Finding The Inspiration For “Dear Madame”

As promised, I’m back to reveal the winner of the randomly drawn comment contest. If you guessed Patricia, you’d be right. Patricia’s comment was the one selected by, but I have to say that I found parts of some of the other comments popping up when there was an opportunity to be included.

When I sat down to write the mini short story on Thursday, I had a vague idea of direction based on Patricia’s comment about her mother and her research into their family history. With only a few hours to devote to the project as we were expecting John’s daughters for the weekend with one arriving that night, my Thursday had a few other things demanding my attention and distractions were everywhere.

I always wish to deliver interesting writing, but initially I felt bored by my idea and struggled with the opening paragraph as well as the direction. This changed when I allowed the words to just come and Patricia’s character to show me who she was instead of forcing her to be rigidly defined by what I thought she would say, think, or do. I tend to think first of all the things my characters would never do instead of letting them have more choices. I often did this with my characters when I was acting as well and lack of choice is no good for writing, acting, or real life.

Real life … just writing that makes me wonder if I’ve been braver and more risk taking in my life than I allow for my writing and my characters. I’ll have to give that some thought.

If you had trouble deciding which comment I used, it might be because of the bits of others I mentioned including as well. Windy’s comment had much of her history in a few short paragraphs with one containing the number 17 and it’s significance in her life. Heiko also included numbers in his comment and so the number 6 found its way into my story as well. The mysterious letter had roots in Windy’s correspondence with her English pen-pal, although I think you will find that despite the letter’s UK return address, the way it begins with the words, ” Dear Madame ”  is designed to show that the writer is not British, but French.

Thanks to your enthusiasm for this little story and based on your request for more, I’ll continue, ” Dear Madame ”  in a post during the coming week.

I’m including the comments from the initial post found here along with a few follow-up thoughts from me. I really enjoyed your comments and special thanks to all of you commenting for the first time especially those who mentioned they had been reading for a while. It’s lovely to “meet ” you and I hope you will continue to add your thoughts when you feel inclined.

  1. preobrazhenskii on March 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm said: The quote by W.B. Yeats is indeed quite apt, and your post does reflect upon what we are searching for when reading other peoples blogs.
    Preobrazhenskii ~ I would love to be able to get to what appears to be a blog, but your link doesn’t work 😦
  2. I don’t know that I have anything to share today, but I think this is a wonderful idea. I know for a long time I was afraid to comment on other people’s blogs. The evil inner critic inside me would whisper things in my head: “What if I said something stupid? I can’t say things better than they can . . . ” But, adding comments makes this blogging world a much richer place. We learn from each other. We challenge each other. We also feed each other’s ideas and spur each other onto even greater feats of posting. But ultimately, the thing I love the most is the sharing of stories–because there are infinite variations that show one thing, our common humanity.

    Lisa ~ Comments make blogging fun as well as educational (like your post the other day on rejection and publishing) and you just can’t beat the support that can be found in the blogging community. Thanks for coming back.

  3. Hi, Elizabeth, I’ve been reading your blog for several years – I don’t even remember how I came across it now. Hmmm, something about me. I live in the Pacific NW. My dream is to write more, to inspire others to reach for their dreams. I enjoy sharing your journey from afar.

    Rebecca ~ I would be willing to bet you might have found GOTJ from a comment left by me on Chookooloonks as I can see by your blog that you visit there as well. Judging by your photographs, you live in an inspiring part of the world.

  4. I am an 82 year “old lady” living in Indiana with my oldest daughter (I have 3) and her husband. I have one grandson 25, granddaughters 30, 24 and almost 18 (the recent lead in the high school musical Anything Goes). (pause to take the Dachshund out) My husband passed away when my oldest was 14. I consider 17 MY number in life. I was 17 when I graduated from, high school, was married to my husband for 17 years when he passed away, worked for 17 years as a legal secretary for a well known international company in Wisconsin, and was with my last companion for 17 years when he passed away in 2000, so I’m wondering what I have to look forward to in 2017??? I will be 88, so I’m pretty sure what it will be.

