Today’s writing prompt and my response.
Amongst his mother’s possessions, he found
He had avoided the big clean up for months, but now he was forced to it. The family home was sold, the newly retired couple keen to move in, redecorate, pull out the walk-in bath (he wondered, a tad nastily, how long it would be before they regretted that), install a fancy new kitchen with room for the air fryer, paint and put new flooring throughout. He hoped the house’s bones would stand the shock. Nothing had been done since the time, three decades ago, when his father jumped ship for the required younger version.
The garden would survive, with the vegetable beds rejuvenated and a new summer house.
‘It was the garden which really drew us to it,’ the man told Jack, nodding sagely. ‘Your mother must have had green fingers.’
Jack had agreed, although mostly he remembered the soil-encrusted lines in her fingers as brown, not green.
Julie had offered to help, but he told her No. ‘I appreciate it, love. You’re always so thoughtful. But stay home. I need to do this by myself.’
She happily agreed. She’d already picked through the limited supply jewellery case, taken fond possession of the garish music box with its posing ballerina – ‘for Kitty, she always loved it’ – and spurned the leftover pieces of old dinner services.
The key was stiff in the lock, the hallway musty as is the way with abandoned homes weeping silently in their new darkness.
Jack had a plan. Bedroom first, to bag up clothing. A simple task which didn’t require thought about what to keep, what to save. A neutral stranger could make those decisions.
He flung open the dark wooden wardrobe door, and hauled out a rack of coats, skirts, jackets. As he threw them onto the bed, something fell from a pocket. A small, square packet, about the size of a ring box, wrapped in brown paper.
Jack picked it up. The paper was crisp, new. He turned it in his hands, sat on the bed, and picked at the sellotape. It came away easily to expose a bright pink satin-covered box. The colour stirred memories.
Jack went to the dresser drawer, pulled out the bottom one. Yes, there it was. A single leather glove in the same pink, the letter L embroidered on the back in a sparkle of blue and white tiny jewels.
He’d seen his mother wear it from time to time, on odd occasions too: completing Jack’s university grant application; negotiating the purchase of a new car for him and Julie as a wedding present; handing them a cheque for a significant deposit on their first home; and more large cheques when the children were born. He and Julie had been grateful, assuming the money came from the divorce, and realising his mother was spending it on them rather than herself. They considered the pink glove a touch of eccentricity, a signature.
He sighed, remembering the reading of the will and how little money there was at the end. She had timed her spending to perfection.
But the gift box. That he’d never seen. He went back to the bed, laid the glove down and sat to open the box. Inside was a gold coin with an inscription in tiny letters. He took it to the window, pulled back the dusty nets, and held the coin to the light:
‘Lucky finder, wear this glove
Your halls will fill with gold
But be aware there is a cost
If you should be so bold
One dream which is forever lost
And that is faithful love.’
Fill with gold … the loss of faithful love …
Jack sat heavily on the bed, put his head in his hands and stared at the glove for a long time.
His concentration was disturbed by the ring of his phone. He picked it up. Julie. His finger went to swipe the answer button … and hesitated.
(It helps to have read the story of 17 Jan. I might be writing a longer story here!)
Find Cheryl’s flash fiction and short stories here!