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Do You Remember When?

AmandaEve Slattery

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"I can't believe he's gone."

Dad broke the silence as mom sat staring off into space. Aspen's legs were shaking restlessly over the edge of the tapestry armchair. My pencil snaked around my notebook, casually drawing dragons.

"Yeah," agreed my brother. "It's weird to be in this house without him and grandma here too. What's going to happen to this old place, anyway?"

"Now Aspen," my dad began, "it's a little early to be talking about that just yet. Besides, we'll need to read the will first to know what his intentions were."

"We should just sell it," I tossed out.

"Sell it?" My mom's head whipped around to face me. "How can you even think of selling it?"

I shrugged. "Why not? None of us need it. We all live and work in other towns. It makes more sense to sell it and divide the profits."

"Well, maybe your father and I will sell our place and move in here," mom considered. She looked back at the yarn and knitting needles resting in her hands and decided to just put them away.

"There's plenty of time to decide all of that," my dad said soothingly. "Let's just get through the funeral this weekend and then we can figure out the details one step at time."

My mom sighed as she tucked the yarn into her bag. "I know it probably makes sense to sell, but it will be hard to say goodbye to this place, you know? There are so many memories here. Did you know, Aspen, this was where you took your first steps? And Phoebe, you lost your first tooth here."

"Yeah, I remember it coming out while I was eating ice cream. That tooth was so loose. It was definitely ready to come out if I lost it in ice cream!"

"Grandma always said yes whenever we asked for money to get something from the ice cream truck," Aspen laughed. "And then grandpa would spray us down with the hose. He always figured if it was hot enough to eat ice cream outside, then we needed to cool off with the hose too."

"He did that when I was a girl too," mom reminisced. "He worked so much all the time. He didn't play with us very often, but when he did, he always had a twinkle in his eye. He sure loved a good water fight."

"I remember him running around the corner of the house with buckets of water filled to the brim, tossing the water at us and giggling like crazy."

"What are you sketching?" Dad asked me. I looked down at the dragons in my black moleskine notebook. I usually sketched in larger books when I planned to draw, but I always had a little black book tucked into my bag so I could sketch whenever I wanted to.

"Nothing really," I replied. "Just something to pass the time."

"I remember grandpa reading stories to us in here late at night," Aspen looked around. "Remember Phoebe?"

"Yeah," I mused. "We would curl up with blankets on the chairs and he would read from behind the desk. He always had a pipe lit whenever he read to us."

"And a double-malt whiskey," Aspen added.

Mom smiled gently. "That was always his nightcap of choice."

"He always offered one to me too," dad said, "but I never could get used to the stuff."

No one said anything in response. We sat awkwardly for a while with just the sound of my pencil scratching in my notebook and a dog barking across the street floating through the open window.

"We should eat something," Mom interrupted the silence. "I'll go see what's in the fridge." As soon as she stood up to leave the room, the phone rang.

"Don't worry about it," Dad volunteered. "I'll get it, Janice. You can see about the food." Mom nodded, her body looked tired and was slouched over even though she was standing.

Aspen stood up too and made to move over closer to me. As he walked by grandpa's desk, his gangly arm knocked into the old globe sitting on the edge.

The globe fell forwards and hit the ground before we could stop it. The fragile cardboard seams gave way immediately, revealing a mountain of cash. From the looks of it, they were all one hundred-dollar bills.

"Whoa, that's a lot of cash! How much do you figure is here? Thousands, I'd bet." I stooped down to count the scattered bills.

"Didn't you ever wonder what he meant when he said, 'There's always money in the world'?" Aspen inquired.

"I mean, I thought he just meant that people will always use money, like you know, somewhere. Wait -" I looked at him sideways, "you knew?"

Aspen shrugged. "He gave me money from there sometimes for special treats. Always said it was our little secret. I figured everyone was in on it though."

I could feel my eyes flashing darkly. "Guess he had lots of little secrets then."

"What do you mean?"

"Come, on, as if you don't know?"

"I guess he probably did have lots of secrets," Aspen reflected, "but I'm not sure what you're talking about."

"Why do you think I never liked staying here by myself? Why do you think I always tried to have you here with me?"

"God, Phoebe, I never really thought about it. But yeah, I do remember you whining about staying here overnight on your own. Wait - no, he didn't?"

"Yeah. He did."

"The bastard." He whistled low and long. "Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"Oh please. Like anyone would have believed me. Like anything would have changed."

"You never know…" he trailed off.

"Yeah, I do. Mom and Dad never believed me about anything. They would have just said I was upset, and it was a cry for attention. There's no way they would have believed that this 'perfect' man could be a… a…"

"Predator? pedophile? abuser? Fuck, it makes me sick thinking about it. I'm so sorry Phoebe. I never knew."

"Not your fault." I said as I finished counting the money on the floor.

"Yeah, I know, but all the same."

"Twenty thousand," I said.

"What?"

"Twenty fucking thousand dollars just sitting in the globe." I took the piles of the money I had just counted and put them on the desk.

Aspen's eyes trailed away and scanned the walls. Struck with an idea, he stood up suddenly. "Hey, do you think there's money hidden in anything else in here?"

"What are you suggesting? Breaking stuff randomly to see if there's more money? Classy."

"I suspect a solid whack at some of this old stuff would do you good." Aspen walked over to the door, picked up grandpa's cane that was leaning against the doorframe and handed it to me. "I will if you will," he winked at me.

I hesitated then reached a hand forward to take the cane. Memories flooded my ears, hearing the cane thump up the stairs to the bedrooms slowly, one stair at a time. What an asshole.

I saw a music box with a ballet dancer poised on top. "That one," I pointed. "That one is first."

"Here's for all of the times you called me your little china dancer," I muttered. I swung the cane and smashed it down hard, scattering bits of china on the carpet. It felt oddly satisfying.

"Damn, Phoebes. I didn't think you would actually do it. What's next?"

But I didn't bother to reply. I was already swinging the cane left and right and left again. Hitting anything in my path. Ashtrays, figurines, clocks, books. It turns out, there wasn't a lot of breakable stuff in grandpa's study but hitting it still felt good. As the floor lamp crashed to the ground behind me, mom and dad came rushing to the doorway. Yeah, sure, now they were concerned. My dad took one look at the scene and his eyes widened.

"What's going on in here?" My mom shrieked, rushing forward to take the cane away from me.

I didn't answer. I didn't know what to say. Instead, I turned to Aspen and said. "I need a drink. Are you coming with me?"

"Right behind you, sis." He scooped up most of the cash from the desk and stuffed it into my bag right before I picked it up. Then he grabbed the rest and shoved it in his pockets as he followed me to the door.

"Are we going to talk about this, dear?" My mom stood bewildered in the middle of grandpa's dishevelled study.

"Maybe later?" My brother called back, racing to keep up with me as I stormed down the sidewalk, my right hand showing off my middle finger for the whole street to see. I didn't care. Something inside of me had snapped when that globe broke. Grandpa was gone now, and I didn't need to pretend anymore.

Memory eternal and good riddance.

grief
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AmandaEve Slattery
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