So here is story #4 in our journey towards Christmas. Apologies in advance, this one ended being slightly more melancholic than I had originally hoped for.
Just a reminder that if you so wish, you may post a prompt in the comments of a story you might like to see me try. I already have two from hyperactivepandemonium. Definitely check out this blog by the way: there are some fantastic stories there!
Now, without further ado, our fourth short:
She should not have ventured up here, to this place where the ghosts of the deceased lingered in every nook, in every cranny. But she could not turn away now.
The floor of the attic creaked beneath her weight. When was the last time anyone had trespassed upon these boards? She had avoided it for so long, aware of the dangers that she would be opening her soul up to if she did dare ascend.
Yet here she was. And why had she risked it? Margaret could hardly remember the reason, consumed as she was by the memories that haunted the space. In her eye’s vision she could already see memorabilia from her childhood, items that held a deep resonance. They provoked recollection, pulling at emotional strings. She could not sever the hold they had on her. She was already lost to their grip.
Wind whistled through the space, breaking through the smallest cracks in the window. It was colder up here than she had expected, the chill made ever more pronounced by her dread of wandering through the past.
The urge to turn and flee was prominent in her heart, but futile. The ghosts would not let her escape. They crowded her, pressing upon her, invisible to her sight, but much more present than the four walls that held them. They urged her to stay, whispered suggestions into her ear, guided her to a stack of boxes in the north corner.
Margaret knelt down in the carpet of dust before them. She ran a hand over the top cardboard box. It was one of a hundred or so, each only as unique as the contents contained within.
The hushed command came without room to deny. Compelled, she pulled it down and placed it on the ground. Her hands hesitated, but she could not stop their motions. They unfolded the lid and reached blindly in.
Her fingers grazed a solid orb. It was cold to the touch and so smooth. Margaret did not need to see it, to know what it was.
Her hand ensnared the ball of glass and pulled it from the box.
It was a Christmas ornament, a clear globe within which was contained a small angel on a blanket of snow. The angel’s features were small, but still distinct: her eyes were closed, her mouth open in song, her hands folded in prayer. The folds and curves of her blue robe were defined enough to give the impression of being blown about in the wind. It was a beautiful trinket, but its worth was greatest in its sentimental value.
She could remember the first Christmas it had graced her family’s Christmas tree. It had been their last Christmas together.
The vision of that day rose up. It claimed the space, phantom spectres moving around her, playing out like an old film: dusty, grey and flickering.
She saw herself, a young girl of only sixteen. She saw her mother, already closer to death than any had expected. She saw her father, crippled with grief but trying so hard to put on a pretense of joy. She saw her sister, three years her junior, not yet a slave to drugs and alcohol, to misery and self-loathing.
Her mother picked up a small gift, daintily wrapped in gold and red, her last gift that year, and bestowed it upon her daughters. Ellie unwrapped it; she had always loved unwrapping gifts, taking her time to untie the bow and ease off the paper without breaking the pattern. Meticulous: that had been the word her parents had used to describe Ellie. There was nothing careful about her sister’s way of life now.
At thirteen, she had been unmoved by the gift, but Margaret had felt then the same emotions that were rising now in her reminiscence: melancholy and a desperate longing for her family to be together.
“To protect you. When I can’t.” Her mother’s voice was faded and distant, but no less clear.
Those words affected Ellie at least. The two of them embraced her and she kissed them each in turn.
“Love each other. Promise me.”
They swore it.
The image faded.
The angel had been supposed to keep them together when she was gone. But they had fallen apart, shattered into pieces, and even the memory of that one last Christmas could not erase the pain of all the years since.
The ghosts of the past released her then.
She gazed thoughtfully at the ball in her hand. Why had they wanted her to find this? To remind her of how much she had failed. Or was there a different reason?
Rising up, she brushed her knees of the dust and gave the room another turn around.
“What do you want from me?” she asked the empty air.
There was no response to be had.
Margaret clutched the ornament to her chest. She had clung onto it for five years after her mother’s death, always placing it on their tree to remind them of her, to keep her presence. But Christmas had never been as happy as that last one. Her father had passed away soon after that. And then her sister had gone too, her soul slipping away until she was nothing but an empty shell, forever evading any help proffered.
And she… Well, she had stayed in this house alone for the last three years, residing with its ghosts, confining them to the attic.
Now a fourth Christmas was upon her, and she was set to spend it alone once more, to linger in solitude, hidden away from the world. Unless…
Her eyes were set upon the ornament, on the angel within. Perhaps there was some other emotion she was meant to take away from this. Some new resolve. Some hope.
Her feet led her down the steps.They carried her away from the attic. Away from the ghosts.
They led her all the way out of the house.
She had forgotten entirely about the bottle of pills waiting for her in the bedroom.
On the positive side, there will definitely be a part two to this one 🙂
May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill,