Exercising the craft—December 14, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: The Old Object: Choose an old object from your home. If you don’t have one, find a picture of an antique online. Imagine that when you touch the object, you are transported to its original time and place. Where are you? What happens? How do you interact with the object? What emotions does the object evoke? Is there a magical element you can add? Do it.

http://www.writermag.com/writing-prompts/object-writing-prompt/

***

A sob threatened to erupt from Allie’s throat, and she edged away from the group. Someone she didn’t know spotted her, and even though she’d never met this particular mourner she saw the familiar look on the woman’s face: sympathy. Allie didn’t want sympathy. She wanted Gram back.

Most of Gram’s friends and their family had collected in the living room. Some people stood in the kitchen, and a few sat at the dining table. Allie half entered the rooms and then stepped away before anyone could see her and invite her to join them. She wanted space. Ever since Gram had died, Allie had found it hard to breathe. She kept thinking that if she found a big enough space, she could inhale a full breath and let it out again.

So far she hadn’t found an area big enough. No matter where she went, her chest stayed tight. Even coughing didn’t help.

Allie blinked and she found herself in Gram’s little sewing room. When had she come upstairs?

She stood in the room and looked at the sun rays streaming through the windows. It was easy to understand why Gram loved this space so much, even if it was kind of corny for someone to have a whole room just for sewing. Had Allie ever come up here? She couldn’t remember. These days she couldn’t get around or over the fact that Gram had died.

A tall mahogany bookshelf stood against one wall, and Allie wandered toward it. She ran her fingers over the spines of the thick tomes. Novels shared space with biographies and cookbooks. Gram loved to read.

On the bottom shelf Allie saw Gram’s photo albums, and emotion started burning her throat again. She wanted and didn’t want to see Gram’s face again. After a minute of debate, she made her decision and reached for the small album on top.

The second her hand touched the weathered cover the scene around her blurred and changed. Allie jerked her hand back, and she found herself in Gram’s sewing room again. Her breathing became a little shallow. She looked around. The same window. The same sun rays. Gram’s sewing machine, the cover still open, sat in the corner.

What the…

She got up from the floor and opened the door to the sewing room. Sticking her head through the door frame, she listened for a few moments. No one called for her; no steps sounded on the stairs or the landing.

Allie turned back around and eyed the photo album.

I wonder if I could see Gram one last time…

She knelt on the floor and settled on her knees. She reached a hand toward the album and jerked it back. After another moment she reached her hand to it again and touched the album.

The air around her blurred; there was no other way to put it. A minute or two later the sewing room, the sun, the windows, and even the sewing machine had all disappeared. Allie found herself kneeling in the grass under a huge oak tree. The gray sky above threatened rain, and Allie heard a few patters on the leaves above her. Somehow, though, the rain hadn’t started streaming yet.

“Eloise, come on!”

Allie turned toward the voice, and she saw a group of girls dressed in formal wear. A photographer stood behind a camera on a tripod looking through the viewfinder. He pulled back and checked his watch, then put his hands on his hips. Clearly he wasn’t happy about the time.

The girls had shifted their attention away from the camera. Instead they all looked in the same direction, and Allie followed their line of sight. She saw her then, her Gram. But this wasn’t Gram as Allie knew her, in her pant suits and her seemingly endless bridge games with other white-haired women.

This young woman wore a strapless rose-colored gown. She giggled at her friends and made her way across the grass as fast as her high heels let her. Her face glowed, and her hair fell in ringlets in the hollow of her neck. Allie saw a corsage on her wrist.

“I washed my hair last night, and I don’t want the rain to ruin it!” called one of the girls from the group. “Get in the picture before it starts pouring!”

Gram—Eloise—tried to move faster, and one of her heels caught in the grass. When she pulled that foot forward, her shoe slipped off. She put the foot down, looked back at the shoe waiting primly behind her, and then turned back to her friends.

They all laughed, and Gram chuckled. She knelt for the shoe and put it back on. As she rose from the grass, she saw Allie and smiled at her.

There it was—the smile Allie loved. The smile that always made her smile back, which is what she did now. Gram raised a hand to wave, and Allie let go of the album and raised her own hand in response.

The air blurred again, and the sewing room resolved itself around her.

“No!” Allie exclaimed. She put her hand back to the album, but the room didn’t change. Nothing shifted. The scene didn’t come back.

“Gram!”

She flipped open the album and began searching through the pages for the picture that must have followed the moment she witnessed. There were the girls—Gram’s friends—but Gram wasn’t with them in the first couple of pictures. The photographer had caught them mid laugh, mid conversation, in one shot one of the girls reached across the group and had caught the hand of one of the friends on the other side.

Then she saw her. Gram. She held her heel in one hand, and her head was half tossed back in full-fledged laughter. The tears slipped down Allie’s cheeks as she kept touching the photo, kept stroking the album. Nothing around her changed.

“I love you, Gram,” she whispered, bowing her head and closing her eyes. “I miss you.”

The air vibrated, and Allie could feel the change even before she opened her eyes to see it. Her grandmother had reached the group, and the photographer clicked away as fast as possible. Allie’s tears stopped right away, and this time she kept a firm grasp on the album as she watched the girls laughing and chattering. Several times the photographer called to the girls from behind the camera, asking them to stand still. But they didn’t listen to him.

The photographer’s annoyance radiated in waves toward Allie, but she found herself smiling after a moment. The girls clearly enjoyed a strong friendship—a bond that superseded the commands of a silly photographer they wouldn’t see after that night—but at some point they finally gave in to his earnest requests for formal poses. When he called to them that he was finally done, the girls stayed still for a few moments longer. He called to them again, but they didn’t move.

“Ladies? You’re free to go,” the photographer said. One of them finally giggled, and the entire group dissolved into laughter as they broke out of their frozen poses.

Allie began laughing too. It felt good, this laughter bubbling up where tears had only rained down a few moments earlier. Eloise looked in her direction and grinned at her. She raised a hand, and Allie raised a hand in return.

Once again the scene around her changed. The sewing room returned. Allie knew if she touched the album again nothing would happen. But she didn’t need it to. She had Gram’s smiles and laughter to carry her through her grief.