The writing group was challenged to write, in ten minutes, a story linking two or more previously unseen objects from a tray placed in front of them. The objects I can recall were a small silver picture frame with a photo of a baby, a pen, a Swiss Army penknife, a flower, a notebook, a sealed envelope, a British Legion enamel lapel badge, a paper clip, a pair of small scissors and, of course, the tray itself.
Cecille looked at the small envelope laying on the hall tray with emotion somewhere between fear and excitement, but definitely emotion After all, she had been anticipating such an envelope for 43 years. She picked it up cautiously, surprised that it didn’t weigh more given the probable import of its contents. She turned it end-over-end through her fingers, studying the writing, and then walked slowly to her drawing room where she sat at her secretaire.
Her late husband’s penknife, the one he brought back as a retirement keepsake from his office in Berne, seemed like the appropriate tool to open the letter; the violence of a finger or thumb ripping through the flap wouldn’t do. Carefully she inserted the blade, slit open the envelope and prized open the pouch. Inside was a small piece of folded lavender coloured note paper. Cecille drew it out and, as she opened the fold, a small photograph fell to the floor which she bent stiffly to retrieve. It was faded, but clearly of a small child holding a doll. The writing on the paper was also small; neat and tentative.
“Dear Cecille,” it said, “If you recognise this picture, or even the doll, I think I may be your daughter. If I am, and you would like to meet me, please write back.”
Cecille’s eyes filled. She stretched across to a small vase of flowers, cut a bloom with her desk scissors, and put it into one of her own envelopes. Then she took her pen and a piece of paper and began to write.