    I corresponded with an English girl through high school and until her early death. She named her first daughter Gail, which is part of my name. Unfortunately, I lost track of the family.

    I am an avid reader and was recently given a Kindle. My daughter filled it with books by authors I like and I said they will have to bury it with me, I’ll never get them all read, especially when I keep adding more.

    I enjoy your blog and the lovely pictures you post.

    Windy ~ I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see a woman with your life experience interested in my blog. I smile every time you leave a comment and especially enjoyed when you wrote that you ” pause to take the Dachshund out .”  I would love to know more about your correspondence with the English friend who died. If I knew more I might be able to help track her family and daughter for you. Thanks so much for your kind comments regarding my blog and photographs.

  5. My Grandmother had a glass case of dolls in National costumes from all the countries my Grandfather had visited with his work, and places they’d travelled to on holiday. It was kept in the dining room. I would sit by that case looking at them and imagine their stories. They were all the more special being out of reach – look, but don’t touch.

    Sarah ~ I love the story of the dolls. It reminded me of a quilt I had as a child with dolls in national costumes on it. I really enjoy being able to check in to see your lovely family and New Zealand photos. I’m so glad we had a chance to meet through Hay.

  6. I usually don’t comment on blogs. I have fallen in love with Cornwall through your vivid descriptions and beautiful pictures. I usually stop by every few days during my quiet evenings to see if you’ve posted anything. Today my sister is in the hospital, so I’m here during the day while she sleeps.

    Carol ~ Even though you don’t usually comment on blogs, I glad you decided to comment on mine. Cornwall is so beautiful and I’m pleased to be able to share it. I hope your sister is on the mend.

  7. what a clever idea. I visit you often, usually leaving a small comment but maybe not always – i am horrible with words. I bring up your blog and keep it to the side of my desktop and read on it in bits while at work. Your posts always leave me thinking and many times you leave a link that I follow and then get side tracked. I love your blog, i love the way you write with such intelligence – usually teaching me something new. I can’t really think of anything new to share at the moment maybe i’ll be back with something later.
    (what i wonder about most is, why, when i visit someone’s blog on a regular basis and leave comments trying to make friends – why they can not, at least once, visit me. it just seems rude to me.)

    Leslye ~ Thanks for your kind comments and support. I think we’ve been blogging buddies since the very early days of GOTJ and you were the first blogger I had the pleasure of meeting face to face. I get something from your lovely photos each time I visit your blog.

  8. I love the picture of the tree! And you already know everything about me!

    Suzanne ~ I know there’s loads of stuff I don’t know about you. Loads! I’m always glad to see you.

  9. I have so enjoyed reading your blog ever since I discovered it. I love the photographs, but you are also an excellent writer as well. I probably comment too much.

    I spent some time in England years ago and I thought, if I ever save the money to go to Europe again I will skip England and go to a country I’ve not seen, like Italy or Ireland. Now, however, I think I would love to see Cornwall. It’s so lovely. Thanks for giving us all a window on that part of the world!

    Dee ~ You’re in luck with regard to how close Cornwall is to Ireland so you could see both very easily. You can never comment too much for me and I always appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for your support of both my writing and photography. I always feel a bit closer to my Georgia roots when I read your blog and I’m glad I found it.

  10. Hi Elizabeth,
    I enjoy reading your blogs, and often I think about adding my little bit. Sometimes though, I head out the door and think, “I’ll answer to that one after …”. Great intentions!
    I live in the South Island, New Zealand, and this year sees me attending our local Polytechnic as an adult student. I decided last year to do something I had always wanted to do – cooking. So I am now in my second year of a Chef course. I have other passions and hobbies too, and some of these make their way onto my own blog.
    The picture of the tree and the quote is so good. So true.
    Keep up the good words of encouragement.

    Valerie ~ How nice that you decided to say hello. I like knowing who my New Zealand readers are. Such a beautiful country you have and I’m glad I had a chance to spend time there last year. I liked what you had to say about your Chef’s course, it reminded me of my dear friend Marty who was in Chef’s school when he died.

