A Mysterious Letter is one of many short stories that have spun from Cindy Davis’ novel Zipacna’s Legacy. As an author and psychic, she strives to help adults connect emotionally with this sometimes-confusing always fast-paced world. When we’re young, we often have questions none of our elders can answer. We wonder about the person in the corner of the bedroom that no one else can see. We wonder why something we dream about comes true a day or so later. These aren’t things to fear. They are normal. They are part of our spiritual awakening.
A Mysterious Letter
Jade toed off her heels under the foyer table. One tipped over, but she didn’t bother setting it right. It had been a hellacious day. She dumped the briefcase against the leg of the table and dropped her purse on the shiny surface beside the Isabella Lepri vase she bought in London last year at a marketing conference. Sloughing off suit jacket and unbuttoning the silk blouse, she made her way toward the bedroom where she threw them on the bed. They were soon joined by the skirt and pantyhose. As she padded to the living room in her underwear, the phone rang. The noise brought a huge sigh. Between the boss upping the deadline on the most recent campaign and the biggest client backing out, she didn’t want to talk to anyone from work. And yet, from the way the phone rang…
She somehow knew it wasn’t anyone from the office. Without checking the ID, she hit Talk and said, “Hey girl! Are you back in the city yet?”
“Just dropped my suitcase on the floor,” said Mari. “I’m exhausted. Bring wine.”
Jade slid a bottle of cabernet from the rack in the wine cooler and popped the cork. While the wine breathed, she threw on comfortable clothes. Back in the kitchen, she drew two glasses from the shelf, gathered the mail, and made her way to the wide stretch of rooftop between their penthouse apartments. Over the years, they’d fashioned this into a peaceful haven high above the workday world. Mariette—Mari—Anderson, wearing a flowing white caftan, was already seated on the wicker sofa under the wide pergola, feet kicked on the edge of the flickering fire-pit that glowed like a beacon. Her friend’s trademark bright red-dyed hair was piled into a bun.
Jade set the wine and glasses on the edge of the marble pit. She pushed aside the giant colorful pillows and dropped on the adjoining chair with a groan.
Mari’s feet were bare, toenails painted the same color as her fingers. “Sounds like your week went about as well as mine.”
“At least I didn’t have to add a flight from Singapore like you did.”
Mari leaned forward to fill the glasses. “Nope.” She giggled. “Yours is next week.”
“Don’t remind me.” Next week would be eaten up by two trips actually. The first on Monday to Chicago, then on to Paris for the remainder. Normally, being in France brought excitement about touristy things and shopping, but these whirlwind treks left no time for fun. Heck, she wouldn’t have time for a breath until settled in the first-class return seat, cradling a margarita between her hands. Next Friday, she would be the one calling Mari to bring the wine.
Jade snatched one of the pillows from the floor and set it in her lap. Atop it she laid the mail, shuffling through the stack she hadn’t had time for all week. Only one thing caught her interest: a cream color envelope postmarked from Mexico. She only knew one person in Mexico, and she hadn’t heard a word from or about that person in almost twenty-five years.
“Why are you frowning? Got a bill from White House Black Market?”
Jade laughed as she tore open the envelope and drew out two sheets of paper. The top page was written on a piece of paper torn from a notebook and dated August 21. The shaky handwriting was almost illegible, the letters tight to one another as though the author was in intense pain or under duress.
Most beloved granddaughter,
Tears popped into her eyes. She blinked several times, but the trio of words remained blurry as she re-read them.
My time is almost at an end. I need to make this fast. The attorney is here at my bedside. The paperwork is signed and safely locked in the box. He will mail this letter when I am gone.
Paperwork? Box? What on earth was going on?
For many years I have waited for you—my only family, my protégé—to return to me, to follow in my footsteps, to finish what I began.
Rather than clarity, the words produced only further dismay in Jade’s mind. She knuckled the wetness in her eyes.
I hoped to tell you this in person. But I know how life is, and though I cannot explain, I know more about the situation than you think. There is no one in the world to whom I would give my precious—
The tone of Mari’s voice said this wasn’t the first time she’d tried to get Jade’s attention. She glanced up.
