It had been a week since the funeral, and Mom had been staying with Jeremy for most of that week. To be honest, it wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined spending the last few weeks of summer—crying alone in a house all hours of a day. I was officially pathetic.
On the plus side, I hadn’t cried for the past ten minutes. So that was a pretty big victory.
After walking down the hallway, I stopped and leaned against the doorframe of what used to be our shared bedroom. There it was, resting on my dresser—her small box of wonders. Gabby’s whole life, or at least what she’d dreamed it would someday be, was inside that box—I just knew it. Call it a gut reaction, call it Twin ESP, but I just knew.
It was a simple, small, wooden treasure box, and I’d been instructed to open it the night of the funeral, yet up until now, I’d only stared at it on my dresser.
I lifted the box and found the key taped to the bottom. Ripping the key off, I moved over to the twin-sized bed on the right side of the room, only glancing at the other twin bed on the left. My body melted into the hard mattress, and I placed the key in the locket.
I opened the treasure box at an unhurried speed. The breath I’d been holding released into the small space, and a few tears fell from my eyes. Swiftly, I wiped them again and took a deep inhale.
Two seconds. I hadn’t cried for the past two seconds. So that was a pretty small victory.
Inside the box were an absurd amount of envelopes. There were a ton of Gabby’s old guitar picks sitting on top of the envelopes. She’d been an amazing musician, and she’d always tried to teach me to play that damn guitar of hers, but all it did was hurt my fingers and waste my time when I could have been working on my uncompleted novel.
I instantly felt bad for not having tried harder to learn to play the guitar, because she’d sure taken the time to help co-write my novel, which I was certain would never be completed now.
Resting in the corner of the box was a ring—the promise ring Bentley had given her. I ran it against my fingers for a while before placing it back into the box. I hoped he was doing all right. He was the closest thing to a brother I had and I wished he would be able to get back to himself, the fun loving guy he always was.
The rest of the things in the wooden box were letters—a ton of letters. There were at least forty envelopes sitting inside, each one numbered and marked with words, each one sealed with a heart. The one on the very top read, ‘Read Me First.’ Placing the box on the mattress, I picked up that envelope and slowly tore the top open.
My fingers flew to my lips as I gasped at the note from Gabby. I felt conflicted because I wanted to cry from seeing her handwriting yet I wanted to laugh at the sight of her calling me ‘little sister.’ She’d beaten me into the world by fifteen minutes, and she’d never let me live that down—always calling me ‘little sister’ or ‘kid.’ I kept reading, wanting to rush through each and every envelope in the box, wanting to feel her connection to me right then and there.
Let me first say, I love you. You’re my first love and you’re my best love. Yes, I understand that these letters might seem a bit morbid, but carpe diem, right? I asked Bentley to have you open these the night of the funeral therefore I know you have probably waited a day or two.
“Or seven,” I muttered and couldn’t help but smile a little as I read the next line.
Or seven. But I felt like we have so much left unfinished. So much we haven’t been able to do. I’m sorry I won’t be there at your graduation. I’m sorry I won’t be able to get extremely trashed with you when you turn twenty-one. I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it to your first book signing. I’m so, so sorry that I won’t be there to hug you after your next heartbreak or be your maid of honor at your over-the-top wedding.
But I need you to do something for me, Ash. I need you to stop blaming yourself. Right now! Stop it! I need you to at some point start moving on. I’m the one who died, not you. Remember? So, listed on the next page is your bucket list. Yup, I made your bucket list because I knew you never would. Each time you complete an action, I have a letter for you to open—as if I’m right there beside you.
So, get to reading the list. NEVER open a letter until after you’ve completed the task. And for God’s sake, take a shower, brush your hair, and put on some makeup. You look terrible. Kind of like a hybrid love child of the Devil and Big Bird.
I’m sorry about all the tears, and I’m sorry you feel so lost and alone. But trust me…
You’re doing great, kid.
I moved to the second piece of paper and stared at my ‘bucket list.’ I wasn’t surprised at how accurate the list was with some of the things we used to talk to each other about doing. Sky diving, read the complete works of Shakespeare, fall in love, publish a novel and have an awesome book signing with cupcakes, have twins, date the wrong guy, get into University of Southern California. Those were just some of the things I’d dreamed of doing. But then other items on the list were a little more Gabby than they were me.
Forgive Henry, cry because you’re happy and laugh because you’re sad, get drunk and dance on a bar, give Bentley his promise ring back, take care of Mom, recreate the infamous scene from Titanic.
The front door of the apartment crept open, and I saw Mom standing in the living room, pacing back and forth. I placed the letters back into the box and closed it. Moving out of the bedroom, I stood before her, and she stared at me for the longest time. Tears filled her eyes, and her mouth parted as if she wanted to say something to me, but nothing came out. Her shoulders rose and fell, leaving nothing but quietness.