”Huh, that's weird,” Kval commented, noticing the package that was leaning against their front door. “That must've come after we left... but I didn't think they delivered packages that late...”
The package was large and rectangular, relatively flat in breadth. It would be an awkward carry for just Kval to get through the door, and hopefully it could be tilted. He lifted it up by the sides, enough to gently drag it away from the door so his sister could get through.
She passed him, trotting to the other side to open the door, and helped to lift it.
”I wonder why they didn't have it delivered to the shop.” She said, lifting with both hands supporting the narrow edge as they tilted it sideways to walk it in.
”Maybe dad got mom a present or something,” her brother thought. “I think their anniversary is soon, isn't it?”
”I'unno,” she responded as they set it down.
”Or maybe it's the wrong house,” he said, looking for the shipping label. “The house across the street is always getting packages.” He lifted it up to peer underneath. It wasn't a label, but there was something, obscured by the shadow. “Help me roll it over.”
They gently turned the package on its side, setting it down on the other face.
There, in the upper-corner, was a fat square envelope nearly the color of the box, its edges taped to the face.
The handwriting on the envelope was in the most delicate and articulate calligraphy. The bodies of the letters were thick, the ink touching so lightly on the stationery that the black strokes let some of the light-tan bleed through between feathery-edged rifts. The serifs were curved and sweeping, and tapered to needle-point tips. There were no hesitations in the arcs. The hand that scribed them showed confidence and practice.
The name was bold, clear, and could likely be read from across the room.
The siblings exchanged glances.
”Any idea what this could be?” He asked her, as they knelt over the envelope.
”Huh-uh,” she admitted, watching as he carefully picked at the tape. She bit her lip as his fingernail peeled up a corner, and the rest came undone shortly thereafter. The tape did not rip nor tear the envelope—much—as her brother carefully pulled it from all the sides. She took it gingerly when he proffered it to her, and found the back to be unsealed.
She lifted the flap, and pulled out the half-folded letter. Thankfully, the handwriting was not calligraphic, but rather a pseudo-cursive lettering. Her eyes began making out the words, but then her brother tapped her leg.
”What's it say?” He asked.
She looked at him and took in a nervous breath. She hated reading her birthday cards aloud, and this was giving her the same feeling in the pit of her stomach. But, she began to speak the words.
* * *
I hope you and Kval are doing well. I wish I had gotten a chance to say farewell to you. When I went to your campsite, all I was met by were windswept leaves and a few spiders.
It was such a pleasure to teach you the basics of archery. And I have to say, you've got quite a knack for a beginner—and a bit of luck doesn't hurt, either! Just that little bit of time was enough to remind myself of when I first held a bow. I was a young lass, probably just a wee bit younger than you.
But, there's no sense in boring you with all that. Now, I'm an old sass, and don't get to hold a bow often enough. In the box, are things which have been collecting dust for far too long, and my husband kept saying he was going to sell it all if I was just going to neglect it.
So, I came to the decision that I wanted you to inherit these things.
Now, I understand if your parents or brother, or even yourself, would rather not. If you'd like to, you can sell everything—I've included some information for them on how to do that. Otherwise, I'm sure you'll find everything you need to pick up where we left off at Connalake.
P.S. Tell Kval I said 'hello.'
* * *
After she finished reading, there was a moment of silence; almost in reverence.
”That's very... thoughtful?” He stated. He looked at the box. “Should we see what's inside?”
She followed his gaze, carefully folding the letter back up. She nodded, and slipped the letter back into the envelope.
”I'll cut it,” he said. “Stand back a bit.”
She heeded his warning, flattening her back against the wall, watching.
His keys jingled as he selected one. Kneeling, he eased the broad flap of the box up just enough to slide the key in, and made do with the teeth as the serrations of a saw. The tape, though secure for packing, tore easily enough. It broke through at the junction of the flaps, and to make a good impression on his sister, he did not lazily turn the key and repeat the same motion toward himself from the other end. He switched the key to his left hand, and went away from himself.
She began to gently tap the wall as he went to, and cut, the other side. At last, he raised with a sense of finality, twirling his keys by the center loop about his finger twice before catching them, telling her it was all hers.
She pulled up on the near flaps. The tape split, and with gentle tugs she split the seam that ran down the middle of the box. As she got to the middle, it got a bit difficult, so she approached from the other end. Aside from the first tug where the tape had not been split, she worked the other end down to the center. A thread of tape where the two ends did not quite evenly break was all that remained; she broke it with her pinkie.
