Happy Sunday! Here is my take on talented Author Suzanne Burkes’ weekly Fiction In a Flash Challenge. Authors are invited to write a short story about the photo shown. Please click on the above link to go to her blog site. Thank you so much, Suzanne for hosting this regular challenge!
“Grandma, are you sure you want to go up there? They’re in bad shape, and your hip.”
“Oh, pish posh,” Rosemary waved dismissively. “Should have done this years ago and those were built when quality counted.”
“That was seventy-seven years ago. This place has been abandoned for—”
“Twenty years, other than some vandalism, the bones are solid.”
“Maybe, but yours aren’t. Please, just let me have a look. The third floorboard from the back wall of the closet, right?”
Rosemary patted Emily’s hand. “I need to do this myself, with a bit of help from you.”
Emily wiped a tear and hugged her grandmother. “I understand. You were eight and you’ve waited this long. It was your only hope. All these years . . . ” Her grief soaked the purple shawl.
“Shh . . . I’ve made my peace. This must be done before I see him again. I pray God will allow it in Heaven. Father has the other half, that’s why they never found it on him.”
Rosemary’s eyes stung but she must show restraint, be the brave girl that her father had said she was just before he left for the Great War. “Let’s continue, shall we?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.” Emily broke her embrace and took the tissue from Rosemary.
“But you must let me check each tread before you step on it and let me guide you. Those are my rules, I’m sorry. I love you too much to lose you.”
Rosemary nodded. “Agreed.”
They moved ahead, arm in arm, with Emily sweeping away the debris with her foot to clear a path. At the base of the stairs, she tested the railing and was satisfied.
“You see, built to last. The stairs will be the same, though the third step might creak. I learned to avoid that one when I’d sneak downstairs after bedtime to grab an extra cookie.” She pointed to the room they’d just left. “My parents would be sitting in their chairs, Mother with her nose in a book, while Father would be asleep. I never got caught, but sometimes I think Mother knew.” Rosemary smiled.
The stairs proved to be every bit as resilient as promised, but every tread protested the disturbance.
The hideous orange and white floral-patterned linoleum flooring installed by the last tenants had chunks missing and revealed the hardwood underneath. Decay wasn’t always bad.
Emily gingerly walked her grandmother across the tripping hazard to the first room on the left. Time had left only a thick layer of dust, cobwebs, and a musty smell in the barren room.
“Hmmm . . . used to be a lot bigger,” Rosemary said. She blamed her watering eyes on the dust and mold. “I loved this room, but after Father was gone, well, we had to move.”
She sighed deeply and shuffled towards the tiny closet. Emily’s hand went to grab her arm, but she brushed it off. “I’m good for now, but I’ll need you to help me kneel.”
The old woman reached the closet and Emily helped her to her knees.
Rosemary struggled to remove the floorboard and Emily offered to help.
“No! I must do this!” Her face softened and her tears splattered into the floor dust. “I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to snap. This arthritis is making it hard. Did they nail it down?”
After what seemed an eternity, the board yielded, and was hoisted with a collectively held breath. Would it still be there?
Emily handed over the flashlight. The small beam illuminated only cobwebs and dirt. Rosemary dug frantically to clear them, and the light reflected off a silver object lying in between the floor joists.
Rosemary picked up the necklace with shaky hands. Emily gasped, for there it was, the legendary object that she’d heard about since early childhood.
A heart, with one half missing, the other half perhaps lay on a faraway battlefield.
Rosemary clutched the jewelry to her heart, and then wept loudly. Emily rushed to her side and tried to console her grandmother through her own tears.
It took several moments to recover, and Rosemary showed her the inscription in the heart. Because of the shape and the missing piece, it read, ALW TOGE . . . Always Together.
“Oh Grandma, is that true? Do you really believe that?”
“Yes, Emily, all of my life I knew he was there, and soon I will get to see him again and this heart will be whole.”