Created | Updated Oct 27, 2004
A new house always seems empty, void of personality. Lily Clarke stood surveying a bare upstairs room. A large oak wardrobe, perhaps '20s vintage, give or take a decade had been left by the previous tenants. It was the only character the place seemed to have. She looked at the massive thing. A full-length mirror on the door made her stare at herself, albeit the wrong way round. She swore it made her look fatter too. The looming piece of oak appeared impossible to shift. No wonder it had been left behind. She debated on opening it.
What could be in it? She thought. Nothing of course. Maybe a few coat hangers and one of those yucky blue moth-killer things.
Lily edged closer to the dominating piece of furniture.
I'm letting it scare me. I know I am. Why?
She let her fingers clasp around the cold metal handle, testing the lock by jiggling the rusty key. It was already unlocked. She took the handle tentatively.
There could be a dead body, or something else in here! What are you doing?! Lily's brain screamed at her.
Shut up. If I'm lucky this bloody wardrobe might lead to Narnia, so GO AWAY. I know what I'm doing!
She yanked hard and the door came open easily. Inside there were a couple of old suit jackets and a cardboard box lay hiding in one dark corner at the bottom. The jackets were in good condition. A black one looked her kind of style. She took it out and threw it across her shoulder. Then Lily knelt down to look inside the box.
You shouldn't be doing this. This is someone's personal belongings.
Once again her logic and conscience were interfering with her curiosity. Lily put them both to the back of her head and opened the box. Nothing leaped out at her as she expected. A few papers lay inside. She pulled them out and looked them over. One was an old sporting certificate. It looked like one of those complimentary ones they give you for actually finishing a cross country race. The others seemed to be old notes on a philosophy lecture. Amongst them were some hand written pages and an envelope. She put them down to scan over another time. At the bottom of the box was an old camera. She picked it out and looked closely at it. The brand name said ZENIT. She racked her brains. She could remember her father having one. It was a Russian camera. He'd bought it in Singapore.
A Russian camera. Maybe it's a spy camera!
She looked down at the envelope.
Could it be a secret document?!
She took the camera out of its case and played around with it. She focussed on the wardrobe, through the window, herself in the mirror of the wardrobe. It still made her look fat. She opened the back of the camera. There was a rattle and something dropped out. A film canister rolled towards her foot on the uneven floor. Lily picked it up. She didn't know much about photography, but knew enough to see that it was definitely not an unused film. The undeveloped film peeked out of the canister, after being fully rewound. Lily thought to herself, rolling the canister in the palm of her hand.
What could be on this? Maybe it is some spies film. Or maybe there's important information, or -
She stopped her mind there. Best not to let it interest her too much. She still had a lot of unpacking to do. She put the film in her pocket and went downstairs.
A full day later Lily had nearly everything organised in the new house. Only a few boxes in the kitchen and bedrooms needed to be unpacked. Now her new discoveries were laid out on the kitchen table. The envelope. Opened by someone, but she hadn't yet looked inside it. There were the philosophy notes, both typed and hand written, the certificate and the roll of film. Lily let her eyes wander over them all. She picked up the film and went out the door. She strode down the street quickly and entered the first chemist she found. She walked deliberately to the counter, trying to hide her excitement.
Calm down will you. You know there's probably going to be nothing on this film because it's so old.
Shut up logic!
Lily put the film on the counter.
'How may I help you?' the elderly man behind the counter said quietly.
Lily almost yelled the words at him, 'I'd like this developed, please.'
The chemist raised his eyebrows. Lily calmed herself, 'I'm sorry, it's just the film is pretty old and I'd like it to be really cared for.'
The man patted her hand.
Don't patronise me!
'Don't worry, miss. We'll be careful. Come by tomorrow and we should have the prints ready. What name was it, please?'
Lily had stopped thinking.
'Thank you.' But Lily had left.
The envelope, what's in the envelope? A love letter? A secret?
Don't kid yourself Lily, it's probably only some unpaid bill.
Will you stay out of this!
When Lily got home, she stared at the envelope for a full three minutes, before pulling herself away and making a tea. She couldn't move her eyes off the small square of paper as she took a mug from a box, peeled the newspaper from it and gave it a rinse. She was still staring at the envelope, as she put a teaspoon of coffee and sugar in the mug. Her eyes stuck to it as she pulled the milk from the fridge. Only when she sat at the table, mug between both hands, did she relax.
It's not going to bite. Open it!
Be patient will you. I need to work up the courage.
She leant across and took the worn paper from the small envelope. She unfolded the letter carefully, in case something was in it.
What are you expecting? A spider? A centipede? Perhaps a bomb?!
Who asked you? Look there may be something important.
You're my logic, you're not supposed to be sarcastic.
Lily pushed conflict to the back of her mind and started to read the letter.
This is just a short note to let you know all is well. The children -
Lily stopped reading. The letter was too personal.
Never stopped you before.
Will you leave me alone! I know I'm being nosy.
Don't forget about the photo's tomorrow.
Lily looked back on the letter. If the photo's went with the letter, there was no harm in reading the rest:
The children are so excited at seeing the Eiffel tower. They can't believe you've never climbed it! I can't believe it! I know how you feel about heights though. I miss you, Henri. When are you coming back? I know the work over there is important, but I need you. We haven't slept in the same bed for more than two months -
Lily stopped reading. She would wait for the photo's. She noticed something strange about the envelope, however, as she returned the letter to its home. For a letter from Paris, there were no stamps, or even an address, or name. She put it to her nose. There was a faint smell of perfume. That means, there must have been two letters. One from Paris and another - or this envelope and letter came in a larger parcel. She examined the suit jacket she had claimed her own, now draped over one of the two kitchen chairs. The label was French. Not one she recognised, but the signs were there. The letter came in a parcel with the suit!
Lily glanced at the time. The little alarm-clock's arms reached out to half past eleven. Time for bed. Lily organized herself a hot water bottle, the gas had yet to be turned on, and made her way upstairs to bed. She couldn't resist one long last look at the wardrobe before she rolled over and closed her eyes.
The next day, Lily went straight to the chemist. A young girl behind the counter smiled as she went in.
'Yes, that's right.'
A few of the prints didn't develop properly, but there's about eighteen good shots in there. Did you have a good time in Paris?
'Was it a good trip?'
Lily hid her confusion quickly.
What's going on? This isn't my film.
'Yes. Thank you. How much is it?'
"Six ninety-five, thanks.
Lily pulled seven from her purse and waited as the girl gave her the change and receipt. She kept the packet of photographs in her pocket as she walked back home. If she started to look now, she may never get back.
Lily closed the door behind her. Something in her told her not to look at the photo's, but she ran to the kitchen and hurriedly pulled them from her pocket. The pieces of her little puzzle finally fell into piece. On pulling the first print from the packet she seemed to be staring at her own twin.
Just a little fatter, that's all.
She flicked through all the photographs. There were some scenic shots. The Eiffel tower, Arc De Triumphe, Notre Dame Cathedral. But mostly the person in the photographs seemed to be her. She put all of the photo's down and went upstairs. Sitting on the edge of the bed she glanced at herself in the mirror on the wardrobe.
It still makes me look a little... fatter.
Lily held her scream as her image pulled itself from the mirror. It spoke quietly and carefully to her.
'Henri? Where's Henri?'