  11. One of the joys in life for me is talking to and meeting people, I sometimes do it to the annoyance of my wife as she always says `you don`t know them`, she has over the five years we have been married got used to me having conversations with total strangers and finds her self doing the same on odd occasions.
    Some of the ways I have met people are through commenting on pictures on their blog/website/flickr, I actually did the same with yourself, I must have read the whole of your blog sometimes commenting others just reading everything you have to say and the things you do.
    I was disappointed a few weeks ago, I sent you a fairly long email about myself and my travels and work but unfortunately I did not get a reply.
    I did mention in the email that I lived in Somerset and that only Devon separates me from my favourite county of Cornwall, I comment on peoples pictures as I am a photographer and retired from working my lifetime as a Television Cameraman, do I miss my work, heck yes! but being a photographer now in my quiet years keeps me happy and being able to talk to strangers I meet keeps me alert.
    I will pick my number as 26, that was my age when I moved from the North of England city of Manchester to Taunton in Somerset, why! to further my career in Television as there were more opportunities in the West Country than the City Of Manchester as there are less people in the West Country than the industrial North which led to more work opportunities we also had two children at that time and we thought it would be a better environment for them.
    Unfortunately my wife then decided she could not live with me being away from home for days/weeks with my work. Our children had grown up by then and had families of their own, we still got on even though we were divorced, another number which I could add (cheating I know) is 6, that was the day in February this year 2011 which she unfortunately died of a terrible cancer in her neck.
    May I say that the Gifts Of My Journey`s are made all the better reading your blog, reading about your`s and your husbands life, along with the many blogs I read and in some cases the people I have met through their blogs.


    Heiko~ I think I covered you in the comment below. I’ve been trying to get back to a proper email, but can’t seem to get there. I’ll hope you’ll let this be enough. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  12. Heiko ~ Let me first say that I am sincerely sorry I did not get back to you. I do remember your email and thought at the time how lovely it was that you took the time to share so much. While I am not the best at email follow up sometimes, I don’t normally drop the ball so completely. I just went back through my email and found yours and promise to get back to you with a proper response. I do appreciate the connections and people I meet through blogging and I’m glad you came back and reminded me of my tardiness. I can assure that it was not an intentional omission, but rather a distracted oversight. Looking back, I feel sure that I meant to share your email with my husband before I replied, as his career was in television too and I just did not get back to it. I hope you will accept my apology. :-(

  13. I hope you will accept my apologies. :-(
    Elizabeth, Accepted Thank You


  14. Hi! I’m the Florida gal who won the CD from you a while back. I did enjoy the music and want to thank you again.
    What resonated with me recently? Actually, your series on your trip to New Zealand did. I had not talked about that part of your blog with my husband, and he suddenly informed me that he would like to move there some day. My husband is a Florida boy who has always said that he never wants to move, yet he is suddenly planning a future like that! Needless to say, I found myself going back and looking at your beautiful pictures again. Yes, even after the earthquake, we think that we would like the change. It would have to be after little boy goes to college, giving us some time to plan.

    Cindy ~ Good to see you again! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Benjamin’s CD. How funny that your husband has decided New Zealand is the place for him earthquakes and all especially after seeming as if he’d never leave Florida. I need to post some more NZ pics because I have so many amazing shots of that beautiful county. Maybe you could plan a family trip when your son is a little older. We saw a fair amount of people traveling with children. Thanks for saying hello and sharing your comment.

  15. I just began reading your blog. I followed a link from another blog, then subscribed because I enjoy reading your posts and I love Cornwall (it’s so different from where I live in the southwestern US). My mother is a couple of generations removed from the tin mines near St Just, and we shared a wonderful trip to Cornwall almost 20 years ago. If it’s possible to be homesick for a place you’ve visited only once, then I am–and your photos are a wonderful ticket back to that lovely place. I look forward to reading your story as it unfolds.

