By Katherine Hunt
The dust had accumulated in a thin layer on top. It managed to slip through the cracks, the pores of the cardboard. I didn’t like the stuffiness. That added with the dark made an unbearable atmosphere. It made me unbelievably hopeful when the door opened, giving me slivers of light in my box.
I was taken off the shelf by calloused hands. Fingers drummed against the lid in an excited beat. The sound echoed inside the cardboard. This was not the first time. I would be taken, the box would be opened. I’d be put on, walked around in for a bit. Eventually it always meant a return to that dark, dusty shelf.
The lid was tipped off, and I was met with an excited smile. Soft hands gently picked me up and slowly placed me on her feet. I had never seen such care as I had when she tied my laces. We paced the store, the balls of her feet bouncing with excitement. Pausing in front of a mirror, she examined me as her smile widened. I was taken off with the same care as when I was put on. This time, I was not returned to the shelf.
She used the same care everyday. Gently putting me on and taking me off. We endured snow coating the ground like a blanket, even though it was not yet December. We shrieked when caught in the rain and laughed when jumping in the leftover puddles. Slipped in mud and ran in the grass. I helped her with algebra and joined in her confusion when it came to French. I participated in chemistry and tried to avoid participation in gym. Baseball practice had me covered in dust, and piano filled my sole with joy. We walked home together, coming up with thousands of ideas and spewing them out into the air.
We were together when she met him. Relaxing together in the stairwell, laughing as Friends played on the computer. He was in our math class, he wanted help. The laptop was shut and we pulled out the algebra. He watched her as she explained, pretending to take notes. He didn’t need the help. They walked home together, laughing and smiling. I missed when it was just me and her, our ideas spilling into the world. I stuck to the floor at the movies, and watched as she cowered into him. Waves of popcorn crashed down on me every time they jumped. I snuck into the dance, third-wheeling as they swayed to the music.
I was there when he left. There was an argument about something. A girl stood off to the side, watching. He left my girl standing there, walking off to the other one. I wanted to go after him, stop him and bring him back, but her feet stayed planted firmly in place. We watched them walk off. She hated running, yet she ran to the stairwell. The one where they met. We sat down in silence. It wasn’t raining, yet there were raindrops. We were inside.
Boxes were packed up into the car she got for her seventeenth. Her parents stood smiling on the driveway. She hugged them tightly for a long time. They didn’t want to let her go. We drove for hours, the radio humming songs we knew and loved. Making new memories in that car already full of history. The boxes were unpacked in a small room on the fifth floor. Another girl sat on the opposite bed, watching us and making small talk.
We spent so much time in the library. Long nights spent examining books and learning concepts. She fell asleep many times, even with two cups of coffee. We sat together in the exam hall. I tapped the floor, trying to create a small decibel of noise to break out of the prison of silence. We walked across the stage at graduation. I just peeked out from underneath the long, black robes.
I went to the wedding. It was a boy she met in that other school. At first I didn’t trust him, he seemed too much like the other one. Unlike the last one, this one stayed. They wanted it fun, not a big fancy ordeal. So, I was in full view underneath her blue dress. We danced all night and, this time, I didn’t feel like a third wheel.
One day, I returned to the shelf. Old books and toys were my company. The spiders seen once in a while were my friends. This time, no box was there to catch the dust. It was dark, like last time. The only light appeared when someone was hunting for something forgotten long ago.
The door was opened, and someone came in. It wasn’t my girl. Her hair was greying just a little and some wrinkles had found their way to her face. She didn’t put me on, but carried me down the hall. Into a room where my girl sat patiently on a bench.
She looked different. Blue eyes in place of the chocolate brown ones. Freckles littered her face, though my girl had none. Her hair was that same shade, and on her face rested that same excited smile.
She put me on gently, and carefully did up my laces.