The dust covers the boxes in the attic like a thick fur. No one has visited this part of the house in several years. Sarah detests being the only one willing to take on the task of clearing out her grandparent’s belongings. Everyone in the family has avoided the house since their passing, so now it is Sarah’s responsibility. The house is showing signs of wear and tear, but it still has a snug feel to it. Sarah savors the bouquet of smells that greet her whenever she enters the house. It takes her back to happier times spent with family. Sarah’s grandparent’s had been married for over fifty beautiful years, and she idolized their love.
Sarah decides to start at the top and work her way down. In the attic of the old home, she discovers a small locked metal box. She’s curious about its contents and as she pops the lock. Sarah opens the lid and inhales the mixture of old paper and flowers. Inside there is a stack of letters bound beautifully together with a lacy ribbon and a gold band. Sarah becomes giddy with anticipation as she pulls out the letters. Most assuredly, they are letters to her grandmother Betty, and she is excited to read of their early love. Instead, what she finds are letters from a woman named Karen. That makes no sense because she knows her grandmother was her grandfather’s one true love.
The letters indicate a love affair between Karen and Sarah’s grandfather Bill at the start of the war. Sarah reads each one with exuberance until she reaches the last letter. It was unopened with the words return to sender stamped across the front. Her grandfather’s handwriting is very recognizable, and her hands begin to shake as she opens the letter. Sarah can’t hold back the tears as she read her grandfather’s words. Her heart hurt, and the words began to blur through her tears. He wanted to marry Karen as soon as he returned home. Sarah sensed the intensity of their love, so she can’t imagine why the letter was returned unanswered. Once grandpa Bill returned home, he eventually did marry, but Karen wasn’t the lucky lady. Sarah wonders now if her grandpa’s thoughtful moments took him back to love lost so many years ago. Although Sarah’s grandfather is now deceased, she wants to find out what happened to Karen.
Sarah decides that tomorrow is early enough to start her search, so she quickly does some research on the computer. She knows the morning would come quickly, but her sleep is interrupted with images of her grandfather and Karen. What would her grandmother have thought if she knew there was almost a different reality for her. After a restless night’s sleep, Sarah packs a small bag with simple necessities. Her first stop will be the address on the envelope even though she knows it’s a long shot. It has been well over fifty years since Karen was a twinkle in her grandfather’s eye. Although it’s possible, Sarah can’t imagine Karen still living there or even being alive.
Sarah heads to the address on the envelope and musters all of her courage to knock on the door. The woman who answers is approximately her age and unabashedly looks her up and down. She looks as though she is almost expecting Sarah to have a package for her. Sarah quickly begins to explain that she is looking for a woman named Karen who once dated her grandfather Bill. Sarah sees instant recognition in the woman’s eyes when she hears the name. She is still a little apprehensive, but she ushers Sarah inside. She tells Sarah that her name is Julie, and Karen was her aunt. Julie is eager to hear what Sarah has to tell her about why she is there. Sarah knows it will be easier to show her, so she pulls out the stack of letters. As Julie reads them tears flow from her eyes just as freely Sarah’s did when she first read them. The love that unfolds in the letters is breathtaking, and both women are affected.
Julie gently stacks the letters back together and hands them to Sarah. She gets to her feet and begins to pace the room. It is obvious to Sarah that Julie is searching for her words. Julie suddenly leaves the room and returns with a similar stack of letters. The letters are from her grandfather Bill, but there is also a journal written by Karen. It is easy to see that Karen loved Bill more than the moon and the stars. Julie looks at Sarah with tears in her eyes when she begins to tell her Karen’s side of the story. Shortly after Bill was shipped out Karen is diagnosed with stage four cancer. There were very few treatments available for her and none were considered beneficial.
Karen’s journal went into great detail about her struggle to tell Bill. Karen never wanted to add to the stress he already felt so she never approached the subject. She adored Bill and dreamed of different circumstances in which they could be together. The last few pages in her journal were love letters to Bill and notes to her family. She wanted Bill to move on and find a love that she knew she could never give him. In her mind, if he believed she had abandoned him, he would never pursue her. Karen passed away, feeling the purest love she had ever known, and her journal expressed her wish for his forgiveness. Sarah never notices the tears streaming down her cheeks as she listens to Julie’s story. Even in the grips of death Karen could only think of Bill’s happiness as she faded away. Sarah grips the letters written to Karen by her grandfather, and the same scent of paper and flowers invade her nostrils. That is when she realizes that the scent of love never fades.