The house smells like dust, and I glance around to see the stuff coating the walls and floor. Somehow it’s even on the ceiling. How are we ever gonna get this place ready to be rented?
“Okay. Now I know this may seem difficult, but we’re going to make sure this place gets rented,” Dad says to me and mom.
“How? It’s a dump,” I say. Mom pinches my shoulder. “Sorry,” I mumble. It just seems like an impossible task to make Grandma’s house appropriate for renters.
“Well, we’re gonna do it!” Dad says, clapping his hands. Then he looks at me, his hazel eyes serious. “Tory. I’ve got something for you.”
“What?” I ask.
“Remember that Russian doll you loved to play with when you were little?”I vaguely remember being in this house, sunlight bursting in the windows, while twisting a brightly painted doll. Grandma was playing the violin, or maybe it was a viola.The house didn’t smell like dust then.
“Well, grandma left it to you in her will. She had it with her when she passed…” Dad says, as if that makes it a precious family heirloom. He pulls the object out of his suitcase.
It’s prettily painted black and red, with cherries spiraling over it. You can see yellow painted hair, green eyes, and lips the same color as the cherries.
“Wow. Thanks!” I say. I may sound happy, but secretly I’m disappointed. I was hoping that she’d left me one of her fancy art books instead. Maybe even a piece of her jewelry. Who knows? Maybe she did. This doll may just be a bit of it. Grandma was always unpredictable.
Two hours later, I’m in “my” bedroom, and I’m also reading a book while listening to music on my phone. But this book… I think I may have read it a few too many times. How depressing. I throw the book on the floor. After a while of doing nothing, I decide to play around with the doll a bit.
I twist the Russian doll around, popping off the dolls one by one, when I feel something strange. I shake it again, and I hear something rattle. What? I yank off the last doll. I gasp.
Instead of the really little doll that you can’t open, is a necklace that is silver and stuck together like a chain. There are stones on it that look like blue lapis lazuli. Wow. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Only when I look down do I realize it wasn’t the only thing in the doll. There’s a crumpled piece of paper on the ground, and naturally I pick it up.
I bet you’re wondering why I’ve hidden a necklace in a Russian doll, or even why I left it and this task to you. It’s a long story, dear, but I know how much you love long stories. Once, when I was young, I had a best friend. Her name was Jane. On the day I was going to get married, Jane was very sick with a fever and couldn’t make it to the ceremony. So she let me borrow this necklace, because it flattered my wedding dress. Since my husband and myself went to Rome for our honeymoon, I couldn’t give it back to her for weeks. Once we came back, I got some of the most devastating news of my life: Jane had died, and her family had moved away to another state! After decades of searching, I found out that Jane’s daughter, Clarisse, had moved back to California, and was living only a few blocks away! However, the day I found this out, I was admitted to the hospital with heart and lung problems. Even now, as I’m writing this in the hospital, I’m afraid that I am reaching the end of my life. Tory, you may wonder why I haven’t told your mother and father this. Alas, my motives are hard to put into words. Simply put, this is my dying wish, and I want you to fulfill it. Not your father, not your mother. I can’t explain why; it’s must be instinct. I love you, sweetheart. Love from Grandma Ruby.
Oh my God. I turn the page over to see an address. Wow. Who knew grandma had such a story? But why hadn’t she told me this? Maybe she felt ashamed, and could only “tell” me from the grave? That’d make some sense. I shove the necklace, doll and note into a backpack and walk downstairs.
“Hey mom, dad? I’m gonna go to the park.”
“Okay, just be back before 7:00, and don’t get lost!” Mom says jokingly. It’s an inside joke; when I was maybe five years old, we both went to the park and got very lost. It’s one of my worst memories, lamely enough.
“You don’t say?” I call as I step out the front door. Okay, it’s on Baker’s Road, about three miles away. Maybe there’s a bus station?