“Why are you crying?” Mari leaned forward, head craned, but after a moment, unable to read the scratchy script, she settled back against the cushions. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s from my grandfather.” She turned over the page to see if anything was written on the back.
Mari’s face wrinkled, her lips pursed. “Grandfather? I’ve known you forever, and you never mentioned any grandparents.”
“I…I—” Jade turned the page face-up and slipped it behind the other. The second page was handwritten also, only this bore an official letterhead at the bottom: Attorney Roberto Lòpez, with an address on Calle Orion in Tulum, Mexico.
“Jade, you’re scaring me.”
How could this be from her grandfather? So much time had passed with no word, she’d thought Grandfather Zipacna was dead. He’d seemed so old when she visited at the age of five. Of course, to a child, everyone seems old.
“Jade.” Mari again leaned forward, dark eyes lasering into her cheek.
She held up a hand for Mari to be patient while she read the second page.
This is Attorney Lòpez…I regret to inform you that your grandfather has passed. I am sorry Zipacna did not get to complete his letter to you. He spoke of you with great reverence, respect, and love. Although I did not know him well, he was a wonderful man who did his best to make the world a better place to live.
In case it wasn’t clear, he has left you everything he owns, most importantly, this building where I now sit. Please contact me upon your arrival in Mexico.
Signed, Attorney Roberto Lòpez
Jade shook her head to dislodge the long-buried emotions resurrected by the letter. Impatient, Mari snatched the first page from Jade’s fingers. Glass in-hand, she leaned back to read the short missive. After a moment, her thin face wore the exact same frown Jade had previously. “Why didn’t you tell me about him?” she asked.
Jade shrugged trying to make the immense emotion less stringent.
She worked at pronouncing the difficult name. “What kind of name is Zipacna anyway?”
“It’s related to the Mayan culture. If I recall correctly, he was named after the god of mountains.”
“Not in the Mayan world. He was a shaman. Quite an accomplished one, I was told.” She leaned back, letting memories flow. “The last time—the only time—I met him I was five. My parents took me on a vacation to Mexico.” She couldn’t stop the wistful smile that came to her face. “I had the best time. I remember as if it happened yesterday. He took me fishing. We made cookies. He pulled a chair so I could stand at the counter beside him. I slept in a loveseat on the porch; all night long I listened to the cicadas and katydids.”
Their bond had been…well, she thought it had been unbreakable. But even though he’d promised to keep in touch, she hadn’t heard a word. Sure, that kind of thing happened all the time with people passing in the night. You meet a person while on vacation, feel like you have a bond, promise to keep in touch… But from a grandfather, a blood relative, that sort of thing was totally unexpected. Especially from a five-year-old. At that age, a child expects that promises spoken will be promises kept.
Jade picked up her wine for the first time. A bird squawked. In the dim moonlight, a bald eagle grew larger and larger. The white undersides of his wings glowed like Mari’s kaftan. He circled twice, then dipped his head and plummeted toward them. Mari flinched back, becoming one with the cushion. Jade did exactly the opposite. She got to her feet and stepped from under the pergola. The bird passed, ascended, dipped, and returned. Jade remained standing, turning to watch his flight, eyes glued to him. As he approached the top of her head, his screech pierced her ears, yet she didn’t move. As quickly as he’d appeared, he left. Jade lowered back into the chair. “That was cool.”
“Really? You almost get taloned by a wild creature and you enjoy it? First, a new grandfather, and now this. Girl, I don’t know who you are.”
Jade refilled Mari’s glass and handed it to her. She couldn’t explain, even to herself, why she felt no fear in the face of the predatory creature. Those talons could have made a mess of her.
A few moments passed during which the only sounds were the muted hum of traffic and the occasional wailing of a cat far below—another world from this one.
After a bit, Mari seemed to have recovered. She continued the conversation. “So, what happened between your parents after the visit to your grandfather?”
“I don’t know. They broke up almost right afterward. At the time, I had the idea the two events were related.”
“It can seem that way to a kid.”
