She will be 25 years old tomorrow. Staring in the bathroom mirror in disbelief, she runs her hands through her damp hair, then over her freshly washed face. She checks her forehead for age lines and her eyes for youthfulness. She inhales then exhales very slowly. She opens the cabinet to remove her purple toothbrush and coconut toothpaste. After brushing, she runs her tongue over her clean teeth. She rinses her mouth and places the items back on the cabinet shelf. A low sigh is released as she takes one last look at herself before heading to her bedroom.
The coolness of the wooden floor reminds her to buy a new pair of slippers because she wore her last pair until they literally fell apart while she walking through the kitchen. Her room is brightly lit by huge bay windows, that span the entire wall of her room, which invites in the slowly setting sun. The windows are cracked enough to allow a breeze to push through the room. She’s relaxed by a slow burning inscent.
Her apartment buzzer startles her. She hustles to her front door and presses a button.
“Yes?” Questioning the small speaker.
“I have a package here for 718. You want me to bring it up or leave it?” The delivery man inquires.
“Could you bring it up, please?” Asking politely. She presses the buzzer to allow him access.
Thinking what it could be and who it could be from? Figuring it’s a gift of some sort because she’s consciously been refraining from online shopping. A short moment later, there’s a knock at the door. Only then realizing she’s still only wearing a towel. Bashfulness takes over. She wants to rush and change but doesn’t want to hold him up from his next delivery. Hiding behind the door as she cracks it open.
“Sorry, I just got out of the shower.” Her face is flushed and the delivery guy blushes.
“It’s, uh, no problem. I’ll, um, just leave it here.” He looks to the floor while placing the package and backup to her, avoiding eye contact.
“I appreciate you bringing it up here.” Giving him a soft smile.
“Have a nice day.” Anxiety has reaching its max as he hustles to the elevator.
As soon as she hears the elevator door close, she’s in the clear to bend over and pick it up. The package is light and smaller in size. Maybe 12x12x8 and 3 pounds, she guesses. She gives it a little shake but nothing moves.
*Bing* Her phone chimes. She sets the package down on the coffee table and heads back to her bedroom. She picks up her phone and glides her password across the screen.
Excited for tonight. We will all be there around 730ish. Uncle is bringing his girlfriend so mind your manners. I love you. See you soon.
From Momma Dukes. The ‘mind your manners’ part makes her giggle. Last time Uncle brought a girlfriend, she made sure Uncle would become single again. That was her uncle and that was that. It’s been years since the scolding of said old girlfriend but they have never let her live it down.
She pushes through her hangers looking for her favorite slip dresses. Tonight’s her birthday dinner with her family. Family time is always exciting. Especially in this case. Her granddad with be there. She hasn’t seen him since she graduated to become a medic. She can’t wait to tell him the things she was able to accomplish with the $20,000 check he gave her as a graduation present. She reminisces:
“Twenty thousand dollars?” She looked at the check again, granddad nods yes. “But grandpa…” Concern in her voice.
“No buts. I promised you a surprise when you graduate. And you did, with honors at that!” Granddads eyes and smile proved his proud moment.
She begins to cry, “Grandpa”, with a trembling tone full of gratitude.
“You are my one and only grandbaby and I am proud!” Granddads approval and acceptance is held at its highest regard. She goes in for a hug and does so tenderly and tight.
She stares at a picture from that day which includes herself, Granddad, Dad, Mom and Uncle. All smiles and all happy. Genuine happiness. Not the forced smile because someone yelled ‘smile’ right before they took the picture. A happiness that stemmed from hard work and perseverance. Grit is what granddad called their resiliency. Each had their own struggles but together as a family, they always got through them.
She finishes getting ready by blow-drying her hair, putting a little eyeshadow that matches her light purple dress, some mascara and some light brown lip-gloss to match her eyes. She got a manicure the day before and her toes have matching white polish. With it being summer, she grabs a shall to wrap around her bare shoulders. She gathers her phone, keys, ID, debit and credit cards, lip-gloss and places them all in a small hand purse.
She stares at her mystery box as she walks out of the door.
Everyone that was in the picture, is at the restaurant, plus one. They all greet one another as they arrive. ‘Hello!’s and ‘How are you?’s are exchange. Once they all have gathered, they settle into their chairs. She sits next to her beloved grandad.
“I miss you grandpa.” She grips his hand.
“Ditto!” Granddad says with much admiration. “So, tell me, what use did you make of your graduation present.”
“Well, I paid off the rest of my car, got a better apartment, put some towards my loans and went on a vacay with a few friends. I also donated some to veterans and homeless charities. I purchased a few stocks and the rest is in my saving.” She grins back at granddad’s smirk.
“So, you do listen to an old farts advice?” Granddad gives a wink.
