This is the final installment of the series told in reverse order, so it takes place before Part 3. The brief for this section included: a dead end, a confession from the protagonist, and a proverb.
The overcast skies reflected the mood of the couple in the small London apartment. Grandma Hannah’s death had been a surprise to no one, as she had been ill for some time, but knowledge that it was imminent did nothing to soften the blow when news arrived. Michael did all he could to comfort his wife while she grieved, but nothing he said eased her pain.
“I should have been there,” Elizabeth said softly between sobs.
“Honey, you know what the doctor said about traveling this close to your due date. The flight from here back to the States wouldn’t have been good for you or the baby.”
“I should have tried to go.”
“Your doctor said she didn’t want you out of bed, much less on an 8-hour flight to New York. We’ll go the moment you and the baby are ready. I promise. Think how much your family will love meeting its newest member.”
“Can we name the baby after her?” Elizabeth said.
“I can’t think of a better name,” Michael replied, and he pulled her close as tears welled up in her eye once again.
A few days, they spent the afternoon working on the nursery. Digging through some boxes in the back of the closet, he found a stack of old photographs of Elizabeth and her friends from her college days.
“Honey, who are these people?” he asked, handing her a couple of the pictures.
“My roommates from when I was at NYU. I think we were out celebrating Vanessa’s birthday that night. That’s Vanessa on the left. Trish is on the right.”
“And the other pictures?” he asked.
“Ugh,” she said flipping to the next photograph. “That would be Matthew. My ex. I told you about him.”
“Ah yes, the torrid affair of your youth,” Michael said with a chuckle.
“Don’t remind me. He was nothing but a long mistake. I still say that bastard stole my grandmother’s watch!”
“He stole her watch?”
“Not off her wrist,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Grandma Hannah gave me her grandmother’s watch when I graduated from college. She even had it engraved for me. It was gorgeous. In the family for generations, and that asshole took it.”
“Did you ask him about it?”
“He denied it, of course. But I know he took it.”
“It sounds like a beautiful heirloom, maybe you’ll find it again.”
“I doubt it. I’m sure he sold it.”
“For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
“Don’t quote Edmund Spenser to me! I’m the one who studies English literature in school, not you, Mr. Economics.”
Michael studied the picture a bit more before putting it down and going back to his work.
“You know,” he said after some time, “I have to confess I’ve always been a bit jealous of this Matthew fellow.”
“Yuck! Why?” Elizabeth said, in no way disguising her current opinion of her ex-boyfriend.
“Well, he was your first love. It’s hard to compete with that,” he said.
“He was nothing more than an infatuation during my stupid youth. You have nothing to be jealous of.” She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a kiss as he slipped the photograph into his pocket, silently making a commitment to find that watch, no matter what he had to do.
Over the next few years, Michael followed every lead he could to track down Elizabeth’s missing heirloom. He scheduled two separate business trips to New York to follow up on leads from antique stores and auction houses, always coming home empty handed. It was during the last of these trips that he engaged the help of a private investigator to find the mysterious ex-boyfriend. Maybe he’ll be able to tell me where and when he sold it, Michael thought, studying the photograph of the watch for the hundredth time, his hope on fulfilling his promise slipping further away.
It wasn’t until an email from the private investigator popped up in his inbox, reading “Call me immediately,” that his optimism started to return.
“McMullin,” said the curt voice on the other end of the line.
“You have information about the watch.”
“I’ve found it.”