Brother on one side, her on the other, they drew the flaps away. A plank of Styrofoam, just short the area of the box by an inch at the foot and two at the side, rested on top. They lifted it out, and even as he took it out of her grasp to set it aside for her, the contents revealed sent a ripple all about her fur.
The bow lay prominently nestled in newspapers. It was very much like, and yet unlike, the bow she had used at Camp Connalake. Although both were recurve, the plastic toy at the camp couldn't compare with the humble artifact resting upon the headlines. The color was almost squash-yellow, and the light made a solid ribbon of sheen along the edge of the body's curve.
She reached in, and dug her fingers beneath some of the newspaper. Gingerly, she lifted the bow by the junctions of the limbs to the riser. A few desiccator packets fell loosely back into the box.
The bow was much heavier than she expected; much heavier than the plastic-and-fiberglass body she had used for those few days. It had density, weight, and structure. Unlike those false skeletons, this bow had markings of weather and wear—scars of experience and strength; not the abuse of idle, fidgety hands. It was as if she held in her hands the very weight, age, and spirit of the tree from which the bow had been carved, shaped, and formed.
”May I?” Her brother asked.
She looked up, half-startled from her reverie. She extended her arms over the box, and as the heavy wood passed into his hands, her arms felt tingles of relaxation.
”Whoa,” he muttered. “This isn't a toy, that's for sure.”
She looked back into the box, with the bubbling excitement of a Christmas a quarter-year past. She sifted the papers and desiccators to one corner, uncovering a small box taped against the other corner and a bundle of bamboo shafts.
Reaching for the small box, she slowly peeled the tape free so as not to harm the wood. It was freed easily enough, and she deftly took it up to examine more closely. It was simple; inelegant, and yet in that way it transcended into elegance. Its body lacked any engravings, and its latch was a simple embedded magnet.
The scent that drifted from within the maw of the box was pleasant, with a hint of burning; she would later come to know it was Sandalwood. Inside, a colorful array of half-feathers piled atop one another in the basin. Inside the lid, kept secure by a sliding plastic window, were five spools of thread; the one on the end closest to the window's opening noticeably smaller than the others.
Her brother set the bow inside the box once more, and reached to the shafts of bamboo. He lifted the bundle and turned it about, counting over a dozen. A few were peculiar in that they were much more rigid and straighter than the rest. All were thin and surprisingly light.
As she watched him pull the bundle free, something caught her eye amidst the dull hues of the newspaper prints. She reached in, and her fingers pinched about the hard plastic spine of a bound booklet.
Each page was safely kept in page protectors. It wasn't very thick, only a dozen pages or so. On its cover was simply: Instructions.
She went to the first page, a table of contents. Entries such as Terms and Concepts, Bow-Making, Arrow-Making & Fletching, Care & Maintenance, were listed. She thumbed through, her eye catching pictures, headings, and paragraphs of text that weren't too foreboding. Presumably, the booklet was made and bound by the same person who gave her the entire kit.
”This is... actually pretty cool,” Her brother stated, setting the bamboo back into the box and looking over the whole kit. “A little weird... but cool.”
”I should...” She thought, her mind trailing as she was distracted by the section on care and maintenance. “I should... write a thank-you.”
He smiled, “Well somebody raised you right.” Then, he looked at the box. “But, come to think of it...” He looked about his side of the package. “Where's the return address?”
They spent a moment or two scouring the box, going so far as lifting it up to slide underneath, since they couldn't flip it over.
”Maybe on the envelope?” She questioned, pointing to it beside her brother.
He retrieved it, looking all about, even inside. “Nopers.” He said.
”Well...” She furrowed her brow. “How'm I supposed to write a thanks without her address?”
He shrugged. “I guess you can't, really. But... She must have had a reason not to put it...” He thought, trying to figure out how it was delivered without.
”Should we... take it to my room?” She asked, folding the lid back up.
He nodded. “Sure.”
Together they managed to navigate their labyrinthine home to her bedroom. Without quite knowing what to do, she decided to make a spot for the box in the paper-cluttered corner of her room.
That night, she studied. But not the words she memorize the definitions of, the numbers she got to balance on both sides of the equals sign, the way the world worked around her, nor the events and names that were relished in old books and paintings.