Jason Lawrence Bell
Stories
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02-14-19

02-14-19                    PUSH ARROW TO BEGIN AUDIO

“If there ever was a good time to do it, it was now,’ thought the old man waiting for the bus on the street corner. Mansford was an elderly man who retired a couple years earlier. He created his ‘bucket list’ and was actively pursuing each item and happily checking them off. He was down to his last item and today he hoped to check it off. However, this was a special item that Mansford deliberately saved for last.

It involved his high school sweet heart, Becky. They were inseparable for over two years, and Mansford had not seen her since the last day of school. Unfortunately, Becky’s family immediately moved to Ireland because of her father’s business. Mansford remembered how painful the separation was, and the vows to find each other someday. Many letters were exchanged at first but slowed to occasional post cards after a few years. However, Mansford never forgot his deep attachment to Becky.

Mansford ended up marrying a local lady who friends noticed looked remarkably like Becky. It was not a happy marriage, but because of their two children they both felt obligated to remain a family. However, as soon as the last child left to be married, Mansford’s wife filed for divorce. They remained friends for the family. But they both knew they were emotionally divorced many years earlier. Mansford never remarried but instead stayed near his kids and eventually retired. Then someone suggested a ‘buckets list’.

Fast forward, and today Mansford will take all of his courage and visit the address he was given by an old classmate. It was Becky’s address, or he hoped it was still her address. Stepping off the bus, he walked a short block and stood in front of the house that matched the address on the paper. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a special gift that only he and Becky knew about.

Years earlier on their last day together, because it was also the last day of school, they had their school locker locks with them. They were standard pad locks with keys that they used during the school year. Mansford and Becky decide to exchange locks. Becky had Mansford’s lock and her key, Mansford had Becky’s lock and his key. The idea was to meet again someday and open each other’s locks. Impressively romantic for teenagers. Mansford took it seriously and still had his key and Becky’s lock. And there they were in his hand as he built up the courage to knock on the door.

He knocked and shortly after a young woman opened the door. Mansford became speechless as he looked closely at the woman. She could be Becky’s sister; the resemblance was so strong. The woman began tearing up, as she recognized Mansford and softly said ‘Please come in, I know why you’re here.’ Mansford still couldn’t speak. Her tearing started him crying. She continued, ‘I’m Karen, Becky’s oldest daughter. I am so sorry but you are a little late. My mother passed away last November. I think you were the love of her life.’

She had to stop; her voice was cracking from tears. She led Mansford over to a wall of pictures and in the middle was a framed picture with a lock and key mounted in the middle. Karen cleared her voice and said,’ for as long as I can remember that lock and key and frame have been hanging there. Mom used to tell us how it represented true love. Where you have the only key to fit his lock and he has your only key for your lock. As kids we thought that was a cool idea and mom probably bought it at a store. Then after our father died about five years ago, mom hung this picture next the lock and key.’

Mansford immediately recognized the photograph from their senior prom. Two fresh faced love birds dress in formal clothes looking so happy. ‘Then we knew there was something more to that lock and key,’ Karen continued. Mansford offered up his lock and key. Mansford and Karen had to sit down, as their emotions washed over them. After a moment Karen stood and removed the two pictures from the wall. She spoke, ‘I am so sorry that she’s not here today. Believe me she would be here if she could.’ Karen patiently waited for Mansford to collect himself and handed him the pictures. As Karen opened the front door for him, she asked, ‘what is your name? Mom always referred to you as ‘the one’. That started Mansford tearing again as feelings of deep sadness and pure happiness overwhelmed him. He forced the tears down enough to say ‘Mansford’. That was the only word he spoke to Karen the whole visit. Peace.**