Between the lines

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All three were watching the journal on the table in Ben's room, sitting on the floor in front of it as if they were watching a rare museum exhibit, so fragile that you couldn't even breathe in its presence. No one dared to touch it. Eventually, Matilda took it with a short movement and opened it. She read a few lines from the first page, then skipped a few pages and read a few more. She browsed the pages again and a few letters, some pressed flowers, and an old photo of Poppy fell on the floor.

"What is it saying?" asked Ferry.

Matilda handed him the journal, "Nothing that we don't already know. It starts when her daughter disappeared and continues until she has lost her sight."

"There has to be something," Ferry said, after reading a few lines. From the yellow pages, the smell of old ink rose, mixed with a faint scent of perfume — the scent of memories.

Matilda picked up the letters on the floor and opened one of them. As she read it, her eyes turned wide.

"They are love letters," she said, and folded the letter with slow moves, then placed it on the table.

In the meantime, Ben was reading another letter. "They are more than love letters," he said while his cheeks got an intense shade of red.

Ferry opened one of the letters. There were, indeed, more than love letters, signed with the initial A. The handwriting was careless and spread out, with spelling mistakes. The letters had no envelopes and no dates.

"What was Mrs. Cobbs's husband's name?" asked Ferry.

"Do you really think they are letters from her husband?" asked Ben.

"I don't think so," said Matilda. "From what she's been telling us, they were fighting all the time. And his name didn't start with an A. Besides, it doesn't make any sense. Why would he sign under a different name?"

"What do you mean?" asked Ferry.

"I mean Mrs. Cobbs had someone else. That was her secret. And it has nothing to do with this town, nor with the Pride Mansion," she concluded, proud of her deductions.

The boys couldn't disagree. In such cases, a girl's intuition was far better than any logical deduction they would have tried to find.

"And now, what do we do with the diary?" said Ferry. "Where are we going to keep it? Ben?" Ben shook his head, "There's no way I can keep it here. My sisters would find it the moment I leave this room. They have a natural talent in finding hidden things."

"Matt?" tried Ferry.

"Don't even think about it," she cut him short. "Imagine if my mother finds it."

"I think you should keep it, Ferry," Ben decided. "It's safer with you."

Ferry sighed and began to collect the letters. Indeed, no one in Lavender's house would have ever been interested in letters that talked about the weaknesses of humans.

"I still think we can find something in this journal," he muttered. "After all we went through to find it..."

"I'm more worried about what's going on in Mrs. Jones's house," said Matilda. "That poor girl, locked in that awful room," she sighed. "I think her mother is neglecting her."

"What's her name?" Ben asked. "I saw her a few times, when her mother took her out of the house, in the wheelchair."

"Aneight," said Ferry. "Ann, for short."

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