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The night was a slow night at the restaurant. Rarely did we have food left over to donate to the homeless shelter, but that night we did. I stayed late and helped grandpa get everything ready to take over.
“Are you going to get the information about your mom tonight?” Grandpa asked as he wiped his hands on his apron.
“No. I don’t have classes tomorrow, so I’ll come over in the morning and pick everything up,” I replied as I looked at his aging face. Sadness had taken over his eyes.
He looked at me with a sigh of relief. I wondered what he was keeping from me. Since we talked earlier that night, he appeared to have aged ten years. He looked scared. His hands trembled as he rubbed his balding head when he looked at me.
When we locked up to leave, he kissed me on the cheek, “Remember what I told you. If you do take that box from home, you will get hurt. I won’t be able to protect you.”
I nodded my head thinking he was turning into a crazy old man. I was curious and naturally wanted to go get the box that night. I refrained from going over there and drove back to my dorm room.
When I opened the door, a party was in full swing. My roommate Cara, was half naked and drunk on my bed. She had urinated all over herself.
“Everyone out. I’m tired and going to bed,” I yelled as I pointed towards the door.
“Boo!!! Raven always the worker and studier, never the partier! You can’t break this one up party pooper!” Some guy in the room yelled.
I walked over to him and looked into his tanned well-defined face, “I can and I am. I just worked a job. That is something that some of you in this room have never done. I would suggest leaving before I call the cops.”
They all left the room, but not without a few curse words slung at me. I turned and shook my head at Cara. This was a weekly occurrence. “Come on,” I said as I put my arms under hers to lift her off my bed. I stood her up and she flopped over on me. She reeked of alcohol and urine. I wasn’t in any condition to bathe her so I clumsily put her over onto her bed.
I pulled my sheets and covers off the bed and threw them on the floor. I picked up my bottle of air freshener, sprayed my mattress cover, pulled it off, and flipped my mattress. Since I had only the one set of sheets and blankets, I covered up in my bathrobe and wore my work clothes to bed.
I stared at the ceiling wondering what was in the box. I questioned why grandpa was so scared. He said they once tried to move, but had to move back to the home they are in now. He said their lives were miserable when they moved. Once they moved back their life calmed down. I bet he thought the cedar box had something to do with it.
I had to have drifted off at some point, but I was still laying on my back when I woke up. I wasn’t a back sleeper. I slept best on my stomach. I had a kink in my neck and looked for some aspirin in my nightstand drawer.
I forced myself to get out of bed and go down the hall to take a shower. I longed for the day to have my own shower again. That was a perk of being raised as an only child with my grandparents. I had my own shower right next to my bedroom. There was already a line, so that meant there would be little to no hot water.
I left to go back to my room, packed a bag of clean clothes, and dressed in the clothes I had slept in. I was going home anyhow, so why not shower there. There would be hot water and it was clean. I wouldn’t have to wear my flip flops either.
Cara woke up as I was packing. “Where are you going? Oh, my head!”
I reached in my end table drawer and tossed her my bottle of aspirin. “I’m going home to take a shower and pick up something for my paper due next week.”
“Oh cool. Can I come along? I really don’t want a cold shower.”
“Sure, but you better spray yourself down with some serious body spray or something because you’re not getting in my car smelling like urine and alcohol.”
“Ok, ok. You should really lighten up. College is supposed to be about having fun. You’re too uptight.”
“No. I’m here to get an education so I can get a good job. I can have fun later. Right now I have to focus. You forget, I want to be a psychiatrist. Everyday I’m diagnosing you with something new,” I laughed.
“What do you have to get for your paper?”
“A cedar box with some information about my mom.”
“Ok. Let’s go. I’m done dressing,” she said as she took the top off some body spray and dumped it on herself. She pulled her long strawberry blonde hair back in a messy bun.
I turned the air conditioner on in the car and that was a mistake. Cara stunk from the smell of urine and body spray. It was overwhelming. The smell was so strong I could taste it.
Walking into my grandparent’s house, I steered Cara straight to the bathroom for a shower before grandma saw her. I knew the lecture would begin once she smelled Cara. I walked up the glossy, wooden staircase to my bedroom. I set my bag on my overstuffed comforter and took in the smell of lavender. Grandma believed in having the whole house smell of lavender. She said it was relaxing. I believed that now that I no longer live here.
