**Today’s prompt is a good one! I hope I do it justice. A mysterious box and an old friend, long forgotten. Enjoy!**
The box appeared out of nowhere.
Between the time Eric left the house to take Pickles–his Welsh corgi who had the absolute best disposition–for his early morning walk and the time he returned fifteen minutes later, it showed up on the porch. Eric froze the moment he saw it, then pulled back on Pickles’s leash to keep the dog from getting too close. The box itself was fairly nondescript; about the size of a shoe box, though it looked to be made from unfinished wood. Eric approached cautiously, listening hard. Though he didn’t actually expect there to be a bomb or anything, he was cautious.
Eric had been back in the neighborhood only for a couple of months. His family had moved downstate when we was barely twelve, but twenty-five years later, he moved back to where he’d spent his first years. He’d always liked the quiet area, filled with old houses and big trees. The houses he remembered from his childhood was the reason he’d gotten into renovation as an adult. The Cape Cod he lived in now had always fascinated him, and he’d moved back when he saw it had gone on the market. It had needed some serious attention before he could move in, but now it was exactly the kind of house he’d envisioned living in as a child.
But he didn’t really know his neighbors. And there was a part of him that always worried how they would react if they found out he was gay. So the suspicious box was a bit worrisome, and he approached it cautiously. Had someone seen him bring home that hook-up last weekend?
Eric shooed Pickles into the house even though the dog really wanted to investigate the box. With the dog safely inside, Eric nudged the box with his toe. Nothing happened. He bent closer and saw the hinged lid. With a deep breath, he slowly eased it open.
Inside was a collection of pictures, postcards, and yellowed paper.
What the hell?
Eric picked it up, surprised at how light it was. As the sky brightened, he was able to make the contents out more clearly, and when he shifted the box, a picture slid into a beam of light. Eric’s breath caught as memories came flooding back.
How long had it been since Eric had thought of Max? Years at any rate. His best friend as a boy, the two had run wild through the neighborhood, getting into scrapes and going on grand adventures. The last few years before Eric moved, they’d been inseparable. Max had been his entire world, the boy with the mismatched eyes and beautiful smile. Max had been the reason Eric first thought he might not like girls, but he’d been gone before he could explore those thoughts and feelings. And over time, Max had faded from memory, all but disappeared. Until Eric saw that face, dirty and with a cut on his cheek, arm slung around Eric’s slim shoulders, grinning broadly.
Eric took the box into the house with him, nudging the excited dog aside and sitting down at the kitchen table. He sifted through the contents, smiling uncontrollably. In addition to the pictures there were postcards Eric had sent when he’d gone on his trips, and the notes they’d scribbled to each other, hidden for the other to find. Eric remembered every moment as if he was reliving it, his heart swelling with emotion.
He was sad when he reached the bottom of the box and all those memories were beside it in a pile.
One more piece of paper lay in the box, a sticky note stuck to the bottom, and Eric eagerly picked it up. There was nothing more than a chicken scratch, and Eric had to squint to make it out, cramped as it was on the small sheet.
Saw you’re back in town. Always knew you’d grow up beautiful, but you’re even more gorgeous than I would have guessed. Welcome home
Below that was a number.
Eric sucked in a breath, the grinned again. After a moment, he pulled out his phone.