"Here we are," he told her, waving an arm across the room to show it to me.
The new room in the flat wasn't exactly the biggest thing, but it would suffice for her needs. Sharing a flat with three other people, two guys and another girl, wasn't exactly her ideal situation, but it was what she could afford, so it was what she did.
"I'll just let you settle in,"
The door was closed and duffel bag of clothes she had brought along down on the bed, then opened the closet door to put them away. She stopped. There was already something there.
A box was open on the floor of the closet and she stooped down to examine it. The very top item in the box was a book. It was an old library copy of a romance novel that someone had probably lost and ended up buying shortly before they found it again. It looked like it had been read many, many times as it was falling apart. She set it aside and continued through the box. It also held a size seven pair of heels, a photograph of a little girl, perhaps three years old, with two women who looked nearly identical to each other, a dried rose with a ribbon and a tag that had From P to S in small letters, and a small jewelry box. Curious, she picked up the jewelry box and found that it was full of cheap jewelry. In the bottom door was a pile of papers, folded into small crisp triangles.
Leaning against the bed, she unfolded the triangles and read the notes. Each was a love letter, written to a "Peter" and from a "Sarah". She was sure they were letters that were never sent, as each one was scribbled over with a blue highlighter, as if the person wanted to forget what was written on them.
She went to put the jewelry box back in the cardboard box when she noticed another object that she hadn't seen before. It was a journal. Flipping it open, she was surprised to find the first page said, "This Diary Belongs to Amanda. Do not read!"
Disregarding the message, she flipped the page and began. Amanda's writing pulled her in instantly, even as she spoke of things that were boring. School, going to Sunday services, hanging out with friends. Somehow, this girl knew how to write.
Reading further and further into the diary, she was startled to find that Amanda's life suddenly took a downturn. It spoke of her getting cancer, having to move away from everyone she knew, and the struggle of living each day as though it might very well be her last. It spoke of her sister having to move in with her because she was so helpless and dependent. The very last entry of the diary was written in shaking hands and spoke of how she felt miserable. Amanda was trapped in a hospital bed now, and the doctors didn't think she would survive the night. She mourned with Amanda then.
Closing the book, she realized that a small photograph had fallen out of the diary. It was a picture of a woman, one of the same women as in the other photograph holding that same child in the other photograph. Written on the back, in the same curvy print the love letters were written with were the words. "Auntie Amanda with me, age 3. The last time I ever saw her."
Packing the box away, troubled at what she had found, she stood up, dusted herself off, and left her room. She found her flatmates in the living room, watching TV.
"Who was staying in that room before me?" she asked.
The one man she hadn't met yet turned. "Sarah stayed there. She was my daughter. Why?"
"There's a box of her stuff in my closet," she reported dimly. He shrugged simply, not caring, and turned back to the TV.
A bit bemused, she returned to her room and the box, and stared dimly at the contents.
"If I were you, I wouldn't mention Sarah again, especially around her father,"
She turned to find her only female flatmate standing there in the doorway, watching her with probing eyes.
"Sarah disappeared last month. Nobody knows where she went nor has anyone seen her. It was probably because her dad didn't really care for her and all. She wanted to get away from him,"
'Did you know Amanda?"
The girl shook her head slightly. "Who was Amanda?"
It seemed neither Sarah, nor her father mentioned Amanda at all, then.
"What about Peter?"
"Oh, yeah. That was Sarah's best friend. He was around here a lot. He disappeared about the same time as Sarah,"
Her flatmate left her deep in thought, wondering about this girl who had been living here before. So Sarah and Peter, who Sarah had a major crush on, had disappeared a month ago, leaving Sarah's neglectful dad behind. But where did they go?
Her eyes fell on the well-read romance novel. She went to it and flipped open the cover. Sure enough, there in Amanda's handwriting was, "Property of Amanda Richer," and below it, an address. The address was highlighted in blue, the small color the scribbles had been on the love letters.
But why would the girl go to her aunt Amanda's house when she knew the woman was dead? It came to her in a flash. Amanda's sister had gone to stay with her.
Sarah was going to find her mother.
Though she had never known this girl, nor her aunt, and she had only just met her father, she felt like she knew the family well. She hoped that Sarah had found her mother okay, and that her mother was okay after having lost her sister. Odd, how a box of possessions left behind could give so much away...