I finally finished the short story. This is my first stab at fiction without a prompt and although I think that there is room for improvement I am quite pleased with the turn that the story took. And thank you, Jules, for the inspiration and encouragement.
I was always afraid and curious about the wonderment the attic held. Being only seven, my little mind imagined great and terrifying things. From monsters to treasure the forbidden was occupied by fear. ‘Don’t go up there, you’ll get hurt,’ my grandmother would warn every holiday season when she had to fetch decorations. Until one day when she decided I was old enough to handle the ladder and the probable pain from falling or that’s what I assumed.
‘Jo, go up to the attic and grab the Halloween decorations,’ my grandmother called after me. Excited and terrified I burst through the screen door that led to the garage. This is where the attic entrance was housed. As I pulled on the cord that showed me the ladder, I gasped. That smell was oddly sweet, like family and dust. I slowly climbed the ladder and stared into the cave of darkness. I heard creaking and moaning and I learned that I can be quite fast when I wanted to be as I darted for the light switch.
The glow from the dim light on all the family treasures was mesmerizing. I could spend days on end up there opening every box and chest. There were colorful quilts draped over banisters, a full-length mirror that had a sheet over the front, an old rocking horse with matching wooden crib and plenty of boxes. What caught my eye was a glint of gold underneath old newspapers. I carefully gathered the crumbling papers and placed them on the floor. There an old trunk sat with huge brass hinges and a weathered leather handle. The trunk was a green colored metal with dings and scratches all over. You can tell the trunk has traveled but no proof of it on the exterior.
My grandmother always told me curiosity killed the cat and if I knew then what I know now I would’ve never opened that trunk. Inside were baby clothes but only one set. I thought, ‘where are the rest of my clothes?’ It was a tiny small pink lacy dress and hand crocheted matching baby booties, still soft. Under the clothes was a baby blanket and for some reason, I thought it was familiar like I’ve seen it before. Full of colors and patterns held a sweet smell of perfume but not my grandmothers. Under the quilt were pictures of a pregnant woman with a little girl posing by a Christmas tree. Then another picture of a man kissing the woman. There were many other family photos but not my family. I thought that maybe it was someone that I haven’t met yet that I was related to like a long lost aunt and uncle. Under all of that was a newspaper with the headline, “Couple Murdered, Infant Baby Girl Missing.”
‘That isn’t the box with the decorations.’ I turned and there was my grandmother with the blackest eyes I have ever seen her have. She wasn’t angry with me and what I had opened, but I didn’t feel safe around her anymore either. She came and sat next to me and carefully took the paper out of my hands. ‘Whatever you’re thinking you’re going to be half right. All I’m going to say is that I love you like you’re my own.’ She squeezed my shoulder and put everything back in the trunk. I grabbed the box of decorations and went downstairs. We never talked about that day in the attic and I never went up there again while I lived there.
Later I learned that my grandmother and grandfather were the people who murdered my parents. My grandmother wanted a grandchild so bad but her and my grandfather never had kids. I learned so much about the people who raised me, gave me everything I ever wanted, showed me right from wrong and offered unconditional love. They even put me through college with stolen money. I found all this out when I went back into the attic as part of packing up the house when they passed away. I took the trunk and read everything in it from newspaper articles to my grandmother’s journals. I also learned I wasn’t the first baby they tried to take and by the time they were ready they could only take me. The story went as: their daughter got pregnant outside of wedlock and died during birth so they took me in. My real family was brutally murdered after they brought me home. My grandparents had been stalking my parents for months. The only two people that survived that night was my sister and me. I’ve never met my sister. They didn’t take her because she was sleeping and during the whole murder, they decided to leave her and let her sleep. The only witness that couldn’t identify them because she never woke or cause trouble during the kidnap.
The fear was not the attic, it’s what was in the attic. The pain wasn’t from falling off the ladder but what was in the trunk. The trunk didn’t travel, it was battered from the truth.