Maggie walked up the steps, the wood creaking. She approached the door and inserted the key Mr. Thompson had given her. She lingered there a moment, feeling the cold metal in her hand. Finally, with a deep breath, she turned the knob and opened the door. It smelled musty. She had expected that.
She looked around. She was in the kitchen. Perfect, she thought. Might as well bring in the groceries. Maggie was glad she had stopped at the store in town, even though she was tired. That way, she could have coffee in the morning. And eggs. She loved eggs for breakfast.
Once she had unloaded the groceries, she fished her cell phone from her purse. It had three bars. Better than she expected. She should call; let him know she had arrived safely. She stepped back out on to the porch and breathed in the fresh air. She could smell the water. She hadn't noticed that before now.
"I'm here. I made it. The drive wasn't that bad," she lied.
"How is it?"
"I like it. It's rustic. Michelle will hate it."
Joe chuckled. "You know what they say, 'You can take the girl out of the city...'"
"You, on the other hand, always did have a bit of the country in you."
"Any sign of the Winiskis?"
"Maybe they'll just leave you alone."
"One can only hope. I really don't need a confrontation this weekend."
"What is it like, you know, being there?"
"I dunno. I'm too tired to think right now. Just wanted to let you know I arrived."
"OK. Get some sleep. I love you."
"I love you, too."
"If you need to talk..." Joe's voice trailed off.
"I know. Thanks. Goodnight."
She was exhausted from the drive. She went back inside to get her bag, and walked down the hall in search of a place to sleep. There was the faint smell of lavender. The first room she came to was clearly the master bedroom. It was spacious. Had a big four poster bed. And there it was, at the foot of the bed, just as Charlotte had written.
The hope chest. Maggie could tell it was very old. And well made. It was simple, solid. Many women had used that chest before Charlotte. So many hopes and dreams packed inside with care through the years. A tradition that had died generations ago. Her personal story, locked inside, merely scratched the surface of the chest's history.
Maggie wasn't ready to deal with all that now. She needed rest. She would read the letters in the morning, when she was fresh. But she knew she would not be able to sleep in that room tonight. The contents of that chest would rob her of the rest she so desperately needed. She walked over to it and placed her hand on the lid.
"Tomorrow," she said. "Tomorrow you will reveal your secrets."
Then she continued down the hall in search of another bedroom.