by Joanna M. Weston
“I don’t want to leave this house — ever,” Beth-Ann whispered into the gloom of the attic. She looked round at the blocks of darkness that were boxes, trunks, and piled broken furniture. The square of light from the hatchway lit her face and cast deep shadows around her.
She heard Mom and Dad packing downstairs. Dad, being promoted and transferred to Toronto to start work in January, had found an apartment for them. His excitement poured through the house like a tidal wave, carrying Mom with him.
Beth-Ann refused to be swept away. She loved this house on the outskirts of Victoria where she had lived for all her twelve years. The house was ninety years old, with high ceilings, sash windows, and odd corners.
There were times at dusk and in the early morning when she sensed lives being lived behind hers. She heard the hush of fabric brushing the wall and slippered feet on the uncarpeted stairs.
She turned her flashlight on and played its thin beam into the far reaches of the attic. Many of the boxes she had looked into over the years, discovering dresses from long ago, old diaries, worn skates, and Christmas decorations.
The box she wanted was hidden behind one of the trunks. It held Christmas ornaments and a wreath, complete with ribbons and tiny birds. It would be good to have it on the front door as a final ‘goodbye’ to the house. If she really and truly had to say goodbye, it should be done properly.
She found the box and put her flashlight in her mouth to open it with both hands. First, she lifted out a layer of tinsel garlands. As she put them on a box beside her, she thought she heard someone sigh with pleasure.
Next she lifted out an ornate and lacy angel. Did someone say, “That’s for the top of the tree,” as she put it down?
Last of all, Beth-Ann found the wreath. She raised it carefully, laid it down and, by flashlight, admired yet again the glittering birds nestled among woven gold and silver silk ribbons, caressing them gently. Did someone else’s fingers touch hers?
Beth-Ann climbed down from the attic, holding the wreath with tender hands. She took it downstairs and showed it to Mom and Dad.
“It should have red ribbons with bells hanging from them,” said Mom, turning it to the light so that the birds gleamed.
Beth-Ann took it from Mom. “No, these ribbons are just right, and the birds sing because they have no competition.”
Mom laughed. “Hang it on the front door, anyway. We’ll take it with us if there’s room.”
“No, it stays here, it belongs to the house.”
“Don’t you want to take anything of the house with you, something special to remember it by?” Mom asked, frowning at Beth-Ann.
“I’d rather stay here than take something from it.”
“We’ve been through all that, Beth-Ann, and you know you can’t stay here.” Mom sighed and turned back to wrapping cups and saucers in newspaper.
Beth-Ann went out to the front step. It was cold and damp with heavy clouds threatening rain. Beth-Ann shivered. She should have put a jacket over her jeans and shirt. She closed the door, found the hanger on the wreath and hung it on the brass door-knocker.
Someone else would find and hang the Advent wreath on the door next December. It had been her privilege since she was five.
She leaned against the door, overwhelmed by misery. “I want to stay here forever,” she sobbed.
Perhaps it was the tears that made her fumble as she straightened the wreath and brushed specks of dust from the shining birds. She stood back to admire them. The wreath seemed to belong on the door, as if it had settled to its proper place.
Beth-Ann put out her hand to open the door and noticed lace about her wrist.
The smell of gingerbread caught in her throat as she opened the door. The sound of the harpsichord set her humming “I saw three ships come sailing in”. She caught her velvet skirt and twirled.
Velvet skirt! Where were her jeans? ... Jeans? What were they?
Copyright © 2009 by Joanna M. Weston