    Barb ~ I believe it is certainly possible to be homesick for a place you’ve only seen once. I felt that way about the Isle of Skye after the first time I went in 2003 on a trip with my daughter. I went back again in 2004, 2005, and 2008 and John and I will go again later this year. Cornwall has a beauty and pull just as strong although it’s different from the western highlands. I’m glad my photographs make you feel like you’re able to see Cornwall again. Come back whenever you need a little holiday and please say hello.

  16. Sabrina on March 29, 2011 at 6:56 am said:

    I read your blogs all the time over tea before work, or late at night after a long day haha. I am a 22 year old writer who is currently in the USAF. I enjoy seeing the photos of England and your life that you share and the stories make me laugh, make me cry, make me think of situations that I have been in that are similar. I like having a place to go to read something that I enjoy.

    Sabrina ~ I love seeing a young service member who is female reading my blog and finding common ground. You may know about my own time in the military from some of my previous blog posts. I’d be interested in reading your writing, is there a place where your work is available to read? Thanks again for commenting.

  17. Patricia on March 29, 2011 at 7:31 am said:

    Hi Elizabeth –
    I happen to be a new reader having just found you on Sunday the 27th in the comments section of the Shutter Sisters website (Mar 26th entry about “No Trespassing” and the lengths we’ll go to get the perfect shot). I love reading comments and I tend to be a silent lurker but today you inspired me to answer your call to make some noise.
    The first entry I read on your blog was about the UK Census. Seeing those old census records pictured on your site took me back to my childhood. When I was a kid, my mother decided to research and record our family tree. My mom always loved working out puzzles so this was a challenge that appealed to her…find the pieces, put them together, new mysteries revealed or old mysteries solved… I remember summer vacations at my grandparents’ home in the Ottawa Valley area where day trips wouldn’t be complete without a stop to find a particular headstone at one graveyard or another located on dry, dusty country roads (they all seem to be located on dry, dusty country roads…). This also included the bonus of visits to the more mature members of the family from other “branches” of the “tree” who, although were well-known to my mother and grandparents, were really just strangers to me. At the age of 12, this did not spell F-U-N. I suppose that sentiment might be predictable for most 12 year-olds, but it is truly one of those experiences that I find unforgettable (in a good way!).
    Now in my mid-forties, of course, my appreciation for what my mother was working to achieve increased over the years, especially as the family tree grew and spots were being filled with names and historical details. Mom passed away 3 years ago. Amongst her belongings was a giant bin of “research” that I did not have the heart to go through or toss out…I strongly suspect there’s golden clues hidden in there. As the eldest child in my family and eldest grandchild of our clan, I’m feeling the urge to continue where my mother left off. She made it about 5 or 6 generations back on the tree and I think the next step will involve a trip across “the pond” to investigate our British roots. A daunting task but exciting to wonder where it will all lead…hopefully the discovery of relatives past and maybe even present!
    Looking forward to reading future posts and getting to know you better…

    Patricia ~ Well, you know by now that your comment was the WINNER!  I’m so glad you decided to share your story. My husband is very into his family history having picked up where his dad left off when he died. Instead of a “giant bin” of research like your mom had, he opened the garage to find it stacked full of documents his dad had accumulated from his years of research. Thanks again for taking time to comment and please come back.

  18. Mariellen on March 29, 2011 at 8:56 am said:

    Well I share from time to time, in a somewhat opinionated way I fear, but do not blog enough myself – fancy being on a writing course as I am right now ..and not writing much!?! Actually we are writing loads, but in in-class exercises.

    Looking forward to sharing more with you and your readers. Soon.

    Absolutely loved the tree pic, one of your many beautiful photos.

    Mariellen ~ You are never too opinionated for me! You should blog more often as you do it so well. I can’t wait to hear all about your classes.

  19. What a good idea, Elizabeth. I often wonder why more people don’t leave comments and wonder if I scare them with my opinionated ways. I definitely lack your charm, my friend, but it’s hard to be charming with all the crap going on in the U.S. Maybe that’s why I like to visit here, to be transported to a tranquil, lovely place far away from the reach of Fox News.

    Jayne ~ I’m always happy to see you. You get tons of comments on your blog … what are you talking about? If you’re interested in meeting a Cornish man, I’ve been checking one out for you in the village, plus there are loads of people with horses here.

