Sometimes junk drawers must be emptied.
Julie sifted through layers of folded paper, stuffed all the way to the back of the drawer. A few notes fluttered to her feet like white butterflies. Her art studio was supposed to be the safe spot of her house for important papers and documents, but after ten years of accumulating paper of various significance, nothing could be found. Not even the passport she needed.
She pulled out two hair salon coupons stuck together by a wad of chewed Big Red gum, her favorite gum and addiction five years ago. “I wondered where I left these. No good now.” She tossed them into the growing garbage pile. The needed pile consisted of her and Jerry’s marriage license, birth certificates for them and their three children, Max, Katie, and Dillon. Hand traced turkey drawings and button faces filled the what-do –I-do-with-these pile.
She reached for a clump of stationery, hoping to find her passport underneath . . .
Dear Julie . . . I just want you to know . . . “Oh my stars! I forgot this letter was in here. She was about to read when she heard Jerry’s familiar sneeze. He might come in her studio to see what she was painting, so she stuffed the paper in her pocket like a child hiding stolen candy.
Jerry peaked his head in. “I’ll see you later after softball practice, about eight.”
“Okay. Have fun, but don’t hurt yourself again.”
He tipped his Mets baseball cap and blew a kiss. “I’d like a massage later.”
“I’m sure you would.” And she blew a kiss back.
When she heard the front door slam shut, she wiggled the letter out of her pocket. She hesitated. “This is twelve years old, should go in the garbage pile. I shouldn’t read it.” But she unfolded a corner.
Dear Julie . . . she didn’t have to read it to remember. She could feel the gentle rain as Brian took her hands in his and proposed as a barge inched by on the East River. She remembered the look on his face when she said no. She wasn’t sure. She remembered his last kiss as he placed the note in her hand the next day before hopping on the train to boot camp.
“Dear Julie . . . I’ll wait for you. I love you more than I’ve ever . . .”
She closed the letter, but her mind had opened the past. She couldn’t help thinking, “What if?”
“What if I said yes? What if he didn’t go into the air force? What if I married Brian? What if he didn’t crash before I changed my mind?”
The drawer was half emptied as she pulled out a mini photo album, her brag book. Jerry looked so handsome in his tux. He kissed her with cake on his nose. He held Max, one day old, in the hospital. They all smiled, tan and wet, in front of their sand castle. Max beamed with missing front teeth as he held Katie and Dillon on his lap. Julie sat on the slide with the three children. “Like a train,” they’d say.
“What if I never met Jerry and still blamed God?” A sense of peace welled up inside of her. God had worked everything out for the best. “Why should I ever look back?”
She flipped to the last page in the album. The passport fell at her feet just as Jerry walked in. “I found it! I’m ready to go on our second honeymoon.”
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