I sat down on my bed beside my bag. I looked around my room and pondered for a split second moving home to avoid the chaos that went on, on campus. I remembered how free I was at school and my rules were my rules. The thought of moving home went away as fast as I had the idea.
I heard the water stopped running downstairs so I knew it was safe for me to get in the shower. As I stood up I heard grandma yell, “Raven, is that you in the shower?”
“That was Cara. I’m getting in now. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“Girls, I have pancakes on the table and there is some bacon on the stove. Eat what you want. I’m going out to the garden to pick some of the cucumbers that are ready.”
“Ok Gram! I’ll come out there when I’m done. I’m here for a shower and the cedar box. I have a paper to write so we won’t be here long.”
“Raven, No! I forbid you to take the box. It’s not safe. It must stay here. Never can the box leave this house.”
I bounced down the stairs and saw grandma was leaning on the railing looking up trying to see me. When I approached her, I put my hand on her shoulder, “Gram, you and grandpa have some crazy thought that the box is a demon or something. Seriously, it’s only a box. I promise nothing will happen.”
Grandma saw she wasn’t going to change my mind. She also knew that I would come back for it when they weren’t home. She turned to the long table next to her and opened her ceramic heart shaped jewelry box. She pulled out a key and handed it to me.
“The key goes to the box to unlock it. The box is in the closet in the hallway. Be careful. Keep one eye open at all times.”
“Yes, gram I will. I just don’t understand why you and grandpa are freaking out over this. It’s a box with some papers and pictures.”
Tears rolled down her face as she walked away. I watched as she walked out the front door. I thought it was odd that she left through that door because her garden was in the backyard.
“Hey Raven! I’m going to eat. Your grandma is a good cook and this beats the cafeteria food,” Cara said as she walked past me.
“Dig in. Eat what you want. Just save me some bacon.”
“Yeah right. You know me and bacon. I’ll lick the plate clean!”
I ran back upstairs and put the key on my bed. I got a shower, picked the key back up, and made my way to the closet. I opened it and saw a cedar box on the shelf with nothing around it. It looked like a homemade jewelry box. I pulled it down off the shelf and took in the smell of the cedar. It smelled good. I ran my hand over the top of it. The varnish shined. It looked as if it was dusted every day.
I carried the box to the kitchen as I stared at it. I funny feeling started to come over me and I began to shake. I brushed it off thinking that what my grandparents had said, got to me. There was no way this could physically hurt me.
I set the box on the table while I made myself a plate of bacon. Cara moved the box over to be in front of her. “Ouch! That box is burning hot! What’s wrong with it?”
“I just set it on the table. There’s no way the box is hot. It can’t be,” I said as I touched it. The box was cool to my touch. “You drank too much last night. The box isn’t hot.”
Cara backed away from the table. She moved her head from side to side while she looked at it. She reached over and touched it and pulled her hand back quickly. “That thing is possessed. Your gram is right, it should stay in the closet.”
“All she said was, it shouldn’t leave the house. They are probably just trying to protect what’s inside.”
“No, your gram is right. There is something wrong here. I don’t want that thing in our room. I won’t be able to sleep at night.”
“Drink some more and you won’t have any problem sleeping,” I snapped back at her.
I sat down at the table and ate bacon while I stared at the box. The key was beside my plate. I picked it up and moved it around in my hand. I wanted to open it right then, but something kept me from doing it. I couldn’t get myself to move toward the box and unlock it.
After I ate my last bite of bacon I put the plate in the sink. I walked over to the basement door and opened it. Something told me to go down there. I had been down there a million times but never had the urge like I just did. I knew there were boxes lined up on pallets against the wall. Curiosity took over as I descended the stairs.
“Cara, come downstairs with me. Help me go through some boxes.”
“Why?” She asked.
“I don’t know. I just want to. I want to see what’s in them.”
“Do you think you’ll find more information?”
“Maybe, come on.”
She followed me down the wooden steps. “Remember the bottom step is rotten. Step on the outer edge.”
The door shut behind us and I tried to feel around to pull the string for the light. I couldn’t feel it. I pulled my phone from my back pocket to light the way to finding the string. It was right above my head.
I walked over to the boxes. I reached up and pulled one down. As it dropped on the cement floor, dust flew everywhere. “Well so much for a shower. Guess I’ll take another one before I leave,” I said as I opened the box. I sat on the floor and pulled one picture out after another in amazement.