When the first letter arrives – fat, swathed in Sellotape and stamped via Oriximiná, via Pará, via Mauritania, via Spain – Mike is still angry. He props it on the mantelpiece, and glares at it for a few days until his curiosity overwhelms his wounded pride and he finally opens the yellow envelope. Jo's handwriting is round and happy, and between thoughts she doodles flowers in the margin. She's so full of enthusiasm for her new life that Mike manages to feel both bitter and ashamed of his petty feelings at the same time. He leaves the letter leaning against the mantel clock and tries to think of ways to be a better person.
He volunteers at the hospital's jumble sale, setting up trestle tables and carrying boxes for the Women's Auxiliary. The old ladies coo over him and make him endless cups of milky tea. One of them pats him on the arm. "You're such a good lad to help us all out, Mike, dear. Why don't you take first pick off the table? You never know, you might find a treasure."
Mike doesn't really need any more clutter in his tiny flat, but doesn't want to offend, either. He strolls the length of the church hall, looking at mismatched china cups and piles of records, and eventually picks up a wooden trinket box. The hinge is broken, but the lid is carved with a slender deer entwined with flowering vines and he holds it up for approval from the old ladies. At home, he fixes the hinge and puts Jo's letter inside. There's plenty of room for more.
It isn't long before more letters arrive, stuffed with leaf rubbings and flower pressings, watercolours of wide, vibrant flowers that owe more to Jo's love of colour than her artistic skill, and polaroids by the dozen. One night after a few too many beers, Mike spreads them out across his coffee table, and carefully examines Jo in each one: her nose is peeling and pink and her hair is bleached from the sun, but her smile is radiant and Mike can see happiness in the set of her shoulders and the casual awkwardness of her hands. He sighs, bundles the photos up like a deck of cards, and puts them safely back into the wooden box. He picks up the leaflet again for that Tibetan mediation place. Maybe it's time to forgive himself and let go. Maybe he can find some peace there.