The waves clawed the beach, removing any trace of the bottle. Elizabeth held her yellow raincoat tightly around her frail body. The wind whistled around her. Rain drops rolled down her chin. Inside the bottle was a note so he could find her.
Dario lowered his newspaper and watched his granddaughter play in the calm Sardinian surf. Pieces of the little girl’s dark ringlets slipped from her ponytail as she bent over to examine seashells that had washed over her tiny toes. She held in her hands a smooth glass bottle.
Her mother’s modest cottage was cluttered with stacked moving boxes. Her memories packed away. On the floor was a framed photograph of her parents on their 40th wedding anniversary. Her mother wearing a fuchsia colored gown looked stunning as she leaned into her father. Out of the bottom of the frame Theresa tugged out two wedged photographs. One was of a handsome man wearing an Army uniform. His smile curved higher on one side of his mouth and his dark hair was smoothed back off his forehead. She flipped over the photograph and in her mother’s distinctive cursive handwriting was the name Henry James Walker. Underneath his name she wrote: MIA December 20, 1945. The other photograph was smaller. It was of her mother and the young soldier on a beach. Their arms wrapped around each other. Her mother looked happy. On the back of the photograph her mother wrote: Hank and Betty. Bar Harbor, ME July 1942. Theresa placed the framed photograph of her parents into the box and slipped the smaller photographs into the pocket of her jeans. Her mother always hated being called Betty.
Theresa pulled on her coat and met the mailman on the front sidewalk. A light snow spiraled around them. He muttered hello and handed Theresa a few envelopes. She sat on the porch swing with the envelopes stacked beside her. The sold sign in the front yard squeaked as it swung from its post in the winter’s wind. A sudden gust spilled the envelopes down the front steps exposing one addressed to her mother from La Maddalena, Italy. Who in the world did her mother know in Italy?
It was from a man named Dario Cianfanti. His granddaughter, Beatrice, found Elizabeth’s bottle. He apologized for reading the note in the bottle since it was not intended for him. He wrestled with the idea of writing her back for months. To have loved someone as deeply as you, Mrs. Green, and to place this bottle in the ocean every year on the anniversary of his death is the true definition of love, Dario wrote. I hope this year on December 20th, you will find your peace.
Theresa’s cheeks flushed. She remembered the photographs in her pocket. “Henry Walker,” she whispered.
The following morning, wrapped in her mother’s yellow raincoat, Theresa dropped an empty glass bottle into the ocean. As she watched the calm waves carry the bottle away, she hoped Henry Walker received her mother’s final message.