There it was, the box. Wrapped in grandmas old silk scarf. The map led them straight to it!
Let me rewind a little. About five days to be exact.
It was a warm early summer day, the gulls hovered about while the farmers harvested the crops. The floor shook as the tractor pulled into the barn. It was hay season and the farm helpers who were hired by the McIntosh family were busy piling the bales in the barn. The hay dust wasn't quite as bad as corn dust, but it was still enough to make you sneeze and itch. The floors were in need of repair but no one quite had time for that. With a staff of nearly 20, the family farm was able to recuperate after the long harsh winter that just passed.
The McIntosh children loved playing in the barn. Once the bales were piled, the children would jump from row to row, and back again. The floor board would creak and squeak, they'd shift and move, and you would find the occasional board that would just pop right out of place. This was ordinary for an old barn.
Grandma McIntosh would to tell stories about the barn, and how it holds a great enchantment. Of course, no one ever took granny seriously, her dementia contributed to a lot of mysterious stories. Like a picture in the attic which holds a treasure map. The children felt something to be true about granny's crazy stories and often tried to put together the puzzle pieces of the stories.
Eli who was eleven was the oldest and the most adventurous. Emily was nine and she was sharp, and had an eye for detail. Little Ella was only a year younger than her sister, but she was small. She was often mistaken for a child around the age of five or six. But Ella, she knew granny's stories were real. Her mother would stand outside her bedroom door at night and listen as Ella would talk to her stuffed animals as if she was speaking to someone she knew.
The children ate their pancakes and banana slices and headed out to play. More particularly, they headed to the barn. Ella's senses were tingling and she knew she had to find that treasure map. They had looked in the attic of the house, but something was telling Ella that the attic of the barn was where she needed to look. So along went the other two with Ella to find this picture, in a frame, hidden away, with treasure map inside. As they picked through grandma and grandpas boxes of old belongings they came across a box of photos.
"How will we know what picture it is?" said Eli. "We wont know until we find it, and when we find it, we'll know!" replied Emily. They looked at the photos. Nothing felt like it was hiding anything. Hours had passed with no luck. They lined the frames along the wall of the attic, inspecting them one by one with a flashlight, after blowing all the dust off and giving them a quick shake test. "I don't see anything" said Eli. "WAIT!" exclaimed Emily, "LOOK!". In the wooded cravings of the frame of their dear old granny appeared an arrow. It could only be seen by one particular angle. "Eli, help me get this open!"
Eli and Emily turned the photo around, as Ella undid the clasps that held the back board to the picture in the frame. Between the picture and the back board was another picture. "Who are they?" Asked Emily. "Its grandma and another little girl, when they were about our age" said Eli. "Let me see!" demanded Ella, tugging too hard on the photo when it ripped. "What have you done!" barked Emily.
The children took the pieces of the photo to show their mother, in hopes that she would be able to mend the photo back together. *Gasp* Amanda, the mother of the three, looked as if she saw a ghost. "This is Grandma Juniper, and her twin sister Pearl. Pearl went missing shortly after this picture was taken" she said. Amanda sat and scratched her head. "I wonder what ever happened to her" she said emotionally. "Here Eli, Go and show this to grandma" she said, "I'm sure she'd like to see it".
Confused, the three were filled with even more mystery. "Grandma? Do you know who this is?" Eli said as he pointed to Pearl. "Pearl!" Grandma said excitedly. "Grandma, where did Pearl go?" asked Ella. "Within the box" grandma replied. Her moment of clarity had passed, nothing she said after was coherent. "Within the box?" Eli questioned under his breath. "What box?" said Emily as the three walked to the kitchen to wash up for dinner.
Emily, the smart one, took possession of the old photo and carefully examined every detail that may lead to some old box grandma was talking about. The night grew older, and Emily was at a loss. Nothing jumped out at her, until it did. *MEOW* Her cat sprang from under the bed just as Emily was settling to lay. The cat scared Emily and she threw the photo floating through the air, until it landed on top of her nightlight. "What is that?" She wondered.
