A key, a hair ribbon, a folded letter, a handful of polished crystals, and a photograph with curling corners. These items she placed inside a wooden box; carefully, gradually, but surely. And when that was done she looked down upon them from where she sat, knelt on the thin, stained carpet of her sister’s bedroom. It was a strange feeling, she thought, to know that these simple objects could mean so little when separate but when put together could mean so much.
Deliberately, she shut the lid of the box. It closed with an easy, satisfying click, and she smiled. It was all so straightforward.
On the lid of the box was a peeling gold engraving of a moon and stars. The moon looked sleepy somehow, she thought, as she gently traced the picture with her fingertips. How lovely it would be to sleep in the curve of a crescent moon, she thought. But then, of course, that was illogical. Of this she reminded herself, and as always it was a burden to understand that imagination grew more and more limited by reality as she grew older. She thought of her sister, who was young and now would always be young. She thought of her sister sleeping in the curve of a crescent moon.
As she thought this she heard the creak of the stairs, then approaching footsteps, then the door swinging open. Most of all through all of this she heard the muffled sniffs and sobs that were distinctively her mother’s.
The girl looked around, and there was Mother: tall, dressed in the long black overcoat that she never seemed to take off these days regardless of whether she was inside or out, and with a large white handkerchief pressed to her face. The girl looked up and reasoned that it must have been an awfully long time ago that Mother was able to sleep in the curve of a crescent moon, or even think of such things. Perhaps that was why she cried so often.
Mother said nothing. She hovered in the doorway of her daughter’s bedroom and took a deep breath that sounded painfully ragged, as though the air was cutting and scraping her throat as it was inhaled.
The girl shivered involuntarily in response. Her sister’s room was cold and empty; she’d only come here to fetch these few small items, but she had hoped she would also be able to breathe in the room’s familiar scent one last time to make sure she would not forget it when they left for good. With nothing to cling to it seemed the scent had drifted out of the window, never to return.
Mother sobbed loudly once more. She barely spoke these days but her sobs were a language of their own. The girl knew that it was time to leave. She stood carefully. She picked up the box and tucked it under her arm. She followed Mother out of the room. The door closed behind them with a click and the girl smiled. It was all so straightforward.