Message in a Bottle
A young man finds his childhood crush: A married woman who is twice his age with a beautiful daughter who is the opposite of what he thought he wanted.
Tropes – Meet Cute, Strangers to Lovers
“Dear whoever you are,
I love you very very much. You are smart. You are kind. You are strong.
Your favorite food is peanut butter and strawberry jelly on challah bread.
You like swimming and hide and go seek and you love catching fireflies and letting them go.
If you find this letter, please come find me at 221 Trinity Grove in Crystal Park.
You are my future husband. I’m waiting for you. Mom says if I write to you, you will find me faster. I hope so.
See you soon.
Peggy Sue Levy.”
Andrew refolded the letter and slipped it into his back pocket. It was crinkled and worn. The ink faded in some parts and the paper torn in one of the creases, but he knew the words by heart. He must’ve read them a thousand times since he found the message in a bottle washed up on a beach in Maine.
He’d been on summer vacation with his family. Technically his older brother, Kyle, found the bottle first. But instead of trying to open it, Kyle chucked the bottle back into the ocean. But Andrew had always been the curious one. He fished it out then ran back to the beach house. The thing was shut tight. He ended up bashing it with a rock to get the letter. He read it at least 20 times that day.
His favorite food was pepperoni pizza but he did love PB and strawberry jam sandwiches. He was a great swimmer, even better at hide and go seek. He’d never seen a firefly but he was sure he would catch and release them like he did with fish when his dad took him out on the boat.
Over the years, that letter became his most prized possession. It followed him through middle school and high school, through all 4 years at Northwestern, and the year he spent with the Peace Corps in Ghana. Now here Andrew was, standing on the front porch at 221 Trinity Grove, hoping Peggy Sue would answer the door.
When the door finally opened, she was nothing like he’d pictured. In the doorway stood a beautiful woman in her 20s. She was tall and willowy with light brown hair brushing her shoulders, a warm smile, and a confused look in her steel grey eyes. He’d imagined Peggy Sue with pigtails and overalls. The kind of girl who ran barefoot in the rain, not a sophisticated woman in a peasant blouse and heeled ankle boots.
Andrew realized he’d been staring at her for the last 30 seconds. He cleared his throat, “Um, Peggy Sue Levy?”
She blinked, “Oh!” Her face brightened and her smile widened, “You’re looking for my mother. Just one sec.” She yelled over her shoulder, “Mom! There’s someone at the door for you!”
When she turned back to Andrew, he hadn’t moved a muscle. She noted the arm behind his back and raised a brow. “So what is this about? Do you have a package or something?” Before she could ask anymore questions, a tall, willowy woman with salt and pepper hair came up behind her.
“Hello? What can I do for you?” Peggy Sue’s face was warm and inviting. She was the spitting image of her daughter save for her dark brown eyes and wrinkled cheeks.
Andrew shook himself from his stupor. “Oh, um, I have something for you.” He handed the bouquet of marigolds behind his back to the daughter and pulled out the letter. “Actually I want to return something to you, I guess.”
Peggy Sue’s forehead creased when she saw the letter in his hand. “What is that?”
“The letter to your future husband. Obviously I wasn’t him,” Andrew chuckled and ran a hand through his hair.
Peggy Sue still looked confused when she took the letter from Andrew. Her expression morphed into amazement as she read then reread the letter. She looked up in wonder, “Oh my God. You better come in.” She addressed her daughter as she beckoned him in, “Alison, can you put those in some water and make us a pot of tea for us?”
“Okay but what the heck is going on?” Alison looked back and forth between her mother and Andrew.
Peggy Sue closed the front door and ushered Andrew onto the couch. “Well, it’s the craziest thing. Andrew found a note I wrote over 40 years ago and threw into the ocean.” She sat on the loveseat across from him. “How on Earth did you find this?”
He ran through the whole story while Alison prepared their tea. He explained how he found the letter and what it meant to him to feel like he had this connection to someone he’d never met. How it gave him the confidence to go out and meet new people. How those experiences inspired him to make a difference in the world.
“I just got back from Ghana a month ago. I’m teaming up with a friend to create an app that will facilitate peer to peer lending between people in the States and those in developing nations. Ya know, cut out the middleman. I’ll be pretty busy once that ramps up. I figured now was as good a time as any to find my wife.”
Andrew and Peggy Sue shared a laugh as Alison set their tea on the coffee table and joined Andrew on the couch. “So that’s why you thought I was mom when I opened the door? How old did you think that letter was?”
Andrew grinned and ducked his head. “To be honest, I never really thought about it. I was 10 when I found the letter. I always figured she’d be around the same age.”
Peggy Sue chuckled, “Well I’m no spring chicken but my daughter’s around your age.”
“What? I’m just saying Andrew came all this way. He even brought flowers. Might be worth a shot. What if it’s fate?”
Alison crossed her arms, “What if he’s crazy?” She glanced at Andrew, “No offense.”
Andrew blushed, “None taken. I know how insane this is, trust me. I just didn’t want to go the rest of my life without meeting my idol. Thank you for your letter, Mrs. Levy.”
It was Peggy Sue’s turn to blush, “Actually it’s Mrs. McCormick now but you don’t need to thank me. Thank you for coming here. My 8 year old self would be doing cartwheels right now. You’ve certainly made my day.”
On his way out, Andrew exchanged numbers with Peggy Sue and promised to keep in touch. When he got back to the hotel that evening, he had a new message on his phone.
‘Hey, it’s Alison. Sorry for calling you crazy. Maybe we can grab a drink before you head back home? My treat.’