Holes! Small pin holes in the photo drew a perfect map. But to where? She couldn't quite figure it out. Although she was sharp, she was not the one for the job. "Eli.. Eli, wake up!" she whispered as she softly shook him awake. "What, Emily?" he replied with one eye opened. "I found something" she answered. Eli sat up, opened his eyes, and slowly placed both feet on the ground. The two quietly walked down the hall to Emily's room where she showed Eli the holes in the photo.
The two examined the photo closely, with no such luck of finding out what the holes meant. "Cool!" Said Ella, scaring the two who didn't hear Ella come in. As she pointed up the ceiling. With the light behind the map it was clear. The path, the destination, the treasure, it was all right here. But how would they find it? Where would it lead them? What is the treasure?
The three set off on the adventure. Coming across small things along the way that resembled the presence of their dear granny, and her sister Pearl. Like a carving in an old tree stump with the initials "JP", and again on a old wooden fence post. The three would see the two names "Juniper" and "Pearl" the whole way. Across the bridge on the pond, the rocks under the bridge were placed to spell "PEARL". The kids got more and more curious about their great aunt Pearl, who was she? Where is she?
The stop before the last lead them to a tree. In the tree there was a hollow, and in that hollow was a box. "Open it!" Demanded Ella, as Eli picked it up. It was photos of Grandma Juniper and Aunt Pearl, along with keepsakes such as little handmade dolls. Under it all, was a note:
"If you're reading this, you've found the treasure map. Rest assured that I am safe and well. I have hidden a box in the floor of the barn. Opening this box will bring me home.
Their eyes lit up with excitement, and wonder. They raced to the barn. Finally, as they huffed and gasped trying to catch their breath, they reached the barn. "We have to find her!" said Eli. "Check the floor boards!" demanded Emily. They checked almost every floor board, every nook, every cranny, with no such luck. Ella ran to the attic, "maybe it's up there!" she exclaimed. The other two followed, trying to catch up to Ella. "I can feel it! Keep looking!" They looked, and looked, and looked. They couldn't find the box.
There was a hole in the floor to drop hay to the horses below, with a ladder. Emily snuck off and went down the ladder to the horses stalls. She began to tear up, feeling hopeless that poor great aunt Pearl would not be able to return home. Suddenly, something shined in the corner of Emily's eye. It was a glimpse of sunlight coming through the floor boards. She went over to inspect the beam of light. The floor board was loose. "ELI! ELLA!" she screamed for the other two. As they came quickly down the ladder Emily yelled "HELP ME GET THIS BOARD UP!".
The three lifted the board and found a box. Could it be? Was this it? They looked at each other in disbelief. This couldn't be real, could it? The three reached down together to grab the box when it suddenly shone a single beam of light towards a barn wall. "Pearl". There it was again. Engraved in the wall. This had to be it. They lifted the box out of the hole. They all took a breath before opening the box. As they opened the box they were blinded by light, and a gust of what felt like the strongest wind had pushed them backwards.
The light began to fade, and the three sat up. "Hello!" said a warm, calm voice. There was a woman standing before them. "Who... who are you?" asked Ella. "My name is Pearl" she replied. "GREAT AUNT PEARL?" Emily ran and hugged the woman. "This can't be real" said Eli in disbelief. "I've been gone a long time. You see, what happened was this.." Pearl told the children about how many, many years ago there was a town witch who cursed twins. The witch would steal one twin and lock them away in an old box, and she cured the other twin so they would lose their memory, to make sure no one could find the box and help the other twin escape.
But Pearl and Juniper were smart. When Pearl was taken, she would send messages to Juniper. Clear instructions. Juniper did everything Pearl said, hoping she could help her escape. Juniper drew the map, and hid it in the picture frame where Pearl told her to. Juniper carved their initials in their favourite places to play as kids, and even wrote her sisters name in the rocks under the bridge.
"Juniper... where is my sister Juniper? I need to see her." The three took aunt Pearl to grandma Junipers room. She was asleep. "Maybe we should let her rest" said Pearl. "Are you kidding? Go wake her up!" said Emily. Pearl looked back at the kids, and then continued into Junipers room. "June?" Grandma Juniper opened her eyes. She sat straight up in her bed, and lept to her sisters arms. "PEARL? IS IT REALLY YOU?"
"I remember... EVERYTHING" said grandma Juniper.