Charlie stumbled out into the clearing, nearly falling onto the carton he had opened in the tent. Enough moonlight had filtered down from the barren tree branches for him to make out its contents.
At the top lay a sweater, green with yellow floral prints. He recognized it immediately as the one Penny had worn to school that day a couple years ago, Jimbo’s meaty arm draped over her shoulder as they walked down the hall, the one Charlie had told Mike about, causing Mike to smirk and say that he told Jimbo which one to choose, which one Penny would like. The same sweater that Penny told Charlie had gone missing. He picked it up, held it up, could smell Penny’s perfume on it.
He set the sweater aside, looked back down into the carton. The moonlight caught a glimpse of jewelry; Charlie reached down, pulled out the brooch his mother had asked him to look for the other day. The one Mike had helped him pick out for a Mother’s Day present.
There was more. A small electronic device, looked like a music player or some kind personal entertainment device. He reached down to grab it, his thumb hitting a button and a clamshell lid opening. Jimbo had said his CD player was missing — a wedding gift from Mike.
There was something larger, made of wood. Charlie pulled it out, held it up so that it caught as much moonlight as could be managed. The words TREEHOUSE RULES was written in black paint, in Charlie’s handwriting. He’d made that sign for the treehouse he and Mike had built, in the pair of oaks on Charlie’s parents lot. The oaks that would be cut down soon, due to their sudden wilting.
He also saw a small piece of paper, a card really, at the bottom of the carton. He reached down, picked it up, held it up to his face. An appointment reminder card from Dr. Kovacs’ office.