"Mom, look at this!" I called, pulling the dress out of the large bin in front of me. Initially, when my Mom brought up the idea of going through the attic, I was opposed, but with a little chocolate and ten bucks, I was kneeling on the cracked, wooden floors, rummaging through an old chest.
"It looks victorian to me," she replied, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. The chemotherapy took a toll on her physically. Her skin was a shade paler than it used to be, and her hair was thinning rapidly.
I glanced down at the dress that lay in my lap. It was red with black accents. The sleeves fell midway, and the skirt was beginning to darken with damage.
"We could probably sell it," I suggested. I heard a weak yes before the sound of a rack of coughing filled the air. I looked over at my mother with a face of stone. I knew she hated pity. She always did.
"Cool, I'll bring it downstairs," I said, standing up gingerly. Before I could take a step, a thud resounded across the spacious attic.
Confused, I moved the skirt of the dress to the side and glanced at the floor. A golden locket lay on the floor, opened wide, a compass pointing North.
"What is it?" my Mother asked. I crouched down and grabbed the locket cautiously.
"A compass, but it's broken," I said. There was a crack across the protective glass face.
"Let me see," she said, making her way to where I was standing.
"I remember this locket. It was my grandmother's. She never let me touch it," she said with a playful sigh. She carefully took the compass from my hands and rubbed her thumb around the cracked surface.
Before I knew it, she had the glass layer off. My Mother was always a tinker. She took things apart and put them back together. It was like an instinct.
"Maybe she didn't want you to destroy it," I joked. She glared at me and elbowed me lightly in the stomach as I watched her skilled fingers.
"What's this?" she asked, moving the locket into view. A small piece of paper was tucked into the side of the locket. Carefully, I extracted the paper and handed it to my mom. She squinted at it through her glasses.
"It's an address," she said, showing me the small, torn up parchment. Sure enough, my great grandmother's handwriting was scratched across it.
"4059 Avery street," I say, committing the address to memory, "let's go!" I call, setting down the dress that was still wrapped around my arms.
"Now?" she asked. I nodded eagerly.
"Yes, now! I want to know what was at that address. Maybe it's something cool," I begged.
She sighed and looked at the ceiling, "Bianca, it's December and snowy. I don't want to drive anywhere in this," she whined. I stood there, hands clasped together in a desperate plea.
"That doesn't work on me anymore, Bianca" she called. I kept at it, trembling my lip for dramatic effect.
"Fine. I don't feel like arguing with you," she sighed, rubbing a hand across her forehead.
"Yes," I called, running down the attic steps, which creaked with each step.
Before I knew it, I had my coat on and tossed my mom her keys.
"This is only a quick visit. We need to finish the attic before your father gets home," she pointed her index finger at me as she talked, installing every ounce of authority she could muster. I nodded excitedly and ran to the garage.
And we were off. Decembers in Michigan weren't the worst, but we already had a few inches of snow coating the ground in a white blanket.
"What was the address, Bee?" she asked.
"4059 Avery street," I recited, looking at the locket. My Mom still had it clutched in her left hand.
"Mom, how did Great Grandma Miller die?" I asked. She froze at the wheel and looked at me before turning back to the road.
"Cancer sweetie. The... uh, same type I have," she looked the other direction and I looked down at my lap.
"Oh," was all I could think to say. I was only six when my great-grandma dies, but I knew she and my mom were as close as it gets. Her death was unexpected. They said she was doing fine. It's hard for me to imagine losing a parent. My Dad was never in my life. Sixteen years later and he's still gone.
"Well, it's a good thing those treatments are working," I smiled grimly. My Mom, the idol of my life, turned to me and returned the same fake smile. It was like looking in a mirror.
"Alright, I'm on Avery street. What was the number again?" she asked. I looked around at the snow-coated yards. The children in the neighborhood must not have been home to mess up its perfection.
"4059" I repeated. Her memory was fading, just like the rest of her.
"Honey, there is no 4059, it ends at 4058," she replied, stopping the car at an empty lot. We had driven up to the edge of the neighborhood, and only woods proceeded us.
"Let's go," I opened the car door and climbed out of the truck. The snow crunched under my feet, which were only adorned with my favorite converse.
"Honey, let's go home, it's cold. There's nothing here," she called. I looked back at her, the panic laced in her eyes.
"Just come with me to see," I implored. She sighed and placed her head on the steering wheel.
"I don't want to, but I'll go as long as you promise we'll only be here five minutes," she scolded.
"Fine," I promised, exiting the car once more. This time, when my feet crunched down on the snow, they were accompanied by a crunch just as powerful from the other side of the truck.
I trekked into the snow. It wasn't too deep, which I was grateful for. But it was cold. When I reached the tree, I debated turning around, but it was too late now. I walked around the thick trunk of the snow-covered tree and turned to my mom.
"I guess you were right. There's nothing here," I shrugged. My Mom looked relieved and started her way back to the truck.
Out of desperation, I took one last look at the trunk of the tree before noticing the rusted color of metal stuck inside the upmost part of the tree.
"Wait, Mom, I found something!" I called. She froze and turned around.
"What is it?" she asked, her voice bellowing across the plain.
I jumped a few times before retrieving the piece.
"It's-" I palmed the cold metal in my hands. It was another locket. The same as the other one, "another locket," I shouted. I turned back to her and she was as white as the snow under our feet.
Then she fell. It was the strangest thing. She stopped like she was sharply impaled. Clutching her stomach she fell into the white powder that covered the ground.
"Mom!" I called, running over to her.
"I need to go to the hospital," she whispered, clutching her chest.
"I'll take you to one, Mom," I was trying to help her up, but her eyes glassed over and she slumped further.
Looking back, I'd have never taken her there, but I remember that spring when the burial took place.
And I carved a place for the second locket in that tree. My kids ask why I picked the abandoned lot for our future home, but I can't think of how to explain it to them. I'll never know how to explain something I'll never understand.