Wearily, he opened the front door and stood for a few moments to catch his breath. At fifty-four years old, Rudolph felt as if he was seventy-four; that was not good. There were still a lot of years ahead. Still, he was moderately healthy for his age. Although younger people usually did not have to contend with a bad hip bothering them every now and then. Every day, it was getting more difficult to get up at such an early hour, especially during the colder seasons, and the days seemed to be getting longer and longer. Retirement was something that could definitely not come too soon.
"Rudolph? Is that you?" came a voice from the kitchen.
"Yes, dear," he said in his thick accent. A smile appeared on his tired face, the beautiful voice of his wife filling him with renewed life, the way it had for the past thirty-two years.
Emma appeared from around the corner, rubbing her hands on the apron she was wearing around her waist. She greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. "How was your day?" she said, her accent not quite as thick as his.
"I can't complain," he said pleasantly.
"You look tired." His wife touched cheek gently.
"I'm fine. What's for dinner?"
"I have made pasta, your favorite."
"We had pasta last night."
"Since you like it so much, we are having it again."
"In other words, we are having leftovers."
"If you want to call it that," Emma said, grinning. "You had best wash up before dinner." His wife walked back to the kitchen.
"What time are Markus and Ingrid arriving?"
She turned around and looked at him sadly. His face fell.
"They're not coming, are they?"
"I am sorry, dear, but he called an hour ago and said that he cannot make it."
He sighed. "I was so hoping to see him tonight. It has been weeks since the family has sat down to dinner together."
"Well, he takes after his father," she said as she walked toward him. "Work, work, work."
"He has a good head on his shoulders. I just wish that he would realize that there is more to life than work. There is also family."
"Sounds like something that you should listen to."
"I'm old. It took me a lot of years to realize that. I do not want him to make the same mistake I did. Work all of your life just so you can come home to an old house." He looked around the room in contempt. Even though it had been restored and built upon numerous times, it still looked like an old house to him.
"Now, don't start that again. We are lucky to have this house. You-know-who used to live here for a short time."
"Now don't you start with that again," he said playfully. "Nobody knows that for sure. If that were really true, Emma, don't you think some kind of good fortune would have smiled upon us by now?"
"Well, I still believe that this is the house. It...feels like it." Emma looked around with a dreamy look on her face.
"Well, I feel hungry. I'm going to wash up and I will be back soon to devour the pasta," he said shook his head playfully. Numerous times for the past twelve years he had tried to persuade her to move away to a nicer house and every time she had said no. He had finally given up trying last year. Besides, as much as he disliked it, she loved it and it made her happy, and that was all that really mattered. Life could certainly be much worse than just living in a house that had seen better days.
He placed his hands under the faucet and then wet and soaped them. Once he had toweled them off, he headed back to the dining room and saw his wife placing the dishes and the pot of wonderfully smelling pasta on the table.
As he was walking toward his usual chair, he felt a sudden pain in his hip and lost his balance. He tried to stop his fall by reaching out for the chair in front of him, but instead he fell onto it too quickly and it moved out from under him crashing into the wall, leaving a large hole.
"Rudolph!" Emma cried as she ran toward him.
"Damn this hip!" he bellowed as he rubbed his leg.
"Rudolph, don't! Remember what the doctor said about your blood pressure."
"Hang my blood pressure! If the doctor was any good at all, he would do something for my hip. And, look, all I've done is succeeded in putting a hole in the wall!"
"It's not so bad." Emma got up to examine it. "I take it back. It is bad."
Rudolph slowly got up and then stood by her to inspect the damage. "Well, that's going to take quite the pretty penny to repair." He gazed at Emma. She was slightly leaning over and peering into the hole. "What's wrong?"
"I think...I think there's something in there," she said as she moved closer to the hole and looked inside of it. "There is!"
"There is? What is it?" He moved closer to her so he could see.
"I'm not sure. It looks like a small box." She reached her arm into the hole.
"Be careful," he said as he placed his hands gently on her shoulders.
Her eyes were rolling around as she moved her hand inside the hole. "I think I...feel something...yes!" she said triumphantly. She pulled out a small, wooden box.
The both of them looked at it wonderingly and Emma blew the large amount of dust that had accumulated on it away.
"It looks like its a hundred years old...at least," Rudolph finally said. "How did it get in there? Why was it in there?"
"I don't know. Let's see what's in it."
"Careful. It's so old; it looks like it could break apart just by touching it.
Emma gently set the box down and slowly opened its lid. Both of them stared at the contents inside. There were only two items -- an old envelope and a cell phone, both of them covered in dust.
Rudolph and Emma looked at each other and then back at the contents.
"I don't understand," Rudolph said. "The box and the envelope are obviously at least a hundred years old, probably older. What's a cell phone doing here?"
"I don't know." Emma picked up the silver cell phone and clicked it open. Surprisingly, it was in perfect condition. Not surprisingly, nothing happened. It had no charge whatsoever. "This phone is just like mine. We can charge it up and see who it belongs to. It might even need a new battery. Maybe there are some pictures inside."
"Probably. That will take hours, though. See what's inside the envelope."
Emma carefully opened the envelope and peered inside. "It's a letter. Two, I think."
"Maybe there's a clue as to who the cell phone belongs to. See what it says."
As delicately as she could, Emma pulled the folded papers from the envelope and opened the first one. It was some pieces of sheet music that were only half complete with a handwritten composition. Written on the top of it was a woman's name, obviously the name of the piece.
"Who is that?" Rudolph said.
"I don't know. I suppose it's the name of...the person that influenced the piece. A song written for her."
"It seems that way. But...why is it only half completed?"
"I don't know," Emma said as she gently folded the paper and set it aside. She then picked up another other piece of paper, opened it, and held it so that the both of them could read it. As they did so, the looks on their faces changed from interest, to confusion, to... they could not believe what they were seeing. Once they were done, they looked at each other at the same time.
"Forever yours...Ludwig," Emma said slowly as she spoke the final words of the letter.
Rudolph picked up the cell phone and inspected it, now treating it as gently as he would a baby. "We have to get this thing charged," he said.