Third Time’s the Charm ~ Leave the Past Alone


In response to writing 101 Day 16’s prompt Third Time’s the Charm ~ Lost and Found.
Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” What do you think about or visualize when you read this phrase? For an elementary schooler, it might be a box in their classroom, full of forgotten jackets and random toys. For a frequent traveler, it might be a facility in an airport, packed with lost phones, abandoned bags, and misplaced items.

On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.
By the end of Writing 101, you’ll have multiple posts around a theme; material you could thread together in a longform piece.

Questions to think about as you write your post:

  • What have you learned about loss over the years?
  • What does it feel like to find an object that was once important to you?
  • When can reconnecting go horribly wrong?
  • When are things better left buried and forgotten?

In your “lost and found” tale, tell us something larger — a life lesson, perhaps — about finding and losing something.

Grant and Sonia were adept of storage sales. One could find really interesting things there. It wasn’t their full-time job unlike some of the people who came there too. These guys, they looked to buy storage boxes for as little money as they could to resell its content for as much cash as possible. For them it was first and foremost a love story. More often than not they didn’t make a lot of money on these but they found items with stories. Whether these brought money or not had no impact. They loved learning about the 1950s candy distributor or that the worthless pot of iron would still have its place in a museum because it dated from the Civil War.

That day they bid more on the box than they intended but a little piece of furniture had caught their interest. Sonia knew that once the turquoise varnish was removed it would reveal a gem. So they bid and got the box for $3,100, a good $1,500 more than what they’d intended to spend on any given storage. But Sonia really wanted this table. And even if they didn’t sell it, she knew it was worth having in their house.

While Grant continued with the others to see if there was something else to purchase, Sonia sifted through the box. Rather, she emptied whatever was in front of that wooden piece of furniture she’d seen. She cast a quick glance on what she left by the door and knew that there were a couple of things that would sell fast in any antique shop but she had her eyes set on that turquoise table.

It proved to be more than a table; it was in fact a small chest of drawers, with curved feet as they sometimes made them in the 19th century. It wasn’t as heavy or bulky as some she’d seen but she could see the varnish flaking here and there, revealing a lovely shade of dark brown underneath. Whoever painted that thing had probably damaged it beyond repair but she wasn’t daunted. In fact there were a few more items that were painted in flashy colour, which once freed of the ghastly varnish, would probably be beautiful. One such item was a small bedside table with a couple of drawers. One held a few pieces of jewelry including a small golden charm bracelet; it must have belonged to a young woman. It was beautiful and she wondered why someone would leave such a precious thing in a box here.

Later that day, Sonia and Grant brought their discoveries back home. Everything ended in the garage but for the jewelry, which Sonia carried to the jeweller right away. Jay was a good friend and he’d always looked at what she procured in these sales. He’d been doing his job for twenty years or so. And he was fairly impressed; some were old jewelry, from the 19th century, like the furniture apparently, but he frowned when he saw the charm bracelet.
“What’s wrong?”
“This rings a bell. I’m pretty sure this comes from my shop.”
“Really?”
“Yes, I made this for Theresa Phillips. It was her parents’ present when she graduated as valedictorian in high school. And her 18th birthday gift too.”
“Wait! Theresa Phillips, the young woman who was abducted three years ago?”
“They never found her body. They don’t even know if she’s still alive. You found this in a storage?”
“Yes.” Sonia pulled out her cellphone and called the police station. They asked her to come right away with the piece of jewelry.
The detective who received her seemed to not believe his eyes.
“I’d given up on getting any new clues in this case.”

Sonia explained how she came by the charm bracelet. Yes, she was willing to let the police take a look at what other items were in the storage, even though hers and her husband’s finger prints would probably all over them now. Sure she could give the name of the person who’d organized the auction, but she had no idea whether he could provide the information about the owner of the storage. Of course, she was willing to relinquish the other pieces of jewelry found. If it could be tied to other cases she could only help.
When the detective offered compensation for the inconvenience, Sonia retorted that if it helped give families some measure of peace and closure it was a well spent $3,000. She was no saint and $3,000 was a lot of money but parents – maybe not only Theresa Phillips’s – were waiting for closure and she wouldn’t put a price on that. It would be awful.

The DNA retrieved from the different items she’d found in the bed table allowed the police to determine the person owning the storage had kidnapped and held 5 women, in 5 different states over the course of 15 years. From the auctioneer, they got more information – Sonia didn’t know what – and they found the owner’s house. The man died of pancreatic cancer a few weeks before; the house hadn’t been touched yet but he owed money and the bank had ensured the storage was sold to the highest bidder. The house would be emptied, its content auctioned but no one had come yet.

When the FBI showed up, the small community was shaken up. There was a kidnapper in their midst and no one knew. In fact, no one had ever guessed he could have been behind Theresa Phillips’s abduction. He wasn’t even on the list of suspects. Theresa’s parents were pulled into another round of horrible questionings by journalists and police officers. Sonia met them and while they seemed thankful that she’d found the bracelet, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had re-opened the wound and put salt in it.

Sonia could only hope that the new investigation would finally give an answer. But throughout she felt guilty and after the answers were found. She’d only wanted to find the story behind a piece of jewelry. Instead she’d opened Pandora’s box of pain for a couple of parents who still had no idea whether their daughter lived or died. She never went to another storage auction again.

©scolpron2015

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