Saturday, the day of Aunt Guinevere’s funeral
I just sat there, staring mindlessly at the now ajar door for a little longer before pulling myself up. I stepped to the door and put my hand on the knob. Then I stopped, suddenly wondering if I really wanted to know. My hand dropped back to my side.
All week I had wanted to know. Now the chance was here, but I wasn’t taking it. Why? Aunt Guinevere said I would know when she was ready to let me know. Well, she’s dead now and the door is open. Does that mean she’s ready for me to know?
How did the door open? Did Aunt Guinevere open it before she died? Or did she instruct Mom to open it before she died?
Either way, I felt sure Aunt Guinevere was ready to let me know.
My hand rose and clasped the doorknob again. I gently pushed the door open and looked around, stunned.
I entered the room.
It was a little girl’s room. A white, four post bed with pale pink sheets and quilt complete with several pillows of various shades of pink was under the window with the lavender curtains. A pale rose dresser with pale rose lace on top sat next to the bed at the head. A hairbrush and several hair clips lay on top. The mirror was clean and I could see myself clearly reflected. An oak desk with a neat pile of children’s books sat in the corner with a Windsor chair, which was draped with a shawl of pale rose. The closet was next to the desk and was open on one side. I could see several stuffed animals on the top two shelves and holiday dresses hung underneath with several pairs of party shoes in two neat rows on the wood floor. Two small bookcases sat against the remaining wall space. They were filled with books of all kinds. On top sat dolls from Russia, India, and China; a cuckoo clock from Germany; a miniature Eiffel Tower from France; and an open photo album with pictures from all across Europe and Africa. The floor was oak and a rug in the shape of a rose, the color of pale rose, lay in the center of the room. On the rug was a small table topped with a porcelain tea set with a rose design in sky blue, lavender, and pale rose. Two more Windsor chairs sat opposite each other, one was filled with a large, fuzzy, light brown bear with a Christmas bow tied around its neck. The walls were pale rose and framed photos from South America, Mexico, Australia, and the U.S. hung around the room in a straight ring.
I stepped further into the room and slowly turned in a circle, drinking everything in. It was a beautiful room and I wondered to whom it had belonged to.
Then I saw a leather bound book lying on the bed. I walked over to the bed and sat down. I picked up the book and found a pale rose ribbon between two pages towards the back of the book.
I opened it to where it was marked. In Aunt Guinevere’s elegant script was written:
Today’s your eighth birthday. You would have looked so beautiful in your new dress. All your friends from school were coming to celebrate your birth, instead they came for your funeral. It’s been over a week since you died, but your father and I still can’t believe you’re really gone. You were so young and so vibrant, it’s unfair that you should be taken from us. Aunt Alice and Uncle Arthur decided to name their coming daughter Miriam, after you, dear. That’s right! Aunt Alice is going to have a little girl. She would have been your cousin and you two would play in our gardens in the summer and watch the snow and play games in the winter. I’m so sorry, my love. I can’t go on like this. This is the last entry, in which I saw goodbye at last. So, farewell, my dearest.
I gently closed the book and stood with it clasped in my hands. I just had to ask Mom who the little girl had been.
I found Mom and Jules in the kitchen. They were sitting at the cherry wood table across from each other. Mom had a full cup of tea between her hands and Jules held a half-full cup of coffee. They said nothing.
“Mom?” I asked.
She looked up at me, startled. Then she gestured for me to sit next to her. I did so and slid the book to her. She gasped and jumped in her seat. Her cup tipped over and the tea spilled out. Jules jumped up and grabbed a towel to wipe it up. Mom only stared down at the book before her.
“Who was she?” I asked gently.
“This is the diary your aunt kept for her daughter,” Mom whispered. “Ashley Miriam. Ashley Miriam Rose Mason. She was the pride and joy of Guinevere and Geoffrey. Ashley was such a beautiful and sweet child, so full of life and delighted at everything. Her favorite color was pale rose. She died a few weeks before her eighth birthday. She was hit by a drunk driver and your aunt and uncle were devastated. She died a week before you were born, Miriam, and your father and I decided to name you after her. You’re so much like her. You reminded Guinevere so much of her little girl that she loved you as her own. After Ashley died, Guinevere and Geoffrey locked her room, the room that was locked until today. Only Guinevere entered, but only to keep it clean. She went in once a week at night. Miriam, I’m sure Guinevere would have wanted you to have the diary.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, reaching over to take the book.
“Yes. Guinevere handed me the key the night she died. I was the last to see her and she pressed the key into my hand. She told me to unlock the door, but not to enter. She said there was something for you. She told me to open the door the morning of her funeral. She was ready to let you know because she would be with her husband and daughter by then. I’m sure she meant the diary, Miriam. It’s yours.”
I clasped the book tightly in my hands and whispered, “Thank you, Aunt Guinevere.”