As it turns out, by some miracle, there is. Twenty minutes later, and with three dollars less than I had, I’m on Baker’s Road. Okay, number 550, easy enough to remember. I walk down the road. Okay, I’ve got an hour left. Just enough time. I’ve got the necklace in my backpack, and I silently pray that I don’t get mugged. I would hate to see Grandma’s final wish stolen. I picture a thief gripping the chain, the blue lapis lazuli shining between his fingers. Nausea cramps in my gut.
Enough. Then I notice that I’ve nearly walked past a 550. It’s a large, peeling blue house with a gray roof. It’s shabby, but not ugly.
Well, at least you’re here now. No turning back, yeah? I force my quaking legs to go forwards, towards the threshold. Three steps, two steps, one step…
I’m at the door. Bam, bam, bam. My heart may as well stop. Am I going into cardiac arrest? Uh, no. First off, I’m way too young. Why’m I so nervous? I’m just returning a necklace. It’s no big deal. Now, just ring the darn doorbell.
I press the doorbell.
A few moments later, a woman with shoulder-length gray hair walks to the door. She’s maybe sixty-seven. “Hello? Who’re you?” She has a good voice; deep, but not throaty. It has a pleasant wobble.
“My name’s Tory. I’m the granddaughter of Ruby Peck.” The woman’s light golden- brown eyes widen.
“You mean Mom’s old friend?” she asks, her eyebrows crushing her wrinkled forehead.
“Yeah, most likely. Can I come in, Clarisse?”
“How d’you know my name?” Suspicion. It drips from her voice now.
“It was in a note that Grandma left me. Please let me in,” I say, hoping that I look sincere.
“All…all right then,” she says warily.
I go into the living room and sit down in a stiff, bottle green chair. “I have something that belonged to your mom.”
“Oh? And what might that be?” She’s skeptical, and she has the right to be. I’d be skeptical too, if a stranger came out of the blue, claiming to be my mom’s best friend’s granddaughter.
God, that sounds complicated.
I zip open my backpack and pull out the necklace. The jewels sparkle, and the setting sun seems to glow through them.
“Oh…” Clarisse whispers. “That’s my mother’s favorite necklace…” She reaches out for it. “Oh my… It’s even prettier than I remember.” A tear travels down her wrinkled cheek.
“Thank you. I remember wearing this as a child. Mother was very lenient with me, because she said I had a good eye for beauty. I think she was just happy that it was my favorite necklace too.
“I pretended I was a queen. I always wore my favorite blue dress.” She takes a breath.
I hand her the note. “I think Grandma wanted you to read this, as well.”
She reads it thoroughly, and I think she has more amber in her eyes than she did when she opened the door. “Oh. So that’s why.”
“My father was angry at Ruby for years because of this necklace. He always thought that she should’ve brought the necklace back immediately after the wedding, because Mother was so sick.” She shudders.
“He said that she should’ve guessed that mother was going to pass. But it wasn’t her fault! Ruby must’ve gone to Rome immediately.
“Thank you so much. This is like having a piece of my childhood back again. I can remember that dress so much better now, and I can even remember my mother’s face clearly.” Tears start to stream down her cheek; not in drops, but in a steady stream.
I leave twenty minutes later, not caring that I’m late for curfew. This was worth it. This was more than worth it. Clarisse’s joy at seeing a piece of her childhood is all I can think about on the way home. She even explained the reason Grandma put the necklace in the doll: “My mother loved traveling. She brought home that doll for Ruby when she came back from Russia. I guess she loved it a lot.”
I stare up at the stars. “Thank you!” I call, pure, blind joy rushing through my veins. Who am I thanking? a part of me wonders, but I don’t care.
I’m still thinking about everything when I stroll through the front door. “Where’ve you been?” Mom barks. “Dad went to the park to look for you, and he didn’t see you!”
“No, I didn’t. We demand an explanation, Tory,” Dad says.
I beam up at them. “My word. Have I got a story to tell you!” I cry.