Between Friends

Dearest Jean,  

I apologize I couldn’t meet you last month. Mark took ill so quickly; I was afraid to leave him alone. My girls, of course, were too busy with their own families to be bothered with their parents. They’ll be sorry one day they didn’t spend every moment with us life offered them. Not anything new, is it? At least my dog is always happy to see me.  

I am pleased you found my changes to our cottage agreeable. I find your decorative touches lovely as well. I can’t, however, believe you got a flat tire your first time here. Nor can I imagine, after three months, why we haven’t managed to show up at the same time. I do understand that life gets in the way occasionally, and some might say we’re incredibly unlucky were it not for your tidbit of titillating news. I don’t suppose you minded having all the privacy afforded in my absence, especially if you cajoled “Sexy Nick” into stopping by to help with some chores.  

You didn’t think of that, did you? I’ll start a Honey-Do list posthaste. Oh, I’ve just had the most brilliant of ideas. I’ll order the porch swing you mentioned and notify Mrs. Buckley to hold the package until we arrive. Of course, I will drop a hint or two about the box being so heavy. I might suggest we need a strong man to deliver it, like her nephew, perhaps?  

Imagine sipping wine while “Sexy Nick” hangs our apparatus. I’m chuckling as I write this and think about your blushing face when he flirts with you in front of me. Meanwhile, while I’m here without you, I shall be most productive. Gardening is a priority, followed by a bit of research. I’ll finish this letter as soon as I return from town…  

Oh, Jean. You’ll never believe what I discovered. After ordering our swing, I headed over to the local store to speak with Mrs. Buckley. Gladys (we’re now on a first-name basis) directed me to Pierre’s Historical Society. Get this. The Sumners, Richard and Elizabeth, owned our cottage for more than fifty years. He passed away of natural causes right here in our home away from home, followed by Elizabeth, only a few weeks later. From what I gathered, the poor woman died of a broken heart. I do hope these two old soulmates haunt our place.  

I’m not usually so romantic (envision an eye roll here) over such things, but somehow this couple touched my sympathies. Now, I did ask Gladys why she referred to our cottage as the old Strangler place, and you’ll never believe this. After hours of searching, I backed up her claim that Edward Strangler, Ed, was from a long line of landowners in Pierre. He built our place and put it on the market long before the town used formal deeds or recorded them.  

Jean, guess to whom? Edwin Lee. Harper Lee’s older brother!!! Unbelievable. Evidently, Ed sold to Edwin, who settled here after serving his duty to our country in WWII. He died shortly after that of a brain aneurysm. He was only thirty-one. Can you imagine?  

One of the notations in the documents I read stated Harper molded her character of Jem after him. I don’t know why he moved here to South Dakota instead of remaining in his home of Alabama. Regardless, this home stayed in the Lee family’s hands for the next decade. Wouldn’t it be magnificent if she brought her book here and autographed it for her brother? I mean, out of nostalgia for her memories of her brother, perhaps.  

I don’t suppose we’ll ever prove any of that. Nor do I think anyone remains alive in this town with first-hand knowledge of these events. But, we do have the book, and now we know Ed Strangler sold to Edwin, and the Lee family sold to the Sumners. We have some unique spirits in this old place, and I think we shall celebrate the cottage’s hundredth birthday before this decade runs out.  

All quite extraordinary, and now I doubt we should ever sell the book. Yet, all this information, when harnessed and secured, would bring us a pretty penny— the house and the novel sold as a Harper Lee legacy. We shall salute our good fortune with a bottle of wine. Next month, Jean. We are meeting! 

All my love,  

P.S. The swing is pink! Now, who’s rolling their eyes?  

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