For the past year, I had been riding the number nine bus to my night job. I recognized all the regulars—except her. I hadn’t seen her until two weeks ago. She had shoulder length blond hair and wore a tan pantsuit—every night. One particular night, I looked up to find her sitting beside me.
“Hi, I’m Carla,” I said.
“I’m Charlotte Lynch.”
We chatted for the next twenty minutes. As it turns out, we both like peanut butter fudge. “I miss my father,” she said. “I’ve been away and I haven’t seen him for three years.”
“I never paid attention to ads about African Americans and high blood pressure until my dad had a stroke. He died three years ago and I really miss him, too.”
She handed me an envelope. “I need you to deliver something to my father for me. I have to go and he needs to get this letter. Will you help me?”
Even though she was a complete stranger, I decided to help her.
“Thank you,” she said.
Pocketing the letter, I got off the bus. The next day, my mom and I left town for Thanksgiving. I put the letter in my nightstand drawer so I would remember it when I returned.
After the holiday, I was feverishly trying to get a term paper finished for school before winter break. A week before Christmas, while searching for tape, I found the envelope. Guilt overwhelmed me. “God, I’m sorry I forgot. Help me find him.” I put on my coat and headed to the bus stop.
Surprisingly, the address was the last stop on the number nine bus. A woman in a flowered robe was watering poinsettias on her porch. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m looking for 1601 Rose Street.”
“Over there.” She pointed to a house with a moving van in the driveway.
“Is he moving?” I asked.
“Not by choice. The bank is going to foreclose if he doesn’t come up with the mortgage money by tomorrow.”
I thanked her and made my way across the street. Since the door was already open, I went in.
In the living room sat a man with steel gray hair. He was probably a good foot taller than his slumped frame revealed.
“Excuse me,” I said.
“May I help you?” His voice held a strength that I sensed was disappearing like the pieces of furniture.
“Are you Jeremiah Lynch? Your daughter asked me to deliver something to you.”
He took the envelope from me. Inside, there were two postcards and a long slip of paper.
“Would you read the postcard for me?”
The first one was a beach in Honolulu. It was dated November, 2002. “‘Dearest Dad, Hawaii is great! Guess what? Your stock tip paid off! I have enclosed something to say “Thanks”. See you soon!’ It is signed: Love, Charlotte. ‘P.S. The second postcard is for your appreciation of good food.’” I turned over the other postcard. It was a luau. The pig was still covered with dirt from its recent exhumation.
“That Charlotte always did have a sense of humor. What about the paper?”
I turned over the paper. It was a check for ten thousand dollars made out to Jeremiah!
“Mr. Lynch, this is a check for ten thousand dollars! You won’t have to leave your home.”
He raised his eyebrows.
“The lady across the street told me all about it.”
A few tears fell. He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket.
“Did you know my Charlotte well?”
“Not really. We rode the bus together for a bit. She seemed like a good person.”
“When was this?”
“It was the tenth of November to be exact. I hadn’t seen her before that. I went out of town for Thanksgiving and forgot to deliver the letter. I felt bad so I came right away to find you. I’m glad I found you before they took your home.”
“You saw her a month ago?”
“You must be mixing up your dates. It was not Charlotte.”
I pointed towards the fireplace. “That’s her on the mantle. She was wearing that same pantsuit.”
He looked puzzled.
“Charlotte was killed in a bus crash on her way to this house after that vacation—three years ago.”
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