Living Memories

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That morning I woke up to a stiff back that I medicated with some aspirin and a hot shower. The bathroom was tight even for what I assumed to be the master suite, but as it was a very old house, I figured I should be grateful to have an en suite at all.

Feeling a bit more refreshed, though still very drowsy, I threw open the curtains and allowed the morning light to cast the room in a warm, yellow glow. Pulling my robe tight around my body, I dared to open the windows a crack to allow the cool autumn breeze to filter out the stale air that had likely been sitting stagnant in the room since my aunt was sent to the hospital almost two months prior. I shivered at the thought that I would be the first person to touch all the various things in her room since she herself had last laid hands upon them. Living memories of a person who no longer lived. I wished we could just let people die. How else were we to move on?

Yet, there I was, making a slow circle of the room, gazing up at the multitude of pictures she had hanging on the walls. It was hard to tell if the walls were covered in paper or paint, there were just too many photographs taking up space to see it clearly.

Many of the pictures I recognized. There wasn't even a shadow of a doubt that Georgina Creeke was in fact my relative. She had pictures of my parents and me. There was my parents' wedding photo, a family portrait that we had done at Sears when I was about two years old, and a photo of newborn me wrapped in a swaddling blanket with the standard issue hospital cap over my cone-shaped head. What they all lacked though was Georgina.

She did, however, make an appearance in the photos that were new to me, ones that depicted my grandfather at a younger age than I was used to. The ones I knew were of him and grandma on their wedding day, them at the beach as bright-eyed high schoolers, and then of grandpa in his army uniform just before he went off to war. Grandma used to tell me that my father was the last gift my grandfather gave her. He didn't even know she was pregnant when he died in Vietnam.

So it wasn't surprising that there weren't any pictures of him too long past his high school years in Great Aunt Georgina's collection, but it was surprising that though my parents' wedding photo graced her walls, my grandparents' didn't. I shrugged it off and instead drank in all the photos of my grandfather and great aunt's youth. Pictures of the two of them dressed up as a cowboy and cowgirl riding hobby horses. Pictures of them sitting on a pier with handmade fishing rods dangled over the side. And pictures of them standing in front of a big Christmas tree, Georgina's smile so wide you could count every tooth, though she was missing one or two at that point in her life.

Then, I saw a picture of what was perhaps a five-year-old Georgina cradling a baby in her arms. Oddly enough, I somehow knew that baby's name, despite never knowing my great aunt's. Grandmother had told me my great uncle, little baby Wyatt, had died of Polio before he could even walk. To be fair, I only really knew about this long gone relative because my grandmother would get so angry every time she heard someone condemning vaccinations. She'd call up Wyatt, lamenting his death and how it hurt my grandfather's family. My great grandmother probably would have had kids until her uterus decided to quit, but after watching her son die from such a horrible disease, she couldn't bring herself to have any more.

Thus was the story for much of my family. After grandpa's death, grandma swore she would stay single and never have another man. She'd tell me that she promised herself to my grandpa and it wasn't right she take anyone else even if he was gone. Then, she claimed that it was all as it should be as it meant she was able to fully love me and raise me as one of her own once my parents died.

Perhaps my aunt suffered something similar. Perhaps there was a death that scared her off from starting a family of her own. It seemed doubtful that losing her baby brother to sickness and her older brother to war would ward her away from a romantic relationship completely, but of course, I lost my parents at four-years-old and I still had no desire to place myself in that painful situation again.

Exhausted by my trip through my family history and always coming to the same death-filled conclusion, I decided to do what I could to settle in. One way or another I was going to get some work done or I'd be bored out of my mind in that quiet town.

I approached her desk, moving the trinkets off it and placing them on the dresser to be boxed up later. I then dismantled her computer which was probably purchased sometime in the nineties. Tucking the old CRT monitor and yellow-beige tower into a corner, I opened up my bag to find my laptop and a few hard copy files I brought with me from the office. Thinking it better to store my files in a drawer instead of leaving them out for a nosy caretaker to find, I opened up the top drawer of the desk and was not surprised to find it filled with all the junk one would expect.

I groaned as I sorted through paper clips, rubber bands, pens that likely had no ink left, and several packs of sticky notes. I knew I couldn't just dump them in a corner like I had with the rest and that at some point I needed to go retrieve a trash bag from down the hall. However, before I did that, I withdrew the one item that appeared to have any value — a leather bound book, worn with age and likely a day planner. Figuring it may prove useful should I have to handle management at the inn for a couple days, I placed it on top of the desk and ascertained that the remaining items could be unceremoniously dumped.

Just as I made this determination, a knock sounded.

"Are you dressed?" asked Jordan through the wooden door.

"Yes, though I admit it's just yoga pants, a sweater, and a robe, so if you were hoping to catch me in a suit at eight in the morning, I'm sorry to disappoint you."

"I won't lie, I did think you'd be in a suit," he said as he opened the door. As for him, he was dressed in a pair of jeans, white button down and a heavy suede jacket.

"Believe it or not, city folk like to be comfortable too."

"I know, I know, you put your pants on one leg at a time like the...did you sleep on the floor?"

I followed his gaze down to my pile of sheets and blankets. I felt a prickling heat touch the tops of my cheeks, but I turned away before he could notice.

"You heading out to be with family now?" I asked, glancing out the window and spotting his lonely shack some ways along the immaculate lawn.

"Uh, no," he said with a light laugh. "I'm celebrating with my family tomorrow. I asked if we could move the date since I knew you couldn't do dinner by yourself."

A fresh wave of heat burned my skin and I felt it spreading to my neck and ears. I pulled my robe tighter, flipping up the collar so it covered my throat.

"I'm fine on my own, thanks," I said, my eyes not parting from the window. "I'll go into town and see if anyone's open. A frozen dinner is enough for me."

"A frozen dinner?" he said, his voice mischievous as an ill-humor chuckled in his throat. "A frozen dinner is not going to feed a bunch of people."

"Come again?" I asked, spinning around to finally face him.

"I told you last night, we need to get Thanksgiving dinner prepped this morning," he said, pulling his sleeve back to look at his watch. "We got to get going if we're going to make it to the grocer's in time to pick up everything for our twenty guests stopping by tonight."

***

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