This story started last week, with the prompt of the watch. The second installment was posted on Tuesday, after the deadline, so many of you may have missed it. This weeks prompt is being used to finish up the story. To see other great stories and poems in response to Willow's prompts, visit Magpie Tales. For now, here’s my attempt to work two prompts into one story:
Over the next few weeks Jane found herself occasionally mulling over the discovery of the watch and the diary, and the letters AL. It was true that she and Jock hadn’t been married long when he died, and she couldn’t have possibly known everything about him, but there were still those niggling little thoughts wondering why he hadn’t told her about the watch or the diary. And still the question, ‘Who is, or was, AL?’ Not sure who she could, or should, confide in, she told nobody.
One afternoon, finding some free time, she retrieved the box from Mick’s room, and started looking through the old yearbooks. Maybe there’d be a clue there somewhere. She started with the most recent and worked her way backwards. No female classmates with the initials AL in medical school. The children arrived home from school before she got any further.
It took several weeks to look through all of the yearbooks, paging through them one at a time, sometimes only able to look at a few pages at one session. And then, in Jock’s Grade 10 yearbook, there she was – Annabelle Lindstrom, marching band majorette. Besides her appearance in the class picture, the only other image was of her leading the marching band, in her short skirt and boots, proudly hefting the large baton. She was a pretty girl, with a haughty set to her face that seemed to say she thought she was the most important person in the world. Inside the back cover, was an autograph signed ‘AL’ and wishing Jock the best summer memories ever.
‘Hmmm, maybe….I wonder if Jim knows anything?’ Jane determined to ask Jock’s best friend throughout high school, university and medical school at the next opportunity.
When Jim and Jane had a lunch break together at the office, and nobody else was around, Jane finally got her chance. Trying to be as casual as possible, she asked, ‘Do you remember a girl named Annabelle Lindstrom from high school?’
‘Annabelle Lindstrom! I haven’t though about her in years. Sure I remember her, but not fondly. She was the snootiest girl in the school. They moved into town in about Grade 9 or 10, her father came to run the mine, was here for about a year or so and then he was transferred out I guess. Anyway they were gone, never to be heard from again. Why are you asking about her?’
‘Oh, I was just curious. I ran across her picture in an old yearbook of Jock’s, and I wondered if they ever dated.’
‘Absolutely not! Annabelle did have a major crush on Jock, but he didn’t want anything to do with her. She thought the world revolved around her, and she walked into class that first day, took a look around the room and zeroed in on Jock right away. She did everything she could think of to get him to pay attention to her – dropped books and pens, missed the bus home, hung around at basketball practice. She even spread nasty rumors about any other girl that Jock even spoke to, and didn’t hesitate to muscle in on any group that Jock was part of. She was a piece of work, and nobody really missed her when she moved away.’
‘Well, I just thought maybe she was part of his life somehow. After all, she did autograph the book.'
‘What are you doing looking at those old things? You didn’t go to school with us, so there wouldn’t be any memories there for you.’
‘Well, the kids were doing their genealogy project for school, and wanted to know more about their dad, and I dug out an old box of Jock’s things for them.’
‘Okay, but it would make more sense for the kids to be looking through the yearbooks. And why did you pick out Annabelle Lindstrom, of all people, to ask me about?’
‘Oh, no reason, I just….’ Jane felt herself blushing, and stammering a little.
‘What’s going on, Jane?’
Just then one of the office assistants poked her head in the door, and announced the first afternoon patient had arrived. Jane knew she was going to have to answer Jim soon, but for now she had some time to come up with plausible answers.
Except that there wasn’t much time during the busy afternoon to think through how she’d answer Jim, and at the end of the day he came into her office and, sitting opposite her desk, stretched out his legs and said,
‘Okay, now, give – what got you looking through yearbooks and asking about Annabelle?’
Jane took a deep breath, and decided she needed to get all of this off her chest, and told Jim everything – about the watch and its inscription, the answers her mother-in-law had given about the origins of the watch, the diary and the note about AL.
‘So when was the note about AL written?’
‘Just before I told Jock that we were expecting, and he wrote his last entry saying how excited he was that we were going to have a baby – we didn’t know yet about the twins.’
‘Huh, kind of a dark horse, keeping the diary a secret. I didn’t even know he wrote one.’
‘Well, it’s not much of a diary, often weeks and months would go by without anything written.’
‘Still, you’d think I would know about it. Oh, well. Do you think I could read the note?’
Jane pondered that briefly – she wanted to honor Jock’s apparent need for privacy in this area, but after all he’d been gone for more than 10 years and she really did need to know who AL was. ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘but just that note.’
Later that evening, Jim stopped in at the house on his way home from an emergency call. Jane got out the diary from where she’d hidden it in a drawer, opened it to the page, and handed it to him.
Suddenly Jim burst out laughing. ‘Oh, man, Jane. This is just too much. Jock really could have practiced his penmanship. But then I guess he never thought that anybody else would be trying to decipher this. I think you jumped to some very wrong conclusions. Al was one of our med school classmates, but went to the university hospital for his internship, then got into one of the biggest practices in the city. He wasn’t friends with anybody! But Jock got a letter at the office one day, asking him to be godfather to Al’s baby. Jock thought he was nuts, and just chucked the letter. I didn’t know he’d had another one. ‘AL’ is probably in capitals just because of Jock’s frustration. And his chicken scratches make ‘he’ look like ‘she’. So this actually says ‘Got a note from Al today about the baby. How I wish 'he’d leave me alone. He probably just hadn’t got around to telling you before you dropped the bombshell about being pregnant.’
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