It's time for the April WEP Challenge! This month the theme is Jewel Box. Here's my take on it. I hope you enjoy!
A layer of dust covers the top of the box, obscuring the dainty painted flowers that adorn its surface. I haven’t opened it in more than twenty years, and even laying eyes on it sends a shiver down my spine.
It doesn’t matter how much time has passed. I recall each item in there. Mom’s jewelry box used to be one of my favorite things to look through. As a little girl in pigtails, I climbed up into Mom’s lap with the gorgeous wooden box in hand. With a soft smile on her face, she sorted through each piece of jewelry and talked about the history behind it.
I close my eyes and picture the emerald necklace that used to belong to Grandma Lucy. She grew up dirt poor, as did Grandpa Wilbur. When they got married, they had only pennies to their name. “Who needs money when you’ve got love?” she used to tell us grandchildren. Nonetheless, Grandpa Wilbur felt guilty he couldn’t afford to buy his wife fancy things. He saved up for years to buy her that necklace. “The jewels may be the same color as your eyes, but they’re only half as beautiful,” he said when he gave her the gift.
I think I based my earliest ideas of love and romance around that story.
Then there’s the sapphire ring Mom received as a graduation gift. It came from her parents, another expensive item they must have saved up for, sacrificing frivolous extras for months on end. The jewel was small, but the blue depths resembled those of an ocean.
Then there were the ruby earrings. They were gifted to her by a beloved aunt who passed away soon after. I loved them once. I even begged Mom to let me wear them to my first school dance when I was twelve. Red used to be my favorite color, and the rubies perfectly matched the dress I bought. The dance didn’t turn out nearly as magical as I’d dreamed it would be, but I did have fun with my friends.
Unfortunately, that dance isn’t the main memory those earrings trigger for me. Not anymore.
Less than a year after that dance, I was in the car with my mother. We were out buying groceries to prepare for an incoming snowstorm. We didn’t want to go out in the bad weather, after all. It wouldn’t have been safe.
Neither of us expected the semi driver who fell asleep at the wheel. He crossed the median and barreled toward our car. Mom swerved so the impact was on her side only. I blacked out briefly.
When I opened my eyes again, I couldn’t look directly at her. I tried, but some instinct deep within me resisted. Instead I focused on other things. Droplets of blood clung to the windshield, though they appeared to be suspended in midair. The sun shone through them, and they glittered like rubies.
From that day on, I could no longer look at those ruby earrings without thinking of her blood sprayed across the glass. It was nonsensical, really. She wasn’t even wearing the earrings when she died. It’s just an association my brain made in a single traumatic moment, and I never could shake it. From that day forward, I couldn’t stand to look at any item of jewelry in that box. Too many memories were tied to it.
More than two decades later, my body trembles as I reach out and lay my hands on it. The dust coats my fingers as I lift it from the dresser where I’ve kept it safe for all these years. I settle on the edge of my bed and carefully lift the lid.
I’m a child again. The familiar colors of the jewels unearth something deep inside me. The sapphire and emerald sooth me with their presence. Warmth envelopes me as I think about sitting in my mother’s lap and the stories she told me time and again. I linger in that feeling as long as I can, though it’s only a matter of time before the ruby earrings tear it away.
I pick the earrings up and let them rest in my palm. That terrible day replays in my mind all over again. Once upon a time I thought nothing could blindside me like the sudden loss of my mother. For twenty years, that thought went unchallenged.
Then the cancer diagnosis came. Stage 4. Terminal. After weighing my options and listening to my doctors, I decided to forego treatment. I have no family left alive to protest that decision. My grandparents died long ago. I’ve never even met my father.
I never married and had children.
I thought I would have more time. Then again, so did my mother. Nothing in life is guaranteed.
With a sigh, I place everything back in the box and replace the lid. My appointment with the funeral director is in less than an hour. Hopefully I can get all the details hammered out with minimal fuss.
I cradle the box in my arms as I walk to my car. These jewels are going to be buried with me. There’s no one left to inherit them, and I can’t stand the thought of them being sold at auction.
No. When my coffin closes for the final time, this jewelry box will rest alongside me. Some things are best buried.
Word Count: 900