I probably won't post too many of these chapters since they are technically *eye roll* considered "published", and I don't want to "publish" myself out of being able to get an agent to represent me...so this is more of a teaser really.
Also - ignore any weird formatting. Blogger does not like copy/paste.
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Back at Gloria’s house, she and Lori kicked off their shoes. While Lori made herself comfortable on the sectional sofa in the living room, Gloria poured them each a glass of ice water, garnishing it with slices of cucumber. She hauled the box off of the kitchen counter and pulled a dishtowel out of one of the drawers. Carrying the box and towel under one arm and a glass in each hand, she made her way to the living room.
Lori took a pull of the ice water and then shoved the cucumber slice down past the ice cubes where it would flavor the water. Gloria, meanwhile, was situating the box and towel on top of her coffee table.
“We might need a screw driver or something to pry that open,” said Lori. “It does look pretty swollen.”
Gloria nodded. “I have one in the kitchen. Be right back.” She produced a flat head screw driver out of the junk drawer next to the stove and returned to the living room.
After assessing the box momentarily, she decided to pry the hardware off of the box first. The hinges were so rusty that they came away after only a moment of work.
“I see a little nick in the wood on this side of the box.” Lori pointed at a small spot where a chunk of wood was missing. “Maybe you can slide the screw driver in there and get some leverage.”
“Hopefully the damn thing won’t fall apart on us. I’d like to keep it as intact as possible,” Gloria replied. She worked screw driver into the small space and gently pushed it in a bit, giving it a gentle twist. It didn’t budge.
Lori held the box and tried to pull it open while Gloria attempted to pry the end again. Nothing happened.
“I’m going to get a hammer and see if we can sort of chisel it open.” Gloria returned after a moment with a hammer. While Lori held the box steady against the table again, Gloria wedge the screwdriver into the nick in the wood and lightly tapped with the hammer. The screwdriver went in a little ways. She pulled it out and repeated the exercise in two more spots. Then she carefully levered the screwdriver into one of the holes she had made and wiggled it up and down. Finally, the box opened with a wet sound.
“The damage couldn’t be helped,” said Lori. “It just didn’t want to come off of there.”
Both women were surprised to see the things inside of the box had been carefully placed in plastic bags and sealed with clear tape.
“Whoever buried this box must have known there was a good chance it would stay buried for a long, long time,” Gloria said. “I’m going to get a notebook and make an inventory of what’s inside each bag so we can keep it all separated and organized.”
“Good idea,” Lori agreed. “It looks like things are grouped in some way.” Then she looked at her watch. “My date is at six, so I can stay a while longer before I have to go get ready.”
“Oh yeah that’s right,” Gloria responded, “that blind date your friend set you up on.”
Lori nodded. “Yeah it was a fix up. I already regret that I agreed to it, because blind dates never work out for me.”
“And yet you continue to try and fix me up,” Gloria said with a smirk.
Lori stuck her tongue out at her best friend and laughed. Gloria pulled the first bag out of the box. Sliding a finger under the tape, it came away from the plastic easily. She upended the bag and out slid a blue book. It appeared to a journal; a fact that was confirmed a moment later when she opened the well-preserved cover and read the inscription on the flyleaf.
For Lena. The best big sister a girl could ask for. Happy birthday.
The edges of the pages had, at one time been covered with gold foil. It had worn away in places however. Gloria turned a few more pages and skimmed the content. The entries, with their inconsistent dates, seemed to be explaining the rest of the contents of the box. At this early point however it was unclear how it all fit together. Gloria wrote it in the inventory and handed it to Lori, who leafed through it gently.
She pulled a few more baggies out of the box and spread them out. Each of them contained photographs. Gloria opened each of them and took the pictures out, spreading them out on the table. There was a definite theme to each bag of pictures. One was of a birthday party at a roller skating rink. Gloria could see three girls and a boy smiling into the camera over a cake. In another picture, the same four kids wearing quad style roller skates and party hats.
“It looks like a lot of photos,” Lori observed.
Gloria nodded. “Yeah. A time capsule maybe? What else would all the pictures be for?”
“What are those?” Lori reached into the bottom of the box where brightly colored paper rested. “These look like Career Day-style fliers. Like the ones you and I got in junior high.”
“And promptly turned into origami flowers,” Gloria laughed. She made a note of the fliers and Lori set them aside in favor of leafing through the journal again.
“The journal appears to have a bunch of entries. Some regular, personal entries,” Lori said, “and some that look like a catalog of items.”
“Maybe some of them go with the pictures?” Gloria offered. Lori shrugged a maybe in response.
The second bag contained pictures of a house. Gloria looked at the exterior shot and didn’t recognize the house, but saw the house number. It was a corner lot in a location she was vaguely familiar with. The street signs were situated in one corner of the picture. She instinctively turned the photo over and saw the address was written in neat block lettering on the back. 605 Third Ave SE.
“I think I recognize this corner. If I’m not mistaken it sort of looks like the neighborhood my grandmother used to live in,” Gloria said.