  20. Gifts of the Journey became one of my blog favorites because I’m an Anglophile at heart, especially intrigued by Cornwall. I’ve not been to Great Britain yet but it’s in my bucket list. Your site beckoned also because of the photographs.

    There is no particular story attached to me, wife, mother, grandmother; still working but hoping to retire soon so that I might spend more time on my passion: photography. Right now there are not enough hours in the day to do all the ideas in my head!

    As I’ve followed your blog, I’ve become more drawn in by the personal narrative that you share so openly with us. Isn’t it funny how reading blogs can make you feel like the writer is your friend? It’s the same way with online photo groups. I have a group of online photography gal pals that I feel are friends, and am convinced that if ever we meet in person, we’ll sit and chat like we’ve known each other for years.

    One of the most exciting things about online followings and groups is the opportunity to view life as it is around the globe, see the things that are different than our home base, yet the things that are so much the same. It is indeed, “a small world after all.”

    Dotti ~ I’m glad to read your comment and have a chance to explore your lovely blog. It feels as if I’ve been there before and makes me wonder if you’ve commented in the past. I know what you mean about the writer feeling like a friend and think that’s one of the best parts of blogging. If UK travel is on your list, I hope you are making a plan to get here. I tell people not to wait until you are retired … travel while you are able do and see all that you’ve dreamed of over the years. Come to the UK while you are able to walk the coast paths with ease and climb the mountains in Scotland and Wales.

  21. I’ve been in love with Cornwall since I was a teenager. I first discovered it in the Victoria Holt novels and then was rekindled by it in Frenchman’s Creek.

    I had been to England before, but had never been to Cornwall so in 2004 my boyfriend at the time (now husband) and I took a trip down. I didn’t get to see Falmouth (which is what I really wanted to see because of Frenchman’s Creek) nor did I get to see Bodmin Moor (the other piece I wanted to see) but, I was able to spend a few days along the shore and experience how amazing it is.

    I’m moving to London in 10 weeks…so I’ll be looking for pretty much any excuse I can to go see what I saw in books in my childhood….

    Sarah B ~ I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while although I’m not sure how I found it. I know you’re pretty excited to move to London and if you want a look at Falmouth, I may have some photographs from visits there. John had a sailboat in Falmouth when I first met him and his brother sails out of the marina still so we’re no strangers to the area. You’ll have to plan a Cornwall trip once you settle in London. You’re moving at the best time of the year which is pretty jammy. (British expression for lucky) Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Heidi Partin on March 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm said:

  22. I have enjoyed reading your blog for about a year now. Your writing brings me peace. Your pictures bring me beauty. Peace and beauty always seem to go together, don’t they?

    I am 42 years old and am going through a mid-life crisis, I guess. My outside life is so “normal” but my inner self is in chaos. I am trying to get a grip of that. I have 3 children between 16 and 11. My youngest is high functioning autistic. I know I have been a good mother. There is much more mothering to do still but I can’t help feel unsatisfied. Is this it? I have stayed home all these years to nurture, to love, to clean, and to be there for them. I all of sudden feel quite empty.

    No one has really been there for me. My husband is a good husband; he provides and is there when needed; but we are task masters and no longer dream makers. I wonder when things changed for us. How sad not to know.

    And so you give me inspiration in your journey. Your journey has taken many turns from what I have read and yet you still have enough flame to make changes, to take leaps. Someday, I hope to dream again.

    Heidi ~ You sound as if you are certainly in the middle of what can be seen several ways. Judging by your age and that of your oldest child, you and I became mothers at about the same age. While I only have one daughter, I do understand some of what you are feeling. I think you have summed up the feelings of many your age who are at your stage of life when you said, ” we are task masters and no longer dream makers.” I imagine that you do for others all day long and feel as if you must steal time for yourself. To dream new dreams or find ways to revive old ones, you need to be rested and you need time to think. I’m sure that may seem impossible, but I encourage you to find a way to do that for yourself. I hope I don’t sound as if I have all the answers because I certainly don’t. Thanks for taking time to read and comment and I’ll hope you’ll keep coming back.