“Yeah. I know. Kids blame themselves for circumstances that happen around them.” She gave a one-shoulder shrug. “My parents fought most of the time we were in
Mexico. Grandfather kept taking me away so I didn’t hear. And they fought all the way home on the plane…under their breath, you know? So other people wouldn’t hear. I spent the whole trip wishing I could stay in Mexico and live with him.”
“Did you ever find out what they were fighting about?”
“No. And they wouldn’t tell me. Years later, even though, at times I lived with each of them, neither would discuss it.”
“I can believe that of your mom. She can be really close-mouthed sometimes.”
Jade had to agree with that statement. Mom often had her own agenda when it came to divulging information.
“But your dad…” Mari continued. “He loves to talk.”
Again Jade didn’t agree. Unless he was teaching her something about life, about shamanic living, he was as private as a person could be. One of the differences between her parents. A major one. Moot now since they’d been divorced a long time.
She changed the subject. “Grandfather gave me this.” She drew a pendant from inside her shirt. Two blue-green feathers were joined by an identically matched pair of jade stones.
Mari placed her palm under the pendant. “It’s beautiful.”
“Zipacna made it. He has—had—one just like it.”
She pursed her lips. “And yet, here’s another thing I didn’t know about you.”
All Jade could do was shrug. She’d never intentionally kept anything from Mari.
“So,” Mari said, “not to be maudlin or anything—he really is dead.”
“Yes.” Jade folded the pages and slid them back into the envelope. For a moment she gazed at the address on the envelope. Calle Orion. It didn’t ring a bell. Not that it would. She’d had no connection to Mexico, ever.
“What are you going to do? Do you realize you’re an heiress? You inherited your grandfather’s house. That is so cool.”
Jade laughed. “The lawyer only called it a building. Not a home, or a house, or— To me, the connotations aren’t good.”
“So, you’re not going.”
“No.” There was too much on her plate at this time to take days off for a wild goose chase. Too much at stake in her career.
They went on to talk about many subjects—all except those work related and her grandfather’s legacy.
Mari set the empty bottle on the marble surface. “You have to go see it.”
Even though the subject had been dropped over an hour ago, Jade didn’t need clarification as to Mari’s line of thinking.
When she didn’t respond, Mari added, “I mean it. You can’t NOT go.”
“What’s the best case scenario in all this?” Jade asked. “I go there and find some kind of house. What good is it? I don’t want to live in Mexico. I like my life here. I love my apartment. At work, I’m up for a huge promotion. Everything here is perfect.”
“You can always sell the house.”
“That doesn’t seem right. I mean, Grandfather Zipacna wanted me to have it. It wouldn’t be right to just put it up for sale.”
“And it is right to ignore the whole thing altogether?”
Jade heaved out an aggravated puff of air. Mari was right. For some reason, her grandfather had bypassed his only son and however many close acquaintances to bequeath the buildingto her. It wouldn’t be right to deny his last request. She sighed again. “Will you go with me?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” Mari laughed hard. “It won’t be easy getting our schedules to mesh.”
“You got that right.” But after a short discussion, they determined they could leave in ten days. “I’ll call my travel agent to set it up.”
Ten days later found them tooling along a bumpy— Bumpy wasn’t the right word. More like it was a bits of dirt surrounding potholes. From Tulum, they’d traveled to a village called Chi’país. Chi’país was quaint, with a multitude of small shops along a narrow main street. Everything seemed well kept and prosperous. But as they’d bounced along the narrow road from town, Jade grew less and less inclined toward positivity about the end result.
Finally they stood on a dusty circular driveway before a hotel. It wouldn’t be right to say the place was run-down. That didn’t seem the right word to use. Jade thought it was sad. Yes, the building was sad. She kept the observation to herself because, for sure, Mari would roll on the ground laughing if she mentioned a house being unhappy.
It consisted of maybe a dozen or so rooms, so probably one person could handle the day-to-day operation of it. God, what was she thinking? She did NOT want to run a hotel. Did not know anything about hotels—except how to STAY in one. How prosperous could something like this be so far from town? She’d be bored silly within a week.
Yet… It must’ve been a gorgeous property in the past. The covered porch spanning the entire front would keep the intense Mexican sun from permeating the house.
