An Unexpected Surprise This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Florence slowly walked back to iher room. Meat loaf again! It was no wonder food just didn't have the same old appeal. How could anyone get excited about leftovers? Not that there was much to be excited about around here. She'd been here almost a year and still was having trouble "settling down" in her old age. Monday night bingo, "Matlock" on Tuesday, the bridge game every Wednesday night - it was all so routine.

She wished Anne or Steve would drop by and visit. Their visits came so rarely. She didn't blame them; they both had families and jobs now, and it was hard for them to get away. She remembered how full of herself she had been at that age.

She thought of the day she and Stanley had bought their first house and how caught up they had been in picking out wallpaper and matching curtains. Of course, it hadn't always been easy; she was happy to see Anne and Steve so successful. It was just that she was so lonely. True, there were a lot of friendly people here at the nursing home, but it seemed as though some only took pleasure in finding things to complain about. She knew they were just seeking comfort, and needed someone to sympathize with them, but it was as if they had forgotten how to have everyday conversation.

She enjoyed it when students came by to sing at the nursing home. There was usually a huge rush around Christmas time. The young people today led such interesting lives. Of course her life had been far from dull, but the days of her youth seemed so long ago. Things had changed since then, and a lot was different now. She enjoyed hearing about what sports they played, how school was going, their pastimes; but when they left, she would feel the loneliness twice as strongly.

"Mrs. Golden, may I come in?"

"Yes," sighed Florence. She abandoned her thoughts. She always seemed to be interrupted. It was as if the staff were so anxious to keep them busy that they wouldn't let them slow down to stop and think.

"Well, a package arrived for you today. We would have given it to you sooner, but you seemed so caught up in the bingo game, we hated to disturb you. It's the third time in a row you've won, isn't it, Mrs. Golden?

"Yes, thank you very much." Caught up in a bingo game? That was a laugh.

As the nurse left, Florence looked at the scrawled writing, but was unable to decipher its owner.

Inside the package was a stack of letters tied with a ribbon. The letters were old and yellow, and the edges were worn as if they'd been read many times. On top of the stack was a note:

Dear Flo,

Who would have thought it would come to this, eh? I am lucky to have a daughter who has a house large enough to take me in. I have my own maid, too. It's not as good as it sounds though, as I'm sure you know.

I saved the letters you wrote me. I always looked forward to reading them. They brought me a lot of comfort, and I hope they can give you some comfort now. I know how much you always valued your independence.

Your friend,

Eliza Dailey

What a surprise. Florence hadn't heard from Eliza in years. It really was too bad they had lost touch.

Cautiously, she opened the first letter, dated 5/12/12:



Dear Eliza,

I miss you so very much. How is it down in Indiana? Did I tell you I was born there? Lafayette, Indiana.

You'll never guess what happened. Mom and Dad refused to let me see Tom anymore (You remember Tom Wilson, the boy I was seeing?) Imagine! They forbid me to go to the movies with him this Saturday night. I'm just furious! I don't care what they say - I'm going to the movies with Tom even if I have to sneak out behind their backs. Can you believe they say I'm too young...

Florence laughed. She remembered that day well. She hadn't even been able to enjoy that night with Tom because she had been so worried her parents might walk into her bedroom and find her gone.

She shuffled through the pile of letters for a particular one. Ah, yes, her trip to Europe from 4/15/16:

Dear Eliza,

How are you?? I've got great news. When high school ends this June I'm going abroad! I'm going to travel to France, and then spend one year traveling around Europe. The best part is I thought you could join me. Of course, my Aunt Margaret would accompany us, but basically we'd be on our own, and it'd be just like old times!

That had been a fun year. Florence would never forget the time she and Eliza were in London and Eliza had been swept off her feet by a young English gentleman. They had decided to marry after two weeks and honeymoon in Vienna. It had caused a great scandal with all the families. Florence was even asked by Eliza's mother to try and bring Eliza to her senses. The plans had fallen through though and there was a tearful parting between Eliza and Gerald (that was his name). They both agreed that they were too young to marry and promised to write and meet again in six months. A few years later Eliza met her future husband and lived many happy years with him.

She and Eliza vowed they would go back someday....

Here was anonther one, dated 7/8/19, about her meeting Stanley:

Dear Eliza,

I'm in love. His name is Stanley Golden and we've been seeing each other for three months now. I'm sure I've mentioned him in my other letters. Did I tell you how we met? We were at the church picnic. I was...

Reading these letters Florence realized what a happy and fulfilling life she had had. All she had needed was a little reminder. And it wasn't over yet, she still had the use of her arms and legs, for heaven's sake, and was lucky enough not to have any major health problems other than a little arthritis. There was no denying that mild stroke last August, but those were the risks, and Florence decided she would take them.

How had she grown so conservative in her old age? Maybe she would go out and snag herself a husband! She would notify Anne tomorrow about her intention to leave the nursing home. Perhaps she would even pay Eliza a visit.

Once again Florence felt like her old self.

Come to think of it, she and Eliza had a long overdue trip to Europe awaiting them. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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