  23. I regularly read your blog to see what’s new and there are often surprises – like you were a professional actor. I also check in on 2 other blogs I like – a young mother in Israel – and my niece’s blog –
    The young mom is Israel is expecting her 2nd baby or has already had her. She is a trooper. My niece lived in Birmingham, England for a few months for her husband’s job and blogged about it a couple years ago.

    Three is enough for me for regular reading of blogs because it could take all day to have so many blogs to read, although there are many good ones out there.

    My projects for this coming season are planting more in my garden. I will have a booth at a farmer’s market the Fridays in August, and I want to make some more lye soap and crafts for that, besides flowers and hopefully veggies. I have plenty of herbs already growing each year plentifully. I also want to finish painting our basement and paint a bathroom and the living room and clean carpets with our Kirby, which I love.

    Our daughter has been teaching English in Azerbaijan the last few months and will return next week for another semester of teaching, so helping her to get ready to go.

    Jill ~ I am really honored that of the three blogs you read, mine is one of them. Thank you. It sounds as if your summer is going to keep you too busy to blog yourself although I’ll keep an eye for new posts at your place.

  24. Roisin on March 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm said:

    I am one of your silent readers, I never comment (not gutsy enough normally) but will take the opportunity now. Like others I enjoy your photos and comments and I’m lucky enough to also live in Cornwall but further west. I’ve only lived here for 5 years so enjoy reading about places I have not been to yet and places and things I find familar, (such as your ‘dancing ladies’ – I also look forward to seeing them as it means the home stretch is just ahead). Finally, I discovered last year that we share a birthday, although I’m a little younger and would have been toddling around when you were at your concert in 1976!

    Roisin ~ You can’t imagine how delighted I was to see your comment. I can’t believe we live so close to each other here in Cornwall and we share a birthday too. We’ll have to get together for a face to face meeting even if I’m a bit older. 🙂 Please send me an email so I can get in touch with you. (My email address can be found on my “Who am I” page)

  25. I’m Gina, an Irish girl living in Australia. I have commented before. I have no idea how I ended up finding your blog but I find it is one of the more mature ones I read. Some of my regular blogs I read are full of the funny stories of raising young kids and some I read because they are more inspiring, often in a photography sense. I love yours because you combine really beautiful photography with often thought provoking words.

    I often find myself in work thinking back to the topic you have written about. I find I begin composing my own comment in my head and yet not so often actually finding the time to re-open your blog entry to put those thoughts to actual words!

    I look at the statistics of people who visit my blog and I do wonder who they might be. I have found it fascinating reading the comments left here so far. To see the wide range of ages and types of people who enjoy your words as much as I do!

    Gina ~ I feel as we’re old friends the way we visit back and forth. I may not comment often on your blog, but I always stop by for a look when I see you in my google reader. Thanks so much for your kind comments and support.

    Thanks again everyone!

‘Dear Madame’


I would like to thank everyone who joined the mini short story contest and took time to say hello and share a bit about themselves. I used Random.Org to choose a winner and hope you will enjoy the mini short story I created based on the comment selected by I thought it might be fun if you could guess which comment won using my story content for clues. I will reveal the winning comment on Sunday so people can have a few days to read, guess, and say in a comment which comment they think provided the inspiration for “Dear Madame.”

Patricia Reynolds stood in front a cluster of seventeen identical mailboxes not far from the condo where she lived alone. She juggled the shopping bags that dangled from both hands as she tried to keep them from touching the ground while guiding a tiny key into the locked box marked with a bold number six instead of her name.

It seemed she was always struggling with too much in her hands especially when she picked up the mail at the end of her day. She knew better of course, but she had to park so far from her door that two trips always seemed like one too many.

She wished the area around the mail drop was tidy enough to put the bags down, but too many times she’d noticed her neighbors picking up their mail after a walk with their dogs and she hated the way they seemed to regard the area as a last chance toilet break for their animals before going inside.

