Próza - Povídky & Drabbles


The Ebony Box
~by Estriel~
For Kath.

Cherish your friends and loved ones now, for in an instant they may be gone.
~Taylor Hanson~


Once upon a time there was a girl. Her name was Lorrie. Lorrie had never been the type of person you'd call extroverted, she had an aura of shyness around her - Lorrie didn't resemble those pretty girls that you see walking along the streets with proud confidence. Now, you can imagine that Lorrie always had trouble with making new friends.
Back in her kindergarten days, you'd usually find Lorrie standing aside from where the other children played. She was a thoughtful child, a child maybe a little too adult for its age; she'd watch the others but never join in their games as if she was afraid... And indeed, Lorrie had been afraid. Afraid of being hurt, afraid of being rejected, betrayed. What if she made a friend, what if she gave her heart to someone - and then this friend would leave her, just like her mother had! At the age of four, Lorrie couldn't fully comprehend what it was that she feared, she couldn't put her finger on it - and yet the fear was anchored deep inside her heart.

~*~


Lorrie had first met Emily on her thirteenth birthday. It was a Monday afternoon in mid-December and the school-grounds were covered in white. Fluffy snowflakes kept fluttering from the sky and Lorrie was standing alone in the yard and watched their slow movement. Every once in a while she stretched out her arm and caught some of the snow onto the palm of her hand in a red glove. Then she observed each snowflake very carefully - not one was the same as an other, each one was unique. And yet, despite the differences, they seemed to blend so perfectly, all of them existing in harmony as if every single snowflake had been designed with utmost precision to complement all the others.
It was her birthday but nobody knew for Lorrie hadn't told anyone.

A small amused laugh startled her. She spun around to find a girl of about her age standing behind her. The girl's hair was black and curly, messy locks surrounded her face like a dark wild halo; a mischievous glint danced in her brown eyes. The girl was the opposite of Lorrie, whose hair was straight and blond, and whose expression never entirely lost the hint of melancholy.

"The snow is wonderful, isn't it?" the girl smiled.

"Yes," Lorrie replied, not knowing what to think or what else to say.

"Just perfect for a snowfight, don't you think?"
Lorrie noticed a wicked gleam flash the girl's face but she was too confused and too slow - a small snow-ball the girl must have been holding in her hand behind her back hit Lorrie’s shoulder. The next thing Lorrie knew was that she somehow ended up on the ground, laughing like she never had before, with the unknown girl scattering snow all over her head. That was how Lorrie found her best friend - the two of them were as different as two thirteen-years-old girls could possible be. And yet, from the very first moment on, an ideal consonance existed between Lorrie and Emily.

~*~


It took a while for Lorrie to come out of her protective shell - but eventually she did, and the experience was better than anything she could have imagined; the warmth, the affection, the fun she and Emily shared...

~*~


Five years after their first meeting, Lorrie gave Emily a precious gift for her birthday. It was a small ebony box with tiny silver and gold flowers painted on the black polished wood. Lorrie had wrapped her present into several layers of paper - as if she wanted to prolong the unpacking in order to make Emily more curious, to intensify the feeling of expectation. Emily loved gifts. At first, Lorrie's best friend usually tried to guess what lay hidden within the colourful wrapping. She would shake the package lightly and listen for sounds, she would let her fingers slide over the surface and trail over its edges, trying to figure out what shape the object had - then she would muse about what a great thing it might be. She enjoyed to peel off the wrapping paper very very slowly, she would peek at the revealed material and smile smugly, as if she was about to say: see, I knew it all the time!
When Emily got rid of the last layer of paper and looked at the small box, her eyes lit up.

She likes it, Lorrie realised and a quiet sigh of relief escaped her lips. The box was closed and Lorrie could tell just how eager Emily was to open it and find out what secret awaited her inside.
Emily turned the ebony box in her hands. And again. Finally her eyes found the little silvery key-hole. She examined it closely and then raised her head with a quizzical look in Lorrie’s direction. Lorrie smiled but didn't say a word.

"Where is the key?" Emily finally asked.

"It's a magical box."

"What?" Emily lifted her eyebrows.

"It doesn't open with a key, it's magical," Lorrie explained as if it was obvious.

"And how does it open, then?" Emily began to scrutinise the tiny lock all over again.

"That you'll have to figure out yourself," Lorrie shrugged and winked at her best friend playfully - mischief was one of the things she had learned from Emily.

"Oh. Okay," Emily murmured amusedly. "Thank you," she added and laid the skilfully decorated box aside.
They spent a pleasant afternoon celebrating Emily's birthday and when Lorrie was leaving her house, Emily had almost forgotten about the mysterious box.