And what a great place to sit with morning coffee. The sound of the ocean lapping the shore across the lane would mesh with the chirping birds and tree toads. Not to mention the scent of the Mexican flame vine that grew in profusion along the porch. The sweet scent wafted across the driveway whose dust was finally settling.
“Ready, ladies?” The attorney fingered a key dangling from a narrow strip of leather.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” muttered Mari.
Jade refrained from reminding Mari they were only in a foreign country on her recommendation.
The attorney stepped onto the porch. Jade followed, hefting her overnight bag higher on her shoulder. She stopped on the top step, turning to see the huge brass cage holding two macaws. A bright red and a blue. The blue flung himself against the bars and squawked, sounding much like the bald eagle from the night she decided to come to this godforsaken country. She wrenched her eyes from the birds as the lawyer flung open the door. Closed-up air pushed into her face. She held her breath.
The interior of the building was as sad as the outside. Jade blinked twice and made herself look past that to the beauty of the surroundings. Apparently the dining and living rooms were at the front surrounding the wide foyer where she stood. Both rooms opened with French doors onto the porch.
To the right, a handmade dining room table with carved matching chairs would seat a dozen people. Jade ran her hand across the surface of the matching sideboard. Yes, it was dusty, but what a magnificent piece of handiwork. She retraced her steps to the living room. It not only opened onto the front, but it spanned the width of the house and also opened at the back. It held not one, but two, riverstone fireplaces. Best of all, at the back end was a library, its shelves heavy with old books.
They made their way through a narrow hallway, past a bathroom, and into a glorious kitchen. Not that she ever had time to cook. Not with her lifestyle. But here, what meals could be turned out to guests. Stop! You are not moving to Mexico. You have a life in Sacramento. You have friends. Not to mention Blake. Her mood softened at the thought of him. Not that they saw much of each other; both were on the fast-track to success. Which made them such a great match.
The kitchen was lit by a wall of windows that opened onto a brick patio. As Mari and the lawyer discussed the vast possibilities of the “marvelous hotel” Jade stepped through yet another set of French doors. The backyard was overgrown, but the potential was limitless. Sitting areas, game courts, a pool—
She gave an abrupt turn and strode back inside where the lawyer grinned showing a mouthful of bright, white teeth. “Ladies, I will leave you to explore your new place. A rental car for your disposal will arrive momentarily along with a selection of meals and groceries. Enjoy!” With that they were left alone.
An hour later, after accepting keys to the rental vehicle and downing marvelous bowls of fish chowder that arrived complete with a bottle of wine in a wicker picnic basket, they stepped across to the ocean. The beach was narrow and laden with deep black rocks, but the serenity was unbeatable. They sat side-by-side on a pair of large stones kicking bare feet in the water. The tide was high and smelled fresh and clean. Stars, undimmed by city lights, peppered the night sky.
“So, what’s the verdict?” Mari asked with a contented sigh.
“There is nothing to decide. Tomorrow I’ll find a real estate agent.” When Mari didn’t reply, Jade said in defense, “You can’t be thinking I should keep it. When would I have time to visit? How could I do the upkeep from so far away? You realize in this climate, things grow like there’s no tomorrow. If I lived right here on the property, it would be hard enough to keep up with.”
Mari kick-splashed water on Jade. “This place is fabulous. No city noise or dirt. I see why people brave the potholes and the distance. Put in a pool and a shuttle service, and you’ll appeal to people from all over the world.”
“I know. But the only sensible thing to do is sell it.” Jade heaved herself to her feet. “I’m exhausted.”
But on return to the hotel, she felt rejuvenated. The exhaustion of the day of travel and the stress of decision-making fell away. Instead of traipsing up to bed, Mari started a fire with branches and sticks collected from around the yard. Jade poured more wine. They folded blankets and sat on the hardwood floor in front of the crackling blaze.
The next morning, Jade rose early. She took coffee to the back patio area and stood soaking up the ambiance and peace. Mari stepped beside her, steaming coffee in one hand, the other around Jade’s waist. For quite some time neither spoke a word.
Finally Jade turned and went back inside. She googled the names of local real estate agents. Mari entered and watched Jade dial. And hang up. And dial again. And hang up again. “I can’t do it. I’m moving here.”