My feather touch stilled the spinning ballerina. Dulcet tones ground to a low chirrup as I closed the lid. Playing the music box always put my daughter right to sleep. Nothing else worked as well.

Except she no longer rested her sweet head in this bed. The canopied top fluttered gaily in the spring breeze. I washed all the bedclothes just the day before, careful to clean out the dust while preserving the pastel unicorns and rainbows.

Tears burned my eyes. Why was she taken from me?

Us, I mentally corrected.

I still didn’t know whether to blame fate or some higher power. There always seemed plenty of time to sort out my adult faith before I tried to instill any sort of beliefs in our little girl. Some sort of church waited for that future agenda.

Kat, poor baby, you never even got to attend Sunday School, let alone do all those other things we planned for you.

“Sarah, I’m home. Where are you?”

I froze, debating what excuse to use. Chester already strode down the hall. I jerked my hand from the music box and began brushing imaginary dust off the shelf.

“Sarah? Sarah, she’s gone, babe. When are you going to accept that?”

Never. “I’m sorry it’s taking me so much time, Ches.”

“Don’t apologize. Although you must admit it would help if we cleared out all this stuff.”

Imagining he really wanted to say “junk”, I bristled. My vehemence sent my long hair flying about my face.

“You have to move on,” he crooned, gesturing to the shelf now supporting my balance. “We should start with this thing. Some needy little girl would love to own something like her music box. It’s the way Kat would have wanted it, I’m sure.”

Our fingers met on the pink and cream colored wood. I moved to pull Kat’s birthday gift protectively toward my chest. I didn’t want to give it up.

Unfortunately, Chester’s grip didn’t relent as expected. Neither of us won our sudden tug-of-war. Instead, my stubbornness sent the little case spinning.

My left hand shot out but my attempt backfired and I smacked the falling ojbect away. Instead of bouncing harmlessly across the carpet, Kat’s beloved music box struck the wall.

Crack!

I think I moaned – a guttural sound. Several pieces rattled along the plaster and baseboard.

End over end, the helpless ballerina flew. I, in turn, flew out of the room, my husband’s cry of apology not stopping me. Meaningless words, an expletive, and my drawn-out name followed me through the house. I scooped my purse from the end table and tore through the front door, my feet pounding down the concrete steps.

What am I doing? The music box is just a thing. My eyes blurred. But she loved it.

I reached my car and nearly bruised myself against the side, momentum and adrenalin pushing me forward. My hand felt numb as I fished for my keys. I stabbed the one for the sedan into the driver’s side door lock. It somehow seemed faster than finding the right button on the fob.

Chester reached the swinging screen door. Sad eyes pleaded with me to stay.

The engine roared to life. Barely checking for oncoming traffic, I roared into the street and drove away.

Eventually I got somewhat lost, knowing that I’d find my way if only my head would quit pounding so I could think. A convenient parking lot offered a place to stop and get my bearings, to calm down.

“Kat’s Attic”, the sign proclaimed. I shut off the engine and got out, clinging to my handbag.

What the heck.

I began wandering the aisles, breathing in a scent that reminded me of my late mother’s childhood home. My frugal but doting grandparents forever kept their same furnishings and trinkets. Some of what I saw would have fit in perfectly. Mom would have liked this, though not as much as she would have loved being a grandmother, herself.

Determinedly I swallowed back that old sorrow and inhaled the aroma of aged wood. I detected a touch of mustiness, without the cloying choke of real rot, and it took me back to playing in the basement at my grandfather’s side while he puttered in his workshop.

Then I saw the item least expected. Lifting the lid, I watched the tiny dancer spin on her toe.

“That just came in today,” an unfamiliar voice proclaimed. “I bought out an estate sale from the weekend. There’s a nice set of jewelry from it if you’re interested. The lady must have had the box as an adult, oddly.”

I jerked my head around and beheld a kindly face. “I’m just looking, really. I suppose these music boxes aren’t that uncommon but it’s exactly like one my daughter… my husband and I… have… had… at home.”

For a moment the lady, presumably Kat, looked speechless. I wanted to slip through the cracks in the floor. Finally, she spoke.

“There’s an inscription if you turn it over, though I don’t know why I’m telling you that. The words couldn’t mean anything to you. I’m not even sure what they mean, exactly, though they sound tragic. Anyway, I’m Kat if you need anything.”

I turned the box over and read.

Dear Sarah, always remember that God keeps close the little children. Love, Momma, Grandma, and Grandpa

Ten dollars bought the music box. The priceless message brought peace of mind. Chester and I cleaned out Kat’s bedroom that weekend, keeping certain things and donating those useful to charity.

The little ballerina stayed on the shelf ever since, even as we brought in a crib for Kat’s new baby sister. I only wish they could have met.

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