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Gillian turned the latch and pulled an inch at a time. Grandma’s attic always made the hair on her arms stand up. When a creak called out, she froze, then opened the door just enough to slip through. With her hand along the frame, she pulled the handle making sure she heard the click of the latch on the strike plate.
The dilapidated stairs moaned as she moved up. She knelt in front of the trunk and brushed her hand along the top of the box causing particles to lift in the air. The light poking through the small window in the corner made the dust look like it was dancing. Gillian slid her hand down the face of the box.
Moving slowly, she fiddled with the clasp. It popped open and clanged against the old metal. She lifted the lid and reached inside. Her hand struck a solid object. With heart beating hard, her breathing came faster and shakier. She pulled her hand back, placed it in her lap, and rocked back on her heels.
“Life is not what I thought it would be. But God, You’ve brought me so far. Thank You.”
Gillian pulled out the framed picture. She wiped tears from her eyes and clutched the precious memento.
Suddenly, she heard the creak of the attic door. She moved to put the portrait away.
“You don’t have to stop,” her brother’s voice drifted across the distance. “I thought I heard someone up here.”
“Hey, I was just … just …”
“It’s OK if you want to be up here alone. I can leave.”
“No … wait, Cole. Maybe it would be … well, ...”
“Did you find it?”
“Yes. I made Grandma put it away.”
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Cole, now kneeling beside Gillian, rubbed his hand up and down her back. Cole and Gillian had been close growing up, but after their parents were killed in an accident that injured Gillian and killed her husband, she’d tried to push her brother away. Through the grief, he stayed close.
“I am,” Gillian took in a ragged breath. “Cole…I’m sorry … for everything. Thank you for being there. I’m sorry it took so long to say that.”
“Hey, I’m always here for you.” He leaned his strong frame against her slight one. Other than the same eye color, this set of twins looked anything but alike.
“Thanks for helping me realize their deaths weren’t my fault. You let me scream and cry, but you wouldn’t let me run too far.”
“You can’t outrun God and He’s the One who brought the healing.”
“Yes, but He used you to help the process.”
Together they looked at the picture of her wedding picture from five years ago.
Gillian wiped her hand across her face. “I never thought …”
“I know. None of us thought you’d make it, but look at you now.”
“Yes, I’m a bit of a mess, aren’t I?” She chuckled as she leaned against her brother.
“You’re a beautiful mess though. I thought I’d lost you.” Cole choked down a sob. “The accident …”
“I don’t remember. I … we lost so much.” Gillian took in a deep breath and rubbed her finger over her husband’s face. “Now, it’s just you and me … and Grandma.”
“And now Justin. He’s a great guy.”
“I know. Not many men would have wanted to pursue someone who looks like I do now especially compare d to then.” She nodded her head at the picture.
Cole put his hand on her shoulder and turned her so they were facing each other. “Listen to me. You are one of the most beautiful, strong women I know.”
“I don’t feel so pretty anymore.”
“That’s because you’re still seeing what you think you lost. Justin and I know better. We know who and what you are. Your beauty shines through in your smile—”
“My now lopsided smile thanks to the accident.”
“So what. Still beautiful. Your warmth comes through how you look at others.”
“I want others to feel cared for no matter what they’ve gone through.”
“Which makes you even more attractive. Now, come on. Let’s go get some breakfast. Seems to me it’s getting close to time to get ready for your wedding.” He hugged his twin. “Ready?”
“Yes. I’m ready to say good-bye to what was and embrace what’s ahead.” Gillian put the picture back into the trunk and closed the lid. “Let’s go.”
Photo by: Kevin Noble on Unsplash