Moving carefully, she slid the stack of mostly business sized envelopes from the overstuffed mailbox and maneuvered it into the open top of the closest bag. Walking the short distance to her front door she inserted the largest key on the ring into the lock and pushed it open with her foot.

She stumbled inside just as one of the plastic bags tore open scattering the contents on the floor in front of her. Fatigue overwhelmed her for a moment and she felt as if she might cry. Frustrating did not begin to describe the day she’d had and on any other day she would have picked up every bit of the mess now at her feet while thinking about what her mama had always said about cleanliness being a virtue, or was it something about godliness, with patience as a virtue, she couldn’t remember which it was and today she was just too tired to care.

She felt worn out lately, even more so than normal with the recent increase in the amount of paperwork from her sales job. Well … you couldn’t exactly call it paperwork anymore she thought to herself, considering that expression would soon be obsolete as there was so little paper actually involved these days.

The endless call reports they were now required to submit were being done on the laptop that she’d jokingly referred to as Pia over drinks with her friends the last time she’d managed to join them.

As they moaned about how they never saw her anymore, she’d smiled as playfully as she could muster and said, “That’s because I have a new best friend who takes every minute of my day. I call her Pia, which is short for pain in the ass!”

They’d laughed at this poor attempt at humor and were gracious in saying how it was okay and that they understood how demanding her job was, but she had not been herself that night and she sensed something had changed in their group dynamic as well. It was not just Pia or things at work she’d thought on the drive home, but it was more likely the change in her relationship status that had made things seem awkward.

It was funny the way they seemed to miss Jeff more than she did at dinner, the empty chair obvious at the table made for eight. Patricia tried not to notice all the ways they had to shift the conversation over the evening to avoid mentioning him and while she appreciated their loyalty, she wanted to hug them collectively and shout that she was really okay.

There were things she’d missed about him when he’d first left, but sharing household chores and splitting expenses did not make a relationship and she had been okay when he’d announced he was leaving although sad that they had lost the spark of something she had hoped in the beginning would turn into more. They’d been fixed up by friends who loved them both and they had wanted to believe they were the match everyone else thought they would be.

She had soothed any bits of disappointment at their breakup by writing the words to a favorite quote across the glass of her bathroom mirror so that everyday she might be reminded that what she and Jeff had shared, was not really love. At least not the kind of love Pearl S. Buck was writing about when she said, “Love cannot be forced, love cannot be coaxed and teased. It comes out of heaven, unasked and unsought.”

Patricia had no problem waiting for love although she had to admit she was a bit lonely at times and she sighed as she considered another night alone. Somewhere between the sigh and lifting her foot to step over the mess on the floor, she lost her balance as her back foot slipped after coming down on the stack of bills that had fallen with the groceries.

She grabbed at the table on her way down pulling the lamp over with her and landed in a heap on top of the pile in front of the door. The lamp was the first thing she checked after finding herself unharmed and it was then that she saw the letter.

Patricia noticed the blue air mail sticker before she saw a stamp with what looked like the head of a woman wearing a crown. The return address included the letters UK and she wondered for a half second if it had been delivered with her mail by mistake. Running her eyes across the front of the envelope she was momentarily surprised to see a name she recognized although it was not her own.

She shook her head as if to clear her confusion and remembered that she had requested her mother’s mail be sent to her after her death almost six weeks earlier. It wasn’t as if it was the first piece of mail she received addressed to her mom, but this one was different from the machine printed labels on the few bills she’d had to deal with to wrap up her mother’s business affairs; this one was handwritten and looked as if it might be personal.

Patricia turned it over and quickly ran a fingernail under the flap opening it with one stroke. She slid the folded paper out of the envelope noting that one of the two sheets of paper seemed thicker and of better quality than the other and there was an old photograph of someone she did not recognize included as well. One of the pages contained more of the same handwriting she’d seen on the envelope while the other was a photocopy of something that looked very old.

Still sitting where she’d fallen in the middle of the shopping and the mound of bills, she held one page in each hand unsure of which to read first. With the photocopied old letter in the left and the new one in her right she decided on the letter that began with the words, “Dear Madame.”