Annabelle longed to slip away from the cousins gathered in Grandmother’s modest cottage, each taking turns choosing from her few treasures. Annabelle knew only one word crossed their minds…eBay.
Lillian Rowland’s few belongings were to be divided among her only remaining family. The youngest of eleven grandchildren, Annabelle’s memories of her lifelong mentor were precious. Whatever they chose to give her she would cherish, but she had one request.
“I’m only interested in Nana’s library,” Annabelle voiced when her turn came on the first round.
Every head spun her direction. “You can have her dusty old books,” Robert sneered. “Can we move on now?”
“Wow,” Lynn, the oldest granddaughter shook her head, “Unbelievable, Robert.”
“You know you’re all thinking the same way I am. She didn’t leave us anything but dust collectors. I personally could care less about the sentimental value of her china or silver. All I’m interested in is cash value.”
“Speak for yourself, Rob. You’re plain disrespectful,” Janet glanced towards Annabelle aware her grief ran deeper than anyone’s in the room.
“Annie,” Doug rubbed his goatee, “if this is too difficult, maybe one of the girls can select some special items for you?” He glanced at the other five granddaughters for a volunteer.
Lynn stared at her red painted toenails. “I’ll choose fairly for you, Li’l Belle.” Grandmother’s affectionate name for the baby cousin stirred unexpected emotions among everybody…except Rob.
Doug cleared his throat. “Is everyone fine with Annabelle receiving the library in its entirety?” He pointed at the wall of books.
Robert rolled his eyes. The others silently nodded.
Drawn to the attic bedroom, Annabelle took her leave. Ten cousins. No mother. No grandmother. Ten distant cousins and a father she despised. Suddenly Annabelle felt extremely alone.
She ducked her head at the top of the stairs to avoid the low slope of the ceiling. Filtered sunrays through the window cast an elongated dust mote filled rectangle on the simple metal-spring bed. The tattered homemade quilt and one-eyed teddy bear stirred Annabelle’s emotions.
Grandmother’s attic was her refuge. The bed springs creaked when she scooped up Teddy and gently sat on the edge.
Lillian’s children preceded her in death. Aunt Liz lost her battle with cancer three years ago. Uncle Douglas died in a tragic car accident and Stan…well prison isn’t quite death, but she sure wished it were.
The only child of the youngest son could be reason enough to be Grandmother’s favorite, but not the case with Li’l Belle. When her mother abandoned her and left the drunken abusive man Annabelle called Father, Lillian knew she’d need to help raise the little girl.
By the time Annabelle turned twelve it appeared a different form of abuse became her lot in life. Repulsed at the thought of her precious baby-girl’s innocence ripped away, Lillian turned the small attic space into a bedroom and testified against her own flesh and blood.
A decade ago. A lifetime ago.
Annabelle wiped her wet face on the back of Teddy’s head. A box in the corner caught her eye. She’d never noticed it before. Bold letters across the top stated: For Annabelle.
She dragged the mysterious box towards the bed and unfolded the worn cardboard flaps. Beneath an envelope that bore her name were stacks of notebooks and journals. Annabelle lifted the first notebook titled, Lillian’s Journey. She recognized descriptions of a trip they’d taken to visit Canada. She scanned the pages of one called, To Tame a River, and knew this to be a story based on Grandfather’s work when they built the dam on the Columbia River.
Annabelle’s gut ached when she read about a young abused girl being tucked away like a treasure in a Grandma’s attic in one she titled, Hidden Treasure.
She slipped the letter out of the envelope and read the age-scribbled penmanship.
I secretly dreamed of being a published author. This box contains several notebooks filled with stories I would tell in my head until I finally had to write them down. I don’t know if they are worthy of publishing or how to make that happen but you, my Li’l Belle, are educated, talented, and young. Maybe you can make something of them. Perhaps you will reap the harvest from my seeds buried in these dusty manuscripts.
Stunned, Annabelle gazed into the secret battered box. The sunbeam’s dusty fingers traced warmth along her tear streaked face. At that very moment Annabelle realized her true inheritance…Nana’s dreams.
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