Friday, July 22, 2016

Free Fic: The Color of Old Memories


"This was your mother's." Grandma Kathleen took down a box from the mantle over the unused fireplace. She sat down on the small white chair near the window and placed the box on her lap. In the gentle morning sunlight, she looked softened and peaceful.

Monica pulled the matching white chair closer and sat down as well. The chair was very low to the ground and Monica's knees came up high, making her feel like a giant in a children's room. Grandma Kathleen had always been petite. She fit in the chair like a queen holding court. Of course, in this room, everything was more courtly. The golden walls and spare furniture gave it a calm, stately air. This was not a room for playing in, but rather for sitting and contemplating. A room for storing old memories.

"Where did you get it?" Monica asked with a pointed look to the box.

"You mean when." Grandma Kathleen ran her fingers across the lid. "I put things in here in little bits and bobs over the years. Her first day of school, her last day of school. When she brought home her first boyfriend, and the day that boyfriend broke her heart. A trip to summer camp. A beach vacation the summer before she married. I've been tucking these things away all her life."

"Didn't she want them?"

"She discarded them, yes. She tends to do that, discard too much."

Monica remained silent. Her mom certainly did discard things, as well as people. She knew her mom loved her, but sometimes it was hard to remember. Four husbands in, and a fifth one in the making, and Monica couldn't remember a time when her mother wasn't exchanging people in their lives. Grandma Kathleen, however, had always been as solid as bedrock.

"Here, you open it." Grandma Kathleen pushed the box into Monica's hands.

Monica slipped the top off and looked down. There was a vase and a plate shaped like a feather, and pieces of paper, and a few rocks, dried out flowers, ribbon, a postcard, shells, and a yellow bracelet. None of it meant anything to Monica. She touched her finger to the wing of a paper butterfly and then stroked the grain of a ribbon. Then she picked up the bracelet and slipped it on her own wrist to test it out. The plastic was heavy and cool against her skin.

"One of her favorite bangles," Grandma Kathleen said. "She wore that every day when she was a freshman in high school until some other girl told her it was ugly. Then she threw it in the trash. I found it and fished it out."

Monica nodded. She could imagine that. Her mother cared a little too much about appearances, and that sort of comment would have stung her most sharply. Monica liked the bracelet, though. "Would you mind if I kept it?" she asked.

"It's yours." Grandma Kathleen pulled out a string of fake pearls, though they were a nice quality. "A gift from her best friend, who then stole her boyfriend the next year. When she found out, she ripped the necklace off and chucked it out the window. I found it in the shrubbery when I weeded the next week."

"That's terrible!" Monica said. "And you kept it?"

Grandma Kathleen shrugged. "At first, I thought they would apologize and make up. They'd been best friends for years. Too long to let a boy come between them. But they never did. Later I kept it to remember that she was forged by resentment and bitterness that wasn't her doing."

"Oh," said Monica. She didn't touch the pearl necklace. Anything nice about it had been ruined by its background information. She pulled out a postcard of a yellow-green pear. The writing on the back was too faded to read. "And this?"

"After college, she spent a year in France. She only wrote once." Grandma Kathleen sighed. "But I've always liked the picture, and I can count on one hand the number of letters she's sent, so it is special." She looked down at her lap and then up again. "It's almost lunch. Would you like something to eat before you leave?"

"Sure." Monica put the lid back on top of the box.

"Bring the box, we can talk more about it in the kitchen."

"Okay." Monica stood up. As she followed her grandmother out of the parlor room, the good one reserved for guests, she had a thought. "Are there other boxes? Did you make one for me?" Monica paused. "Is there one for you?"

"Certainly." Her grandmother's expression turned sly. "Come and visit me again and I'll show you the others." She grinned. "I do enjoy your company."

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