mention that her grandfather would like to visit if she was ok with it.

Shelley had gotten a photo assignment that would take her out of town for a few days so she made sure to deliver the box of letters before she left. Arriving at the retirement community, Shelley could see that it was a very nice place. She stopped at the front desk of the main building to check in. The lady at the desk told her how to find the unit she was looking for and that she could drive around to the back to park.

She found a parking spot and, grabbing the box, headed to the door. She knocked on the door and Elizabeth opened it, greeting Shelley with a smile. She welcomed Shelley inside and they sat in the living room. Elizabeth wanted to know if Shelley had settled in and if she was comfortable in the farmhouse. She told her how much she loved living in the farmhouse and that she appreciated how well taken care of it was. 

She handed the box to Elizabeth and told her about finding it inside a cabinet that had been left in the attic. Elizabeth couldn’t believe she was holding the heart shaped box. She had forgotten about the box of letters but was so happy that Shelley had found it and taken the time to return it.

Lifting the lid, Elizabeth saw the stack of letters tied with the ribbon and pulled it out of the box, revealing the photos at the bottom. She set the letters down and reached in for the photos. She got teary eyed when she looked at the photos. She told Shelley that the man in the photos was her first love. The man she thought she would marry. But he had gone to war and was gone a long time while she was left waiting for him to return. 

Shelley let her look at the photos and the letters before she finally told Elizabeth about her grandfather. She explained to Elizabeth that her grandfather was Jonathon and that he had recognized his handwriting on the envelopes as well as himself in the photos. He had told the same story Elizabeth just had. She told her that her grandfather had wanted to join her today but that she thought it would be better to wait and see if Elizabeth wanted to see him.

Elizabeth smiled and told Shelley that she would love to see Jonathon. She thanked Shelley for returning the box. She was excited to read through the letters again.

Her grandfather smiled when Shelley told him that Elizabeth wanted to see him. Shelley had called her and set up a day and time for him to visit.

When Shelley got back from her assignment, she drove her grandpa to the retirement community where Elizabeth lived. He was nervous but also excited to see the woman who had been his first love. So much time had passed but the memories lived on.

Elizabeth opened the door to Shelly and her grandfather and smiled. Shelley stepped aside and, even though introductions were not needed, she introduced Elizabeth to her grandpa, Jonathon. He had tears in his eyes as he walked into the arms of his first love. 

Elizabeth pulled back, tears in her eyes as well, and told Jonathon that she was sorry she had not waited for him to return from the war. The pressure from her family to get back to living her life had gotten to her. She didn’t go looking for a new love, it just happened. He told her there was no need to apologize after all these years. Things, he said, had worked out the way they were supposed to because after long and beautiful marriages they had found their way back to each other.

Shelley was going to let them visit and she would come back in a little while to get her grandfather. But they wanted her to stay. So they reminisced and she enjoyed hearing all of their stories. At the end of the afternoon, phone numbers had been exchanged and plans made to get together again very soon.

Fast forward six months. Shelley is completely settled into the farmhouse and loves it. She has made just a few cosmetic changes to make the place her own and she couldn’t be happier! She has become good friends with Elizabeth and they regularly visit each other. Elizabeth loves the changes she has made at the farmhouse.

As for Shelley’s grandpa, he and Elizabeth have fallen in love all over again and are getting married. He is moving into the retirement community with her and they couldn’t be happier! 

Life is full of twists and turns, happiness and heartbreak. But, in the end, it all works out the way it is supposed to.

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