Before she went to sleep, Emily found the box atop her bed. Its black wooden surface glanced in the light from the chandelier. The box was very beautiful. Emily, curious as she was, couldn't wait to explore its insides. She lifted it up - it wasn't heavy - and started to search for some kind of a secret mechanism that would open the lid. She didn't find anything, the material was perfectly smooth, except for the small key-hole - the key-hole that appeared to smirk at Emily's futile attempts to figure out the trick to open the box. Thirty minutes later, Emily slammed the box on her table and crawled into bed - she was frustrated but not giving up yet, she would find out what the magic was, she would try again tomorrow!

And try she did: she tried and tried, she stuck a thin wire into the key-hole and twirled and twisted it until the wire broke in two, she pushed and pulled at the lid, she attempted to pry the box apart with a tea-spoon, she shook it, threw it against the ground angrily, she even tried to talk the box into opening - she whispered what she believed to be magical incantations into the key-hole. No matter what Emily did, the ebony box remained closed and kept it's secrets tucked safely inside. The damn box was driving her insane!
What had Lorrie been thinking, Emily wondered, giving me a present like this? A box that won't open!

After several days, Emily didn't like the pretty box as much as she had on her birthday. No. The box suddenly appeared less beautiful than it had back then. It was an ordinary black wooden box. Emily scowled at the memory of her birthday gift for Lorrie - it had been expensive; certainly her present had been much more valuable than the stupid box Lorrie gave her! Emily suddenly felt disappointed; did she mean so little to her best friend? She decided not to talk to Lorrie. Yes, she would forgive her, eventually, they would hug and chat and go back to being best friends again. But Lorrie needs to learn a lesson, Emily thought. She didn't answer Lorrie's calls. When her best friend came over to her house, Emily instructed her mom to tell the girl that she wasn't at home. Lorrie wrote emails, in which she asked Emily what had happened. Have I done anything wrong?, Lorrie's emails read. Emily ignored all of Lorrie's attempts to contact her - she wanted her friend to realise what made Emily pull away from her.

Then one day Emily was woken up by a frantically ringing phone. Sleepily she answered it. It was Lorrie's father telling her something in a strangely weak voice. It took a moment till Emily understood. Lorrie had had a car accident, she lay in a hospital, in critical condition. Emily felt a pang of pain somewhere deep inside her chest.

~*~


Lorrie died a couple of hours after Emily's arrival at the hospital. Emily returned home. She felt numb, as if her brain refused to realise what had just happened. Her best friend was dead. It seemed unbelievable to her - Emily couldn't grasp that she'd never again open the door to find a smiling Lorrie at the doorstep, that she'd never again pick up the phone to hear her best friend's voice from the receiver.

Emily went upstairs to her bedroom, she curled up in her favourite chair. For an endless moment she just stared out of the window in the opposite wall, then she remembered something and stood up abruptly.
Emily started to open drawers and rummage in her closet, she threw several pieces of clothing out of her wardrobe. Then she fell down on her knees in order to look under her bed. Nothing. She crawled around on all fours for a while, roaming over the carpet with the palms of her hands, until her searching fingers closed around a small angulated object. Emily pulled the ebony box from under the wardrobe. She sank back into the chair and observed the box. She blew a thin layer of dust off the lid. The box was beautiful. Emily felt the tears that started rolling over her cheeks anew.

"I'm sorry," she breathed into the empty silence of her room. She pressed the box against her chest, as if her heartbeat could bring Lorrie back. Emily held on to the gift as if it was the very last that was left of her best friend.

"Lorrie," Emily wasn't even aware of the words her lips have started to form. "You can't be gone. You can't. Come back, you have to come back." Her gaze wandered towards the ebony box, still closely clasped in her hands. "I love you." It wasn't more than a sob. Emily felt another hot slide down her cheek, it burned on her skin; a tear dropped from her chin and landed on the lid of the box with a quiet tap. The lock glowed for a split-second and then the box opened with a soft click.

Emily gasped. Then, slightly perplexed, she prodded at the box with her forefinger, she opened the lid further. She brushed her tears away with the back of her hand and peeked into the mysterious box.

Inside was a pair of sparkling earrings and a simple paper heart cut out from pink paper. I love you, the heart read.
Lorrie had opened her heart for Emily, had trusted her and relied on her. Lorrie had given her a gift more precious than anything else in the world. Her heart.
And I threw it away. Emily suddenly felt a freezing coldness take hold of her insides. It was too late now.

~fin~


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