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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: Return to Sender
By Val Clark


January 2007
Beth weighs the unopened letters in her hand. Postmarked December 2006, 2005, 2004Ö. She drops them onto the table and picks up her pen.

Dear Trudy,
Thank you for the Christmas wishes. Iím glad that youíre all well. Once again Iím unable to pass your letters onto Abigail. I have not seen my sister for over three years. Sometimes I see her best friend and she tells me sheís alright. I guess thatís some consolation; knowing that she isnít in some shallow grave somewhere. As to why sheís virtually disowned us, I donít know.

July 1989
Trudy chews the end of her pen. She remembers the day she was told Cousin Abigail was really her sister. She was thirteen and the story had stunned her. She could hear her motherís voice as clearly as if she were sitting across the kitchen table. Could smell her floral perfume. ĎWe were in London when Abigail was born. The war had only just finished. Your dad and I had nowhere to live. Nicko and Frank were toddlers. We had.í Her voice breaks. ĎGod forgive me, Trudy, but we had no choice. And Sophie and Ned had no childrenÖ.í

Dear Aunty Sophie,
Iíve enclosed a copy of the will. Nicko was the executor. As you can see she left Nicko and Frank $5,000 each. The grandkids got $500 each. The jewelry was spread between the women and girls. I didnít get any money. When she wrote the will she told me that there would be no money for me as she had already given Danny and I $5000 towards a deposit on our house. She also said she had lent Abigail money that amounted to over $5,000 dollars and that was why she had not been included in the will.
I am sending over a gold Chinese pendant that Mum bought in Singapore. She always wore it. And a gold orchid brooch.

June 1989
Sophie smoothes out the blue aerogram. It was unfair, thatís what it was and she would see that Abigail got her share.

Dear Trudy,
We were distressed to hear that Margetta had passed on. I always thought, being the oldest and having diabetes that I would be the first to go. Abigail wants to know, when can she expect her portion of the estate? From Margettaís letters we understand she was a wealthy woman, what with the cottage and cruises and such.

January 1985
Dear Abigail,
Iím so sorry that youíve had such a bad year. Iíve enclosed a money order for $5,000. You can pay it back when things improve.

December 1989
Margetta wipes a tear from her eye.

Oh, Abigail, this is such distressing news. We were all so looking forward to seeing you again. Iím sure that if you had declared to the Emigration Department that your partner had a criminal record they would have let him come. Now that you are separated, will you come?

September 1983
Abigail looks at the pile of aborted letters on the floor around her feet and determines that she will finish the next one. She will get the words right.

Itís hard to take in, Aunty Margetta, that you are my birth mother. That Trudy is really my sister. And Nicko and Frank my brothers. I always wanted brothers. I guess now I have two mothers as well. And two sisters. I wish Iíd known before you sailed away.

June 1983
Margettaís pen is poised over the paper. Surely her sister, Sophie, would have told Abigail the truth by now. How do you keep a secret like that for thirty seven years? Guilt and grief war in her as she remembers the day she gave her baby daughter away. Hope flares that she might see her child just once more before she dies.

Dear Abigail,
I think that you would find it easier to emigrate if you tell the Emigration Department that you are my natural daughter.

The present.
Dear Father, I hardly know the words to pray for Abigail. I thank you that your spirit intercedes. I canít talk to her. I can only pray for her and love her from thousands of miles away. Only you know why she has rejected us all. Only you can cure the ache in her heart and make her whole. I have hung onto her too long. I give her to you. May your Son break into her heart as you gather her into your arms.

NB. These letters are based on true events. The names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved.

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This article has been read 1187 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita Neuman04/12/07
This was intriguing, but a bit confusing with the out-of-order dates. It's definitely a story idea worth pursuing further, though. You could expand this, fill in some of the details, build up the characters more (when you aren't limited to 750 words) - it'd make a great book!
Myrna Noyes04/13/07
This is a heart-breaking story--especially since you say it's true. I have a sister who has chosen to reject our family, too, and wants no communication with any of us--even our father. Your prayer at the end of your piece echoes my own. I've been trying to hang on so long, as well, and need to let her go into God's hands. I pray both your situation and mine is someday, somehow resolved! Your story was a bit hard to follow in places, and I agree that it would be nice to see it expanded and explained in more detail. Good job!
Sara Harricharan 04/13/07
Wow. This is so sad. I liked the mystery, but could really feel for Abigail. The dates were a little confusing, I had to reread it to put everything in order, but you did a great job altogether. ^_^
Suzanne R04/15/07
Aren't family divisions crazy?! And so often a mystery. You've brought this to light well with this piece. The letter format going back in history, then jumping back to the present at the end was effective.
Joanne Sher 04/16/07
Great description and atmosphere.I also had to reread the letters "in order," but this was a wonderful mystery.
Rita Garcia04/16/07
Such heartbreaking sadness, I like the format and as Anita stated, I think this has the makings of a great book.
Christine Miles04/16/07
Wow! A mystery that exercised my mind! I read it backwards and forwards and up and down and am still trying to figure out who Beth is.... I'm sure I'm just coffee-deprived though because the writing in this entry is very good. I'm going to read it again after a strong black. I like mysteries that make me think and don't leave me with ALL the answers.
Jan Ackerson 04/16/07
Nothing makes me sadder than family sadness--you did a tender job with the writing here. Put me on the side of those who needed to re-read in chronological order, but that wasn't a chore, as the writing was a pleasure to read.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/17/07
You did an excellent job of showing the sadness of broken family relationships. I was most impressed with a mother's love that never changes even though circumstances cause her to give her baby away.
Shari Armstrong 04/18/07
The reverse time-line was an interesting way to pull us along in the story - well done!
Sheri Gordon04/18/07
Wow. Although the reverse timeline was a little hard for me to follow (I must be a simple person), this is awesome. Realizing that this is based on true events, I can understand how it would be hard to get everything across -- especially within the word limit. I would like to read this expanded -- maybe novel form?
Betty Castleberry04/18/07
Based on true events, huh? Man, would I ever like to know more about this family. Fascinating, to say the least. This was very well done.
Joanney Uthe04/18/07
I had to read it a couple of times to figure out who was who (I THINK I got it.) Very intriguing story.
Tabiatha Tallent04/19/07
Very interesting. I liked the way you set it up. Great job.
Bonnie Derksen04/25/07
Very cool story, Val.
So sad, so intriguing, and well written.
It is hard when families are fractured and broken. I know some of the heartache.
I love your ending prayer of release and surrender. Very effective way of drawing the reader's attention back to the source of hope for us all.
Thanks for telling this story.
Oh, and count me in the group that would like to see this expanded into a novel.