We all have one: an attic, a basement, a closet—a place in the twilight, the recesses of our world, a place that is not quite with us, somewhere to keep the stuff we no longer need but can't quite let go of, treasures we'd forgotten, memories.
I don't know what changed my mind. Maybe just wanting to do it right for a change.
* * * * *
If I was going to really help, I needed to do a little detective work. I decided to start by talking to Ann the next morning, but I couldn't find her anywhere. The car was in the parking lot, but no one had seen her at the restaurant, and I couldn't find her at the house.
I decided to take a walk down the beach, in case she had done the same. I pulled on a pair of trunks, and was on my way out of the house when I noticed a door standing slightly ajar in the hallway. I peeked in. There was a stairway leading up to the attic.
Someone was moving around up there.
I knew it was Ann as soon as I heard her. And I knew what it meant. She hadn't been up there in ages, except maybe to bring the Christmas stuff down, but now she had sold the place, and was going to have to move. She was trying to decide what to take with her, what to leave in the past.
She thought she might be able to just throw some of it away.
It was a real, old-fashioned attic, something you hardly ever see in California. Someone had laid one-by-twelves across the rafters to form a usable floor. The wind turbine made a regular squeak-squeak-squeak over my head, and created a flickering light. Ann was sitting at the far end, on top of an old trunk, sorting her way through a cardboard box. Next to her was a fine old artist's easel, one of those big, stable, wooden ones that live in a studio.
Something about it bothered me.
It held a canvas, but the canvas was so thickly coated with dust I couldn't make out the painting, in spite of the trouble light hanging over her head. The air was hot, and thick with the scent of the dust and dry pine.
She glanced up at me.
"I saw the door open… thought I heard someone up here."
She swayed a little, stretching her back.
"Some of this stuff hasn't been moved since before I was born."
"It's going to be a big change."
She nodded, her eyes wandering over all the boxes and furniture and canvases.
"My mother built this place during the depression. She got the property for back taxes."
"She sounds like quite a woman."
"A survivor. She had a recipe for cake with no milk or eggs or butter. My father, on the other hand, didn't have a practical bone in his body."
"She called this place—the restaurant and house—my 'legacy'. Built it for me, so that I would have a way to make a living. She really loved me, you know."
"You must have loved her, too."
"I did. Actually."