Lori looked over her shoulder at the photos. “Hmm. I wonder what the pictures of the house are about.”
Reaching for the third set of photos, Gloria knocked the box off of the edge of the coffee table where it had been resting.
“Shit,” she exclaimed reaching for the spilled pile of things that had tumbled forth. Something small caught a glint of the lamplight and rolled under the couch. Gloria finished putting everything back in the box and gathered the photos back into their respective bags.
“What’s this?” she asked aloud, digging around under the couch until her hand closed on something small. Small, oblong, and hard. It had an opening at one end. She pulled it out slowly, not wanting to believe what her mind had automatically clicked on as the object had caught her eye to begin with.
“Oh my god,” she said under her breath. She dropped the thing into the box and recoiled.
“What is it?” Lori asked, excitedly.
“A-a bullet,” Gloria stammerd
“A what now?” Lori couldn’t believe her ears. She peered into the box where Gloria had reflexively tossed it the thing.
“A spent bullet casing,” Gloria repeated, “A small one. It rolled under the couch when I knocked the box off of the table.”
“Holy shit,” Lori exclaimed, eyes wide. “What the hell do you think that’s in there for?”
“I have no idea,” Gloria stammered. “Should we call the police?” She scooted back slightly, a little further from the box. Some of her excitement at finding it had drained away all of a sudden.
“Well, let’s just calm down and think,” Lori said in an even voice.
“What is there to think about?” Gloria’s voice started raising a notch. “Don’t we have to tell someone?”
Lori made an ‘iffy’ face. “What will we tell them, though? Think about it, Gloria. You found a box that has been buried for goodness knows how long, and a spent bullet just means that someone, at some point, fired a gun. That in and of itself is not illegal, right?”
Gloria took a deep breath and blew it out, forcing herself to calm down. She had to admit that her best friend had a point. “I guess you’re right. I just panicked. I was expecting to find some sweet teenager’s time capsule and out pops a bullet.”
“I know. It made me nervous for a minute too. Talk about a rude awakening!” Lori tried to laugh it off.
Gloria used a napkin from her kitchen table to tuck the casing into a separate plastic bag. Just in case. She wasn’t sure that she wanted to look at anything else in the box after that scare.
“Let’s just see what other little surprises are in the box, shall we?” Lori said as she pulled everything, but the wrapped casing out of the box again.
Gloria turned her attention to the contents of the plastic bag on top of the pile Lori had just created. “Hey, wait,” she said, picking it up and opening it. She arranged the four photos on the coffee table and excitedly pointed to the shot of the front door.
“That’s this house,” she said.
Lori looked at it. “Oh my, God you’re right!”
The first was an exterior shot. The back of the photo had the date 1979 on it. The house in the photo was white with green shutters and the porch was just a set of concrete steps leading to the front door. There were small garden spaces on each side of the steps filled with beds of tulips in a riot of colors. The other pictures were of the interior of the house: the master bedroom, guest bedroom, and a shot of someone sitting on the couch in the living room.
“It looks similar but very different than the current house,” Gloria said, marveling at the changes that had been wrought over the house since the 1978. The exterior was now a pale, buttery yellow with white trim and shutters. A proper porch had been built on as well, eradicating the lovely tulip beds.
“It’s like looking at a ghost from the past in a way,” Lori breathed. “You can see, just around the edges that it’s the same house, but in a way it’s a completely different house, too, since everyone who has lived here since the photos were taken have left a little bit of themselves behind.”
“I would have loved to have a nice bed of flowers in the front yard like these,” Gloria said wistfully. Oh well, she thought. Maybe a remodel project in the next few years could put it back the way it had once been.
As Gloria was putting the pictures back in the box, Lori was pulling a yellowed piece of old newspaper out of the file.
“Look that this,” Lori said, tapping Gloria’s shoulder. It was an obituary for a teenager named Toby Grantham. It was dated August 12, 1978. According to the obit he had died unexpectedly at the age of sixteen. Gloria sighed sadly. She always hated reading about young people who died. It was just so unfair, she thought. There were so many monsters in the world who didn’t deserve the lives they had. Why did the lives of the innocent have to suffer?
After making a careful list of what she had looked at so far, Gloria decided to set it aside for the time being. Looking at the clock she realized that Lori and she had been looking at the box for about two hours.
“I think I’m going to set this aside for a little while and absorb what we’ve looked at so far,” she said to her friend.
Lori stood and stretched. “Good idea,” she agreed. “I should be moving a long anyway. I want to do my hair up and pick out a nice outfit for my date tonight.
“Who dates on a work night, anyway?” Gloria asked.
“I do. Lot’s of people do. Everyone but you does, Gloria.” Lori punched her friend lightly on the shoulder. “Someday I am going to hook you up with the best guy in the whole world.”
“Oh, is Nathan Fillion single?” Gloria asked hopefully.
Lori snorted. “I don’t think you could handle all that awesome, dear.”
“I would dearly love to try though!”
