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A Message In a Bottle

by Savannah Aichem 7 months ago in Short Story · updated 6 months ago
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Sometimes real treasure has only sentimental value

A Message In a Bottle
Photo by Cristofer Maximilian on Unsplash

A woman stared out at the sea, her eyes matching the blue-green of the deeper waters. Today the clouds covered the sun, and the beach was gray and nearly empty. That’s when she liked to come, to walk along the edges of the water when no one else was there to find the treasures the ocean would lay at her feet. So far she had found beautiful pieces of sea glasses, the once harsh edges now soft and gentle against her fingers as she traced the bumps and ridges. She has found some dri ftwood for her garden at home, some small shells and even a small child’s bucket forgotten next to what must have been a sandcastle but was now reduced to a lump of sand. The wind picked up slightly, the ocean air sweeping into her lungs, making her feel a deep sense of calm. The sun peeked out for just a moment, and the woman saw the sunlight reflect off something sticking out of the sand up ahead. Making her way toward her next piece of treasure she discovered it was a bottle, the glass still intact despite the rough waves and rocks in the surf. The woman removed the little trinket from the sand and brushed it off before using the seawater to clean it further. The bottle was made of glass, and it had been in the ocean long enough to feel smooth to the touch. Curious fingers danced all around the newfound treasure, and upon turning it over there was a slight noise from inside the bottle, there was something inside. Upon noticing that there was something hidden within the woman scurried further up the beach away from the surf, not wanting to accidentally drop the bottle back into the sea and never see it again.

Finding a suitable spot to sit the woman plopped down into the sand, examining the bottle trying to find a way to get it open. It appeared the top had been sealed with wax and whoever had done so wanted to take great care of the contents. Eventually picking away at the wax paid off and a cork was exposed which was easy enough for the woman to pull out. The woman peered into the bottle, trying to see just what was inside this mysterious little capsule. She noticed some weathered-looking paper with a rubber band around it. She removed a pair of tweezers from the first aid kit in her bag and used them to remove the brittle paper from its confines. She very gently removed the rubber bands and smoothed out the paper. It looked to be from a notebook, the edges still jagged from being ripped from the spiral edge. The woman began to read the contents, most of the words still legible:

“Dear Anne,

It’s been two months since I lost you today, and I came to the beach to sit and look out at the waves like we used to do together. The house still smells of your perfume, though it has faded significantly, and I’ve taken to smelling the bottle on the nightstand just so I don’t forget. I’ve kept up with taking care of the garden just as you asked me to, and I bring flowers from it to your grave every Sunday after church, I thought that was something you would like. I know you aren’t hurting anymore and for that I am grateful, but I miss you every day my angel. The house, the beach, the garden, even the grocery store feel so different without you next to me pointing out the little things that made them so special. The kids keep coming by, checking in on me to see how I’m doing. I keep hearing whispers of them talking about getting me a dog to keep me company, and I could practically see your smile light up your face at the thought of having a dog in the house again so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Everyone keeps telling me to go out, make some new friends, try some new things, but the truth of it is all I want to do is keep tending to the garden and taking my walks to the beach. I feel like you’re still with me here, in the places we used to love to visit, and whenever I find a big shell I still put it in your collection. I think you would like that too. Anyway l I keep leaving these bottles here on the beach and I watch the waves wash them away, I like to think they’re bringing my messages up to Heaven to you but if they aren’t then at least it gives me something to do. I love you Angel and until I see you again on the other side just know I’m always thinking of you.

Love always,

John"

By this point the women’s eyes were overflowing with tears and she could barely make out the rest of the words on the paper, but she managed to make out a date on the top right corner. September 8th, 1991. This note was over ten years old; how many others had the man written and left for the woman he loved and lost? The woman rerolled the note, replaced the rubber bands, and put the note back in the bottle. Wiping her eyes with her sleeve she carefully stored the bottle back in her bag, but not to keep. She would bring it home, reseal it with wax and send it back out to sea tomorrow. So many questions whirled through the woman’s mind on the way home, but the one thing she couldn’t stop thinking was that she hoped this man had found peace somehow, and that he was happy wherever he was.

The sun was shining the next day when the woman returned to deposit the bottle back where it belonged. The waves shimmered, families were laughing and playing, it was a beautiful day to be at the beach. The woman didn’t plan to stay long, just send the bottle out to sea and be on her way, until she noticed an older gentleman with a dog walking along the surf. She once again saw the sunlight reflecting off something, but this time it was in the older man’s hand. The woman stood there dumbfounded; it couldn’t be him. The dog sat contently next to the man as a wave came rolling over his toes. He smiled and looked up toward the sky, not at all upset about his pants getting wet on the bottoms or the chill of the water, and then leaned down when the next wave came and placed this new bottle in the surf watching it disappear out to sea. The woman couldn’t help but walk toward him, her curiosity getting the better of her. The man began to turn away, getting ready to walk up the beach and head home.

