Rolling waves gently brushed upon the sand and nipped softly at my toes. I gazed out into the oblivion of blue hue that lay before me. I stared hopefully at sun-filled sky, but I couldnt help but wonder how I was going to get through the day. Honestly, I never thought in a million years that my daughter and I would be homeless. Oh, how I yearned for our house in the suburbs. A pain wrenched at my heart when I was once reminded again of my beloved husband, Peter. I missed him so much and couldnt help but ask God why he was taken from us. Living underneath Pier 14 was no life for Emily and me. I had to get us out of here and back on our feet. My stomach moaned angrily. I needed to somehow find food for us, but how?
Suddenly, something slimy brushed up against my leg and pierced my thoughts. I jumped back and brushed the residue of sand of my legs. What was that? As my eyes skimmed the water in front of me, I noticed something spinning in the foam of the waves. Curiosity got the best of me and I went over to take a closer look. The object danced in the waves and eventually was coughed out onto the beach. Emily! I called to my eight-year-old daughter who was, at that time, infatuated with a seashell that she found earlier that day. Come here and see this! Mommy found something. Although I had no idea what that something was and I definitely didnt know it would change my life forever.
What did you find, Mommy? Is it food? Emily came running down from the pier to see my finding.
Oh honey, I answered, sadly acknowledging my daughters hunger, I wish it was. Actually, Im not quite sure what it is. Help me clean it off, will you? Emily and I began scrubbing the dilapidated, seaweed covered object in the warm waves of the Atlantic. Wow, Thats not at all I expected. I answered as I rolled an old bottle in the water. At least we can get some money for this at the recycling center. Not much, but if we collect enough bottles we could get some lunch! I looked hopelessly at the bottle. Darn! I was hoping for something else, anything else. Oh, God, please help us!
Mommy? Emilys voice shattered my desperate thoughts. Theres something in the bottle!
Oh Em, I replied dubiously. Its probably just some trash someone stuffed in the bottle. I gazed into my daughters hopeful eyes and sighed. Well I guess it wouldnt hurt to look, eh? Somehow I managed to pry the worn lid off the bottle. Wow. This bottle must be 100 years old, I thought to myself while gazing at the worn, illegible lettering on the side. Whats in it mom? Emily jumped up and down with excitement. I gazed one-eyed into the bottle. Hmm, I replied, fingering the paper out of the bottles stubborn neck. I believe its a note of some sort. Holding the tattered top edge, I carefully unrolled the yellowed scroll-like piece of paper. Oh Em! I said astonishingly. Its a letter! Oh, I wonder who its to?
Read it Mommy, Read it! Emily shouted eagerly. It made me smile to see my little girl so happy. It had been such a long time since I saw such a smile painted across her angelic face. My eyes skimmed down the paper. Most of the words were quite legible, but sadly enough, they were written in a different language. Oh honey, I wish I could read it to you, but the words, they are written in Italian or Span- – Before I could finish my words, I noticed the name so diligently signed at the bottom of the letter. It read Christopher Columbus 18 September 1493. I couldnt breathe. Could this be real? I laughed hysterically as I continuously scrolled my eyes up and down the letter. Then it dawned on me. If this is real, I could be rich. Emily, I managed to blurt through all my emotion, Go put on your other outfit. We are going downtown.
On the walk to the museum, my mind raced with the possibilities. Please God, let this be real. Not surprisingly, I was still very much in shock as Emily and I walked into the Florida State Museum of Fine History and Art. I noticed a small, slightly chubby man with a goatee and glasses, huddled over a magnifying glass. We crossed the marble floor of the room, through the large columns that surrounded us on both sides. I tapped him softly on the shoulder.
He looked up inquiringly. Good day, Miss. Can I help you? I couldnt find any words. Silently, I handed him the dilapidated paper. At first, he looked amused. Is this some kind of joke? He retorted. Then he frowned and his face was consumed with concentration. Where did you get this?
On the beach, by Pier 14, I stammered nervously. It was in a bottle. His eyebrows rose. Do you have the bottle? I handed it to him wordlessly, wondering why he wanted it. He turned and walked into another room. I tried to follow him in, but he waived me away, promising to come right back.
When he returned, his face was lit with excitement. The wrinkled paper was now nicely set in a glass frame. Do you realize what you found? Its a genuine note! I cant believe it! I carbon dated the paper and compared the handwriting with our samples. Columbus wrote this nearly 500 years ago! Do you know what this means?
I thought I did. I paused. Is it worth anything? I hoped that it was worth at least few thousand dollars. I bit my lower lip and prayed that it would at least pay for a warm meal for my daughter.
He grinned. Yeah, I would say so. At least $25 million or so.
My jaw hit the floor. I couldnt believe my ears. What a fairy tale! One day a pauper, the next day a princess! I didnt even know what to say. I at least knew one thing. The hungry days that Em and I had suffered were over forever. My daughter would get to live the life shes always deserved.