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Along Came Polly – Part 2
Grace’s eyes swept the attic one last time. Enough for one day. Her sister grumbled, teetering on the ladder, an arm hugging a box and the other white-knuckling the beam.
“You okay, baby sister? What’s the matter? Out of shape?” She stooped near the top of the folding ladder with a chuckle. Forehead glistening, Polly glared back, face a blistering red. “Going to live to your 60th birthday?” She shrieked with laughter till she choked with a coughing fit.
Polly stumbled to the floor below and released her box. Thump. Folded at the waist, she gasped for air, knees clutched as she heaved. “Make way. Coming down.” Grace sing-songed in a cheerful voice. The ladder quivered and creaked beneath her weight. Her sister already halfway to the kitchen, booted the box down the hall. A tap gushed water. A cupboard door slammed. Arms around her box, Grace peered around the corner. Her sister gulped water as if it might be her last chance to drink. She grinned and whacked the wall with the flat of her hand. Polly spun round, the glass grasped tight, eyes huge behind tiny granny glasses.
“Something in the dust you ate? Settle down, Grace. Aren’t you thirsty and tuckered out?” She grabbed another glass, filled it with water and handed it to her sister, who glugged it too. Simultaneously, the women dropped into chairs eyes locked on each other. Polly broke the stare first. Slamming her glass on the table, she giggled like a school girl. “You should see your face.” Yanking the kerchief off her head, she wiped her forehead. “I’m all sticky. Mind if I take a shower first?”
“Go. Where’s the day gone? I’ll rustle up something to eat. What do you feel like?”
“Surprise me.” Polly, rescued overnight bag in her hand, had made her way half-way to the bathroom, her voice faint.
* * *
“How many boxes do you suppose there are?” Polly settled on the floor in front of the sofa, slicing the air with her mug. “A couple dozen?” Tucking the fluffy white robe from her sister’s guestroom around her knees, her chin pointed at the ceiling.
Eyes glazed, Grace shrugged in her pink velvet robe and stifled a yawn.
“Did you see the trunk buried beneath the boxes? I’m anxious to peek inside first thing tomorrow. What if it’s locked?”
“We’ll find a way.”
“Grace, are you all right? Too much, too soon? You haven’t had time to recuperate after the flu. Off to bed with you.” Led by the arm, her sister toddled down the hall to her room. “Sleep as long as you like. Don’t you dare get out of bed till you smell the morning coffee.” Polly pulled back the covers and padded the mattress. “First, hugs.”
The boxes in the living-room had lost their appeal. Plunked on the carpet like discarded presents, Polly eyed them with trepidation, but only for a moment. Ignoring her cooling coffee, she tore the top off the nearest box, her curiosity overpowering. Envelopes of bills and receipts bound with disintegrating elastic bands filled the box to the brim. Mouth pinched, she removed layer upon layer of envelopes. Disintegrating rubber crumbled in her hands and onto the gray carpet. On the bottom lay a large record book. She flipped through the pages, stopped and blinked. Wait a minute. What is Uncle John’s signature doing on the checks? The bills were in her grandfather’s name. Some checks were for five hundred and one for a thousand dollars made out to cash. Strange. Why cash and why such large amounts with Uncle John’s signature?
A page floated into her lap, less yellowed than the book pages. Light-headed as if floating in a dream, Polly dropped the book and unfolded the paper, heart clenched like a fist. Unable to focus on the writing, she closed her eyes. Why am I so nervous? This has nothing to do with me. Her head hurt as if gripped in a vice. She peered at the writing. A birth certificate? Still the words swam in a murky fog. She gripped the sheet and brought it to her nose. Too close. Back again, the words became clearer, sharper. Polly dropped the paper as if her hands burned and stared into space. Not possible. She covered her face, rocking against the foot of the sofa. No. No. No.
Her cell chirped in her handbag on the sofa cushions. Not wanting to talk to anyone, she ignored the phone, but as always her curiosity won. She dug the cell out of her purse. Tommy. Why didn’t he give up? How many times did she need to explain she liked her singlehood? Re-marrying was not in her future. She chucked the phone to the cushions concerned with more important matters.
This must be some kind of mistake. She planned to do a birth record search online, but not tonight, though tempted. This latest development had sucked the life out of her. Not confident she would sleep, Polly threw the paraphernalia back into the box anyway, shut off the lights, and tiptoed to the guestroom, the unsettling evidence clasped to her chest. She stopped at her sister’s door, her ear to sleeping mumbles. A chilling thought struck her. Sometimes, a forest of trees hides what you’ve always known or thought you had.
To be continued
© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles