One Last Miracle

“Give me your worst and I will love your best”

These were the words written in the Christmas card Sandra had found in her mailbox this morning. It definitely couldn’t have been for her. She didn’t think anyone even used mailboxes anymore.

The envelope was addressed to Jeanette Byrne with the address of the house Sandra lived in. This was even more baffling to her. She had just moved into this red brick house at the far end of the town and lived alone. The landlady had also mentioned that this place had been abandoned for quite a while now so there was no way this card was meant for the previous tenant and the sender simply didn’t know they’d moved. There was no information at all about the sender. Not their name, not their address, not even the date the card had been sent on.

If Sandra was any other person, she would have just chucked the card into the bin and forgotten about it. But as an investigative journalist, her inherent curiosity wouldn’t let her leave a mystery unsolved. She went around asking the neighbours.

An hour and a half later, Sandra had only managed to acquaint herself with some of the people living close by but was no closer to finding anything about Jeanette Byrne. Nobody seemed to know her.

It was nearing lunch time. Sandra had come quite a way from her house in her quest, so she entered the small but homely diner in front of her. The lady manning the counter was at least in her seventies. All her hair had turned gray but her wrinkled smile was welcoming and motherly.

“Are you new here, dear? I don’t think I’ve seen you before”,she said.

“I am”, Sandra replied. “Just moved into Magnolia Villa at the edge of the town.”

“Oh! That’s quite a way!”

“Yeah, actually I was looking for a Jeanette Byrne but nobody here seems to know anything about her.”

“Jeanette you say?”

Sandra looked up in sudden hope. “You’ve heard of her?”

“I think I have”, the old woman nodded. “Not sure if she’s the one you’re looking for though. It was almost fifty years ago.”

“Please do tell me about her”,Sandra pleaded.

“Alright but you eat up while you listen. Cold spaghetti tastes disgusting”, the lady smiled. “My name is Leslie Townes. I was born just a few blocks from here. Jeanette was the only girl my age in this part of town, so we quickly became good friends. They lived in the same house you’re living in now. Jean was astonishingly beautiful, but she wasn’t allowed to go out much since she was a sickly child. The slightest exertion exhaust her and a little cold would have her in bed with fever for a week. She loved to read. She would read books from all around the world and spin her own tales. She told me when her body started cooperating, she would go out and live lives like the heroines of her books. She would find her own prince charming and do something to change the world. Then she met Michael. I’ve never seen two people connect as easily as they did. Though it may sound cliche, there was no way to describe their relationship other than they completed each other.”

The elderly woman paused for breath. “Then?” Sandra prompted impatiently.

“One day, Jean had a bout of sickness worse than usual. They had to rush her to the city hospital where they found she had Leukemia. They started treatment, but Jean was devastated. When she came back home, she told me even if she lived, without her dreams, she wouldn’t actually be alive. She retreated into herself after that. She wouldn’t come out of her room, barely talked to anyone. She even tried shutting Michael out but that boy was relentless. Every day he visited her, and no matter how many times she turned him away, he came back the next day. But then he joined the army and was deported. Jeanette stopped speaking altogether. Every year without fail, on her birthday and on Christmas, Michael would send her a card. I don’t know if she ever replied, but she kept every single one of them. Then one year, the usual Christmas card didn’t arrive. A week after that, news reached us that Major Michael Barrymore had been killed in action.”

Leslie wiped a tear. “That was the day Jeanette Byrne ceased to exist. The doctors had successfully cured her cancer, but they couldn’t save her mind. She became a lifelong resident of Roseville Mental Hospital. Only Michael’s letters have kept her alive till now. She keeps reading them over and over. Every day.”

Sandra had been listening in awe to Leslie’s story. She could almost feel the heartbreak of two souls. She suddenly knew what she had to do. She stood up, leaving a few bills to cover for her dinner. She gripped Leslie’s hands in her own.

“Thank you for telling me this story”, she told her. “Michael didn’t miss sending that last Christmas card. The post was half a century late in sending it on. And now I have a last stop to make before returning home. Lets hope this last Christmas miracle brings some peace to a lovely strong soul.”

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