Memory box

The box at the back of the cupboard held so much meaning, but that’s why it had to be hidden.

The box was battered and looked as though it had seen much better days. Shoved to the back of the closet it had been hidden for several years beneath empty suitcases that had been replaced with the latest models, and shoe-boxes that had been kept merely for the label that appeared on them.

She pulled the box out, hoping that this was where she’d placed her birth certificate – seriously it was a piece of paper that didn’t have much in the way of value given all the other ID she had – not sure why her new employer actually needed to see it.

The closet was filled with the musty smell of old paper the moment she lifted the lid, and almost immediately she was transported back to the last time she’d opened the box, the last time she’d gone through the old letters and photographs she couldn’t bear to part with but, at the same time, didn’t want to look at either. She lifted each photo and piece of paper out of the box carefully, though spared little time looking through them, placing it in a pile to put back once she reached the bottom. With each letter her curiosity grew, it had been so long since she’d read any of his words, taken time to think about what had caused her to push her past to the back of a too full closet and try and forget everything that had happened. It felt like it had been an eternity, but still she struggled to forgive. Forgetting was so much easier, at least she kept on hoping it was!

Halfway through the pile of paper and thin card she gave into the temptation to slide a letter out of its envelope and read the words scrawled on it. Before she’d even finished the first line a tear rolled down her cheek, dripping onto the paper she held. She’d been so foolish, so in love; unable to tell that his words meant nothing, that she was just another victim of his ego, his determination that he could and would have anyone that he wanted regardless of anything else. He’d swept her off her feet and then dumped her when she no longer suited his purpose. His words had seemed so sincere, so full of feeling, and he’d made her feel like she could walk on water. He made her feel special.


She stuffed the letter back in the envelope and dropped it on the small, but growing, pile by her hip. She knew that she should throw them away, but they reminded her, simply by being there in their forgotten box, that she was never going to let herself get played again. Gritting her teeth she continued to trawl through the box, ignoring the urge to pick up another letter and read through his words. She didn’t need another reminder of him, of her own stupidity. What she needed was to find her birth certificate.

At the bottom of the box was a small package tied with a piece of knotted string. Frowning a little she untied it and unfolded the wax paper, shocked to find a small stack of photographs she didn’t remember putting away. Had she really ever been that happy? Had they? The photos were of the one holiday they’d taken together, a weekend trip to somewhere on the Devonshire coast. He had an arm casually curved over her shoulders and his other hand was pushing his hair away from his face. She was laughing at something, but the memory was barely there, almost completely obliterated by the things that had happened so much later. The photos were almost all the same, all taken on that weekend break, all taken when they were fooling themselves, or at least he was fooling her and she was foolish enough to take him and his protestations of love at face value.

She resisted the urge to scratch his face from the photograph with her thumbnail. Whatever had happened afterwards, however much he’d hurt her, played for an idiot, these memories were part of her life. For a moment her fingers tightened around the edge of the picture and she crumpled it a little. Taking a deep breath she managed to calm, and after a moment she carefully placed the photos back in the packaging and wrapped them.

Tucked into the box itself, under the bottom flap, she noticed a piece of paper, she squeezed the cardboard a little bit and the paper fluttered out onto the floor. Two slightly yellowed certificates nestled together, both stamped, both official. She could see ‘Birth Certificate’ clearly coming through the first sheet, the paper thinned with age. The second sheet was one she’d hoped to bury for ever ‘Certificate of Marriage’. There it was, the evidence of her stupidity, something that she’d placed in the box in the hope that putting it there would mean it never really existed.

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