A charmed life

By 9th March 2009No Comments

The drawer was stiff from lack of use, but opened with a squeak when Helen tugged it.
The ensuing familiar waft of lavender brought vivid memories of her late grandmother as Helen found the bundle of envelopes she was seeking, pushed to the back, and tied with a faded red ribbon.
Helen recalled the words in her grandmother’s last Will and Testament,
“For my darling granddaughter Helen, who often asked about my charm bracelet. With the enclosed, she can read how it came about, and why it has always been so precious to me.”
However, it had been the last paragraph which had intrigued her most…
“Your grandfather was a fine man, and in my own way I loved him dearly. He wasn’t, however, my true love. Read the letters my darling.”
Helen’s hand sought the charm bracelet in her pocket. Taking it out, she looked at it again. There were only five charms, mounted on gold links, wide gaps between each charm.
Her grandmother had only worn the bracelet on very special occasions, and as a child Helen had often begged to wear it, but had never been allowed to do so.
Interested in learning more, she carried the letters to the table, placing beside them the bracelet. Untying the ribbon, she opened the first envelope.
The ink was fading with age, but still legible.
“Dear Margaret, enclosed is a silver sixpence charm, to remind you of the day we met, Christmas 1939. When I bit into it, you said you’d never found one yourself. Please have this one to keep. With best wishes, Thomas.”
“How sweet, but who’s Thomas?” Helen wondered.
Her grandfather had been called Henry, always known as Harry.
Eager for answers, Helen opened the second letter.
Reading it, she glanced again at the bracelet.
“My dearest Margaret, I just loved this crystal ball, a memento from our day at the Easter Fair 1940. Hope Gypsy Rose Lee predicted true love for us? With love, Tom x.”
Looking at the bracelet, Helen gently rubbed her finger across the dull glass of the crystal ball. Rubbing a bit harder, it began to shine. Inside she could see a tiny purple pattern within the glass.
“I wonder what Gypsy Rose Lee told Granny?”
The third was addressed to Private T Brierley, in her grandmother’s neat script.
“Dearest Tom, so you can write often, I enclose a stamp holder. Keep it close to your heart, and think of me. With love, Mags x.”
There was nothing else inside, so Helen looked at the bracelet, wondering what a stamp holder was.
Examining the last three charms, one was a set of three tiny rings, depicting engagement, wedding and eternity. The second, a little gold and glass carriage lamp, with a folded ten shilling note inside. The third was shaped like a tiny gold envelope. Carefully, Helen put her fingernail beneath the flap. Miniature hinges opened up, and inside was an old yellowing stamp.
“Ah. So this is a stamp holder.”
The next envelope was also in her grandmother’s writing. Helen withdrew the letter.
“Darling Tom, thank you so much for the crystal ball. It’s beautiful. One day, I will reveal Gypsy Rose Lee’s secrets!”
Helen gathered, from read the rest that her grandmother had been courting Tom Brierley, a young man from her village. Tom had been called up into the Army, and their date at the Easter Fair had been the last before he left for training.
“The stamp holder letter and the crystal ball charm must have crossed in the post,” Helen decided, checking the envelopes, but the postal marks were too faint to decipher.
Tom’s next letter told of life whilst training, about how pleased he was that he and his best mate were still together.
Her grandmother’s reply was about life in the village, the rationing and black-out, and at the bottom, she asked Tom to pass her regards to Harry.
“Harry. That must be Grandad.”
In his reply, Tom told asked Mags to meet him at the station as he had three days leave. He‘d enclosed ten shillings to pay for the special licence required for weddings held at short notice.
“I wonder why she put it inside the charm?” Helen mused.
There were two envelopes left. One held a telegram, and a sheet of paper with just Tom’s signature on and two kisses.
Helen read it,
“Darling (stop). All leave cancelled (stop). Following are until the real set (stop). Promise to make you mine (stop). Love you (stop). Tom (stop).”
Looking at the bracelet, “Following” could only have meant the set of three tiny rings.
The last envelope was in her grandfather’s writing. Frowning, Helen withdrew the sheet of paper, reading it through.
“Dear Margaret, I thought I should write to let you know that Tom had received your last letter, thanking him for rings, just before he was killed. He died quickly, knowing nothing about it.
Once home, I will return your letters and the stamp holder, which he kept in his breast pocket. Our CO has requested I sort out Tom’s personal items. As you know, he had no other family. Please accept my sincere condolences. I too have lost someone I cared very much about. We were like brothers for many years, and I know how he loved you. Yours very sincerely, Harry.”
Helen suddenly realised why her grandmother had the ten shillings made into a charm, because Tom never made it back to marry her.
“How sad, but Grandad must have come home, and together they helped each other through their grief, and fell in love.”
Glancing up at the portrait of her grandparents above the mantelpiece, Helen noticed her grandmother touching the charm bracelet, her grandfather looking down at his wife.
No wonder it was so special, it had brought her love not once, but twice.

Tony Manell

Author Tony Manell

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