“Excuse me, sir!” the woman called out

The man turned around and looked at the woman with a quizzical look on his face. The woman hurried her footsteps rushing to catch up with the man and his dog.

“Hi, I know you don’t know me and I don’t know you either but I just have to ask you something. I found this bottle yesterday while I was walking along the edge of the water, and I just have to ask if it is yours? I admit I read it and I was so moved, I resealed it and brought it back here to put back into the ocean, I thought it belonged there.”

The woman watched the man's eyes grow wide as he reached for the bottle she held out to him, and with a shaking hand, he took it. He smiled sadly as he nodded, running his hands over the now smooth glass.

“This must seem pretty strange to you, that ten years later I’m still writing to my wife. She’s been gone such a long time, and I’ve never told anyone about the bottles except for Marco here.” The man gestured down to the dog at his side whose ears perked up at the mention of his name

“My kids would think I was losing my mind and my friends would tell me I need to let go and move on and all that nonsense.”

The woman shook her head and smiled warmly at him. She reached out to pet Marco on the head and he happily accepted, tail sending sand everywhere.

“I don’t think it’s very strange at all, I think it’s very sweet and beautiful.”

The man smiled kindly at her and held out his hand, no longer shaky or unsure.

“My name is John, but I guess you know that already. Thank you for taking such good care of my letter.”

“My name is Leslie and it’s very nice to meet you, John. Your letter was the greatest treasure I’ve ever found on the beach. I come once or twice a week usually when the weather’s cloudy and no one is here which is probably why I’ve never seen you before.”

“Well, I’d be happy to have someone to talk to if a young lady like yourself doesn’t mind listening to an old man like me.”

“Eh you don’t seem that old to me, you’re still keeping up with Marco there pretty well and I would love to hear more about Anne if you’d be interested in talking.”

John's smile could’ve lit up the whole beach that day if the sun wasn’t already out, and so he held out his arm to Leslie who took it happily and walked along the beach with her new friend, Marco happily walking beside them. Maybe after all those years, Anne had sent John a friend who would understand him and who liked to listen. From then on Leslie and John met up at the beach once a week to talk and just to enjoy each other’s company. One day John brought his grandson who was around Leslie’s age and they hit it off. John had a knowing smirk as he left the beach that day, knowing Anne would’ve loved the young girl who understood the importance of John’s messages. Within a year Leslie and John’s grandson were married and had a home of their own by the beach she liked to visit, the same beach where she had first met John. They would still take their weekly walk on the beach but when John started to slow down and could no longer make the walks anymore Leslie would take the bottles and bring them to the ocean herself, until the day John passed away. The day he died he told her he wasn’t sad, that now he would get to see his angel again and that she shouldn’t be sad for him. With that John closed his eyes and with his family all around him, he finally found peace.

The day after the funeral service Leslie went to the beach alone, except for Marco whom she and her husband had adopted when John passed. In Leslie’s hand was a bottle, sealed just like John used to seal his own. The sky was overcast, and Leslie was happy for the lack of people today more than any other day, the service had been for the whole family but this little thing was just for her and Marco to say goodbye to John, as they had never told anyone else about his letter’s to Anne.

“Well John, I thought I’d start the tradition of writing to you too. I never really told you, but I never got the chance to have a grandfather before you came along and I’m going to miss you terribly, but I know you’re back with Anne again and that makes this whole thing just a little easier. Don’t worry about Marco I promise we will take good care of him and we will bring him here often, I think you’d like that. I am so grateful I got to know you, and that I ran into you that day on the beach, you gave me so much in life that I was missing. Mack and I never got to tell you before you passed away, but it turns out we’re expecting a baby. I know how happy that would’ve made you and I know you’ll be smiling down at us every time we bring the little one here to play. Give Anne a kiss for me and tell her thank you for introducing us because after all you’ve told me about her I’m not at all convinced she didn’t have something to do with our meeting. We will miss you, John have fun up there.”

With that Leslie took the bottle and placed it in the surf, patting Marco on the head and walking back up the beach toward home.

Nine months later Leslie and Mack welcomed their baby, a beautiful little boy into the world. They decided to name him John, after the man who brought them together in the first place. They thought he would like that.

Short Story

About the author

Savannah Aichem

"What doesn't kill us gives us something new to write about." -Julie Wright

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