At first, the window refused to budge, as though it had made up its mind to be a recluse, remaining staunch against the outside world. Carmel eventually forced it open, and tied back the thick heavy drapes that locked out the light. Rays of sun penetrated the room, and picked up fine clouds of dust, that found flight, and merrily danced out into the spring day. This was the final room to be sorted and cleaned before putting Grans house on the market.
She tried to remember the last time she had played in the room, fifteen maybe twenty years? It had not altered, all the old toys sat stiffly in their places, their glassy eyes staring vacantly ahead. It was hard to start, hard to pick up the treasured fragments of her childhood and throw them away. If her brother Peter had been able to help it would have been easier, but he lived in America and it had been left up to her to sort out the house. This room that Gran had set up for them, had always been special. They had come to live with their grandparents after the accident. Carmel could not remember her parents, or what caused their deaths, but Peter had vague recollections of their mother and father. Gran had not liked talking about them, or the accident, preferring to leave the past behind, according to Gran, the future was more important. Carmel realized, now that she was an adult, just how hard it must have been for her grandparents, it had been a big sacrifice on their part. Sadly all that was left of their lives, was this big old house and her memories.
The room started to sound hollow as she packed the last of the toys into cardboard boxes, the only thing remaining was the big cedar robe, too large for her to remove. ‘Perhaps,’ she thought, ‘the second hand shop would come and take it away?’ The oval mirror, set in the middle of the robe, now hazy with dust, bought back days when she would carefully practice her ballet steps, her reflection picking up all of her mistakes. The robe had always been locked which had frustrated Peter, but Gran had refused him the key. Carmel had always known where the key was hidden, she had, one day by chance, spied Gran placing it on top of the robe. She smiled now, recalling her fear of Peter climbing into the big robe, and disappearing into the land of Narnia, like the Peter in The Lion the witch and the wardrobe. Peter had loved that book, and had convinced Carmel, that was why Gran would not give him the key.
Stretching to her full height she reached to the top of the robe, and amongst the cobwebs and dust, she felt the cool metal of the old key. She expected that the robe, like the window would resist, refusing her entry, but the key slid in perfectly and opened without a murmur. The musky smell of stale air seeped out of the open door, and on escaping, filled the room with its pungent odour.
Carmel was puzzled at first, the robe was stacked with brown paper parcels, and on closer examination she discovered that they had all been addressed to herself and Peter. Ripping one open, she uncovered a Barbie Doll, still perfect in its box. When she had finished emptying the robe, she was surrounded by unopened gifts, which according to the post marks had been stored away for many years. She wondered why Gran had hidden the gifts, until she found the letter, it was quite recent and included the return address.
It took Carmel a long time before she picked up the phone. Looking out through the window she watched as the sunset slowly burned the sky with a pallet of scarlet and gold. Had turning the key in the robe opened Pandora’s Box? The phone almost rang out before he answered it, his familiar voice eased her mind, ‘Peter,’ she said, you need to come home, Gran has kept a secret from us all these years. I’ve just found a letter from our parent’s… and they’re both alive.’
Copyright Jan Weldon-Veitch. 2015