Gloria spent some time reading before dinner, making her way through Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles for the fourth or fifth time in her life.
After six that evening, Gloria fixed herself a simple dinner of a baked potato and small spinach salad with bacon dressing. She poured a glass of her favorite Moscato D’Asti and settled at the kitchen table to eat.
She wondered how Lori’s date was going and began to dwell on how woefully under-dated she was. Gloria hadn’t been on a date in almost a year. There had been an occasional evening of beneficial friendship with a former co-worker from another company she had worked for, but it wasn’t going to go anywhere serious.
A little after seven, Gloria’s phone rang. It was Lori.
“Hey, Lori,” she said, confused. “I didn’t think I’d hear from you until at least midnight.”
Lori laughed bitterly. “Man he was an asshole,” she began. “He took me to the Top of the Five for starters.”
“Swanky,” was Gloria’s reply.
“Yeah, so then the check comes and what does he say? He says to the waitress, ‘Oh, can you split this please?’.”Lori snorted derisively.
“Wow. He could have said something at the beginning so you’d know what you were in for.”
“No shit. And he could have told me before he decided on his own where we were having dinner. So anyway we pay our bills and head out to the Avenue. We go to that little trail by the river that leads to the train bridge.”
Gloria made noises to let her friend know she was listening.
“Then he pulls out his phone while we’re walking and starts texting someone. Who the hell texts on a first date, anyway? I ask you.” Lori let out an exasperated sigh. “After we get to the train bridge we’re sitting there and he puts his hand on my boob.”
Gloria sat up straight. “He what? On a first date? What the hell?” She was horrified at the thought of some animal pawing at her friend like that.
“I know, right?! So I push his hand away and ask him what the hell he thinks he’s doing and he comes back with this line about how he took me to a nice restaurant so he thinks I owe him something. I said no, of course. I don’t do that on a first date.”
“You’re a good girl, Lori.”
“He got a little bit pushy then, kept trying to get me to kiss him and whatever. The last straw was when he tried to slide his hand up my skirt.”
“You punched him right?”
“Better. I pushed him into the river.”
Gloria let out a riotous laugh. “Good girl.”
“Maybe the cold water cooled him down some. Thank goodness he doesn’t know where I live. I had him pick me up somewhere else.”
“Sounds like an interesting evening. It’s tales of woe like this one that makes me slightly glad I”m single. Who set you up with that bozo anyway?” Gloria asked.
“DeAnna Smithers. You remember her? From one of those parties that D’Arique throws. I met her a few months back and she was telling me about this guy. So I finally decide to go for it. I think blind dating is overrated. I probably won’t do it again,” Lori said in a bored voice. Then she perked up. “Have you gone through the box any more?”
“No. I’ve been reading and stuffing my face,” Gloria replied. “I am itching to get another look at it and see what else is in there, though, so after we get off the phone I might go through it some more.
The two girls rung off and promised to talk in the morning.
After washing her dinner dishes, Gloria went back to the wooden box and pulled out some more baggies of photographs. The first bag of photos she pulled out were shots of people inside what appeared to be a shopping mall. The photos were all of the same three people in various poses. One showed them around a fountain, which no longer existed to Gloria’s recollection. The fountain, which had taken up a central spot at the main entrance at one end of the mall had been torn out when she was in college, and replaced by a huge planter full of greenery, surrounded by benches.
Another photograph was of the three teens outside one of the main entrances. The third showed them coming down an escalator, with large sunglasses, looking for all the world like a group of young movie stars. The final photo was a tightly huddled group, with a fourth person, presumably the photographer of the other three photos. She was holding the camera at arms length, pointing it at the four of them, three still wearing their movie star glasses. All smiling.
Checking the clock on the dining room wall, she realized it was after nine in the evening. She reluctantly put everything back where it belonged except for the obituary and the diary, and tucked it all back into the wooden box, which had by this time dried out and was no longer such a muddy, wet mess. Gloria wrapped a fresh dry towel around it anyway, and left it on the coffee table. She put the dirty towels into the laundry hamper at the back of the house and switched her wet laundry to the drier so it wouldn’t sour over night.
Gloria tucked the diary and the obit into her purse so she could take them to work the next day. Couldn’t hurt to do a little reading and research during her down time. She had decided that she was going to take Lori’s advice and try to track down the original owner of the box. It would be like her own little adventure. Gloria could tell that the teak box had once been very lovely and was curious about the teenager who would bury such a beautiful thing. Why not use a Folger’s can or a cheap box from Woolworth’s? Why this one? Why these photos? Of course, she was still concerned about the bullet and what it meant in the context of the rest of the box. She hoped that mystery would clear itself up in the course of things.
After getting ready for bed, Gloria sat up crocheting for a little while to relax herself. She discovered years ago that meditation and crochet were extraordinary relaxation methods and she often did one or the other when she was stressed or needed to unwind. Soon after ten, Gloria turned out her bedside lamp and went to sleep, wondering where the mysteries of the little teak box would lead her.