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The Attic

by Gloria F. Watts

The photograph lay under the wooden chest that John had moved. The dust had settled on his clothes and on his hair; it gave him the look of an old man. I stifled a laugh as he cussed, then coughed, shifting the dry dust into the air, where, caught by the sun streaming through the attic window, it shimmered and danced.

Two weeks since we’d moved into this new house, and we were finally in the attic. Empty except for a few large cardboard boxes and an old wooden chest. The attic felt warm and lived in, not one of those attics forlorn and forgotten by the house’s residents.

When I moved the chest I saw it immediately; it was lying there face up; the photograph of a child, a boy. A fine head and narrow shoulders; fair hair falling above wide eyes; arched brows; a thin aquiline nose; and a smile, a smile that touched my heart.

As I lay in bed, I wondered: was it the seller’s son? Why would a son’s photo be kept in the attic? Maybe he’d grown... Maybe he was a black sheep, exiled from home? My mind worked overtime; I couldn’t get that photo out of my mind. With John beside me, his soft breath folding against the impenetrable silence, I lay thinking of the boy.

I must have drifted into a light sleep when the noise in my ears grew and became a cry of... pain? Even as my eyes opened, I knew, I knew he would be there waiting for me.

His smile filled his small face and lit up his eyes. His hand felt warm, his thin fingers twining around mine.

‘Come, come with me,’ he said, his voice sweet like cow bells ringing on a summer’s day.

‘You must come,’ his voice changed to a whimper and grew to fill the room. I marvelled that John slept on. I wanted to call to him, John, wake up... please wake up.

My voice refused to leave my dusty throat and John slept on, and without a will of my own I left my bed. I followed the boy. Up the stairs we went, into the attic. The lid of the chest stood open. Music, a tune not heard before, rang in my ears as he led me with more smiles towards the old wooden chest.

My head rests on a velvet cushion. A shawl of softest silk covers my shoulders. My eyes see his face, his smile and the lid above me — the lid of the old wooden chest.

Copyright © 2010 by Gloria F. Watts

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