the music box

pg | no warnings apply

"I had a music box like this when I was a child," I murmur, even though I don't think you're paying attention to me anymore.

I'm sure every little girl had one growing up. It's one of those presents that somewhat distant relatives can always fall back on for Christmas or birthdays. I was a bit of a tomboy, but not enough to discourage anyone from giving me the typically 'girly' gifts when holidays rolled around. And I wasn't tomboyish enough to be unable to enjoy them.

Truth be told, I can't recall all the details about the box. I'd know the tune if you were to play it for me now, I think, but I can't hum it for you. I don't remember much about what color it was - just that it was white and there was some kind of design on it. Pink or red flowers, maybe, or perhaps they were blue. Maybe there weren't any flowers at all. I don't remember who gave it to me, or for what occasion.

It was one of the things that I packed in my bag the day my mom left my dad.

It was two weeks before Christmas, and this is why I never really liked the holiday after that. For most people, their childhood memories involve presents under the tree and fighting with their siblings over who gets to open the first one.

I remember my mother dragging me from my bed and telling me to pack a bag.

I remember walking past the tree with all my presents under it and going out to the car.

I remember my mom crying as she drove.

That had been our very first house. I had my own room, and I loved it. There was one wall with shelves built right into it, and I filled them with my toys and dolls the minute we moved in.

I don't know what happened to the toys on those shelves. I saw my dad after that, but he had sold the house, and I never asked him. I wanted to remember all those toys, neatly arranged, the pretty faces of the dolls smiling down on me as I slept. I didn't want to think about them being given away to girls who wouldn't appreciate them as much as I did. I didn't want to think about them rotting in a landfill somewhere.

In my mind, they're still sitting on the shelves, smiling into oblivion.

I packed the music box and some clothes and some other things that I can't recall and I sat on the hardwood floor. I didn't know that we were leaving forever, and that I'd never live in that house again. I didn't know that the next time I saw my dad, it would be for court-ordered visitation. I didn't know that these memories would haunt every Christmas from then on. I sat on the floor and stared up at my dolls.

I didn't pack them, and I'm not sure why.

We got in the car and she drove. I hated her for a long time after that.

I knew that my parents had problems. The wall with the shelves on it wasn't thick enough to muffle the arguments they had when they thought I was asleep. But I didn't think it was bad enough to make her want to leave. At the time, I was just mad at her for taking my dad away from me.

I still am, sometimes.

I don't know what happened to my music box. I don't remember throwing it away, but I don't have it anymore, so it must have gotten lost along the way. I suppose I could call Mom and ask, but it seems like such a silly thing to do.

You've already concluded that the girl probably ran away.

I don't think so.

The arm of the ballerina, perfectly perched on the top of her music box, had clearly been broken off, but it has been neatly glued back on, so seamlessly that no one would notice unless it was carefully examined. The hinges are loose - as if it was opened so many times that any resistance within them was worn away. Other items on this dresser - a change bank, a few figurines, and a jewelry box - are covered with a thin layer of dust, but this isn't, as if it was handled every day.

She would have taken this music box.

(fin.)