The family conversation continues and although she’s present, her mind is on the box.
“I’m sorry. What?” She questions when she realizes her uncle is talking to her.
“I’m happy for you to finally meet my girlfriend. It’s been almost 2 years.” The girlfriend smiles to her looking for acceptance.
Looking to the girlfriend, “No worries. I won’t ask you a million intrusive questions then tell you that you shouldn’t be having sex with my uncle because you aren’t married. Don’t say a word dad!” Pointing aggressively towards him. They all are laughing as their food is being brought to the table.
Conversations had through their chewing. Glasses are raised to toasts. Love is exchanged through goodbye hugs and goodnight kisses. She is thankful for the heat in her car due to the chill in the late summer night.
Excitement passes through her as she makes it to her door. The box is calling her from within. She exchanges her purse for the box. Using a key, she scores the tape and opens the box. She works through the abundance of packing paper to find a Little Black Book.
The cover is flat black with a few finger prints slid across the surface. No title. No author. Just black and smooth to the touch. She tries to open the book with no luck. There’s no lock, it’s not sealed and doesn’t seemed glued shut. Noticing an oval shape pushing outward on the spine of this mysterious black book, she slowly traces her index finger over it. This is the key. The book releases its grip to itself.
Turning the book upright, the inside cover instructs, ‘READ IMMEDIATELY’.
This Little Black Book is your book of past lives. For you are the only owner, only writer and only reader. It exists to no other. From the beginning of documented time, you’ve been blessed and cursed with obligation. An obligation to decide your next life’s fate. Note that when you touch a signature from the past, you’ll be overrun with memories from that lifetime.
The blessing is that you’ll live many lives, in many places, throughout many centuries. Your curse, you’ll become aware sooner than later.
Your night will linger until you make your decision. You are advised, by yourself, to look over some of your past lives before concluding your answer.
You must choose your next place of origin, for only then will you be reborn again.
Once you’ve decided, using the empty page after this letter, write where you’ll be reborn. Then sign your current name under your answer.
Repackage this Little Black Book and simply send it with your current mail carrier. No worries, the book will always find its way back to you before your 25th birthday.
Although slightly confused, she’s filled with excitement. She’s always up for an adventure. She turns the page and as promised, it’s blank. Weary before she continues to flip more pages, she stares at the blank page wondering if she has to write on this last blank page, will this be her last entry? Afraid to make her final life’s path, she closes the book and sets the Little Black Book down.
She has always had a sense of being older. Wiser then most. An old soul. She removes herself from the gaze of the book and gets ready for bed. Leaving her decision for another day. She looks out of her window in search for the moon. Feeling the chill in her room, she closes her window and lays down under her comforter. Searching for sleep, she tosses and turns. She swears she’s been laying there for hours but only minutes have passed.
Feeling antsy, she returns to her living area to find out who she was in the past. Each page she flips past, has a different handwriting and some in other languages. Some pages seem to be of different texture. Her many names include Elatha, Ada, Vesta, Alcina, Circe, Medea, Striga, Zyra…
She traces over a signature that reads, Jesma. A plethora of memories flash through her mind like a movie in fast forward. A Swedish settler in America, no more than 100 years ago. Eagerness to know more, guides her to the middle of the book. She was Anatolian and known as Piha-wiya, a priestess of high regard.
As she flipped through the pages and invited more information in, she gained more understanding of how this Little Black Book came about and the great significance of it. The opening letter always adapting to the most recent form of herself. Awaiting to be inherited again.
The last page is hieroglyphic. She traces her finger over the hieroglyphs. Neithhotep, Egyptian royalty. During this lifetime, her first lifetime, she lived it so virtuious that when she met the god Osiris to enter the afterlife, she was granted the gift of eternal life. To be reborn indefinitely, is the ultimate blessing.
Her history is rich and full of diversity. Where does she want to go next? Who will she be? What kind of life? With whom?
Only 20 minutes have passed…
After much thought, she finds a pen and writes Latin America and signs her name, Nyx. As soon as her decision is recorded, the Little Black Book immediately closes. Resealing itself to protect the past, for the future.
Waking up to ‘Happy Birthday’ messages, she feels like last night was a dream. Reality is evident when she heads out for the day and the book is insistent on being repackaged. She complies and leaves her apartment with it in hand. Conveniently there’s a mailbox outside of her building. As she puts the package in the bin, she then realizes that there was not one memory of her old.
She looks to her phone to answer a video chat and stumbles off the curb. As she catches herself, she’s tragically hit by a vehicle. Her body and belongings go separate ways. In that moment, her last breath in this lifetime is taken. The curse…
Inside the mailbox, the Little Black Book creates a new blank page.
About the author
I try to write what my mind tells me to, but sometimes my heart gets in the way...