Boxes. There were boxes everywhere in the dusty attic. Boxes of things she was holding on to, mostly. One box marked “Hopes,” and another “Dreams,” yet another “You and Me,” and another “Who I used to be.” Way over in the corner there was one that was labeled “Prayers,” and a small dark ragged box at the very top marked “Secrets.” She always meant to go through them. In fact, the thought crossed her mind quite often, but she always made up excuses as to why she couldn’t: She was too tired, too busy, or it was too overwhelming. Afraid of beginning because she honestly didn’t know where she’d end up. The plans she had made with him seemed so big. Too big.
She remembered back to when she was seventeen. I used to have dreams, she thought to herself. But I was afraid if I told too many people, someone would either take my dream or worse off crush it.
She felt like she was just dragging herself through her days, suffocating. She was buried in secrets and darkness and complacency. I didn’t know who he was when we were together. She thought has she unpacked the box labeled “you and me”. He told me I had to keep his secrets because if I didn’t he would get in trouble. she thought tearing into the box marked “secrets.” How could I have been so naive? I guess this is what they mean when they talk of being blinded by love.
Remembering that time, that dream and that person who she was before him, almost felt like she was remembering a stranger. I was happy before I met him she said to herself. Maybe one day I’ll be happy again.
But something about today was different, the snow was falling but the sun was out. It looked like sparkling diamonds were falling from the sky. The snow always gave her courage as it extended its hand and with it a promise of a second chance.
One box at a time she unpacked, making piles of things to keep, throw away and give away. The pile of things to throw away was the largest. Strange, she thought. At the bottom of one box, she saw an old wind chime she had saved from her grandmother’s back porch before the developers came. She recalled that lovely and innocent time as a child when she listened to the wind chimes. I loved wind chimes, she remembered sadly. But she couldn’t even remember the last time she heard them. She took the unusually large pile to the dumpster, said a prayer for all of the remains and walked away.
She had this strange feeling something was following her but she looked around and didn’t see anything. But still, she felt a presence. She chalked it up to being outside in the cold too long and went inside. As she sat inside in front of the fire, scrolling through her facebook feed and warming up, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t alone.
She heard a knock at the door and answered it. He introduced himself and asked if he could come in. She opened the door as her cat ran and hid under the bed. Stranger danger, she thought regretting her choice to open the door immediately. He sat there quietly on the couch, unbuttoning his oversized pea coat and untying his red plaid scarf.
“Would you like some coffee?” she offered reluctantly.
He gratefully accepted the coffee and he used it to warm his chapped weathered hands. They sat in silence for quite some time. She could tell he wanted to tell her something or maybe ask her something. Finally, he cleared his throat and explained the reason for his visit.
“I saw you throwing away all of those things back there. I watched you as you drug all that stuff down the driveway to the trash can. As you descended down the driveway, you were heavy laden as though something was weighing you down.
“Well, I was carrying a massive amount of garbage!” she exclaimed somewhat sarcastically, unsure of where he was going with this.
He gave her a look that said have patience and continued. “Then I watched you walk home with this spring in your step. I think…. perhaps… I think…. “ He stuttered. “I believe my friend Freedom may have followed you home.”
Remembering the feeling that something was following her, she looked around for this “Freedom” of which he spoke. “There’s no one here but me and my cat. You can look around, but you probably won’t see him.”
“Will you trust me?” he asked “Will you trust me and come with me?” Although everything in her was so very scared to do this, something about him made her choose to trust and she said she would go. She put on her wool coat and yellow knit mittens and let him lead her down this windy backcountry road. The snow was simply beautiful and fell silently as they walked together.
“When you make it to the finish line,” he told her, “you’ll hate what you lost, but love what you find. When you are startled to hear the sound of your own beating heart, wait a minute or two and remember just how far you’ve come.”
Admiring his running metaphor, she replied, “I’m caught somewhere between living and survival. I want to start over. I’m just not sure how or where to start. Everything we had was built on lies. I thought we had this incredibly strong foundation, but as soon as I found out the truth, the foundation crumbled and so did my very existence.”
“So you took everything that crumbled and put it in boxes,” he said slowly, reaffirming what she said. “Oh! There he is!” he exclaimed suddenly, pointing at Freedom. Freedom was covered in snow from the many snow angels he had been making. Each snow angel carried the label that the boxes had.
“Now all of the secrets are no longer secrets and they are free to fly away just like these snow angels,” Freedom said pointing and brimming with pride at his accomplishment.
At the end of their journey, the man asked her if she would mind if his old friend stayed with her for a while, “He’s loud and crazy and takes up a lot of room!” he told her, “But I promise, just let him stay for a few days and you won’t even notice he’s here anymore.”
So as the girl and her new found houseguest opened the door and the man stepped outside to leave, she realized she could hear them again. She could hear the wind chimes that she loved so much and they were playing this beautiful melody that sounded so very vaguely familiar.
Seeing the puzzled look on her face, he said, “My friend here carries that around with him. I hope that’s ok.”
“It’s perfectly lovely,” she said smiling, filling with gratitude.
“Will you come back and visit again?” she asked the man. “I’ve grown quite close to you in our short amount of time we’ve shared together. And I’ve given you something I haven’t given anyone in a very long time. I’ve given you my friend Trust, and I’d like to see him and you again soon”
With a welcoming smile he said, “Of course I will, sweetheart. After all, you have my old friend staying with you. I’ll need to pay him a visit now and again. I miss him if he’s gone too long and besides your Trust and my Freedom seem to be getting rather close themselves,” he said eyeing the two playing scrabble at the kitchen table. “I’ll be back tomorrow, my dear. I promise.”
With that, she showed her new friend around, tucked Freedom and Trust in for the night, said a prayer and fell asleep to the familiar and comforting sound of wind chimes.