Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)
TITLE: A Cupboard full of Musty Memories
By Val Clark
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<i>My whole life, I’ve only ever wanted one thing, Lord. Is that so bad?</i>
The key turns. The well oiled-lock clicks open. Her throat tightens as she picks up the top scrapbook crammed with newspaper articles. She turns each page laboriously. Her hand pauses over one page. With a crooked finger she traces the faded photograph.
<i>I sacrificed everything. And this is what I get. A cupboard full of musty memories.</i>
‘Stella, honey. The truck’s here. Are you sure you want to go through with this?’
<i> I hardly know my family. Andrew only stayed to give Pria stability. Now I am a noose around their necks.</i>
She throws the scrapbook into the cupboard.
<i> If I hadn’t had them I’d probably have made it by now. It wouldn’t be so hard stepping down from the top. The whole world was very nearly at my feet.</i>
<i>I want to shout,’ Get rid of it! I never want to see it again.’ But I can’t. I am reduced to the ghost of a whisper. A ghost of myself.</i>
Stella stands for moment at the window and watches the truck doors close but turns away before it exits the driveway. She takes down the framed photos that adorn the music room walls. One by one she piles them, face down on a shelf.
Without looking at her hands she washes and wipes them dry.
At the table Andrew pushes a small capsule towards her and watches carefully as she swallows it.
<i>Nazi. He knows exactly how I feel about anti-depressants. How they take the edge off my creativity. What is he trying to do? Turn me into a mindless moron?</i>
‘I’m so proud of you, honey. We are all proud of you. We were so worried. We couldn’t bear the thought of life without you.’
<i>Just as I cannot bear the thought of life without my voice. Without feeling my fingers supple and responsive flowing over the keys of my piano.</i>
He struggles to keep his expression neutral as Stella maneuvers her mug, awkwardly picking it up and raising it to her full lips.
<i>I wish he wouldn’t look at me like I’m a fragile thing. I won’t break, though I wish I could. Break into small pieces and disappear, like my dreams.</i>
‘The doctor said we should go away on a holiday. All three of us. Maybe a cabin somewhere by a lake. What do you think?
Stella shakes her head.
<i>I will never leave this place. Never get into a car again. Never, ever.</i>
‘I bought a new keyboard and a big mouse. It’s huge. I think it should be called a rat, not a mouse, it’s so big! And some special programs….’
She stands, knocking the mug over; tries to pick it up and succeeds on the third attempt.
<i> See what you have made of me, Lord? I am a clumsy oaf. I am good for nothing.</i>
‘Mummy, mummy, come and see what I can do.’
Pria pulls at her mother’s hand.
<i>I wish they would leave me alone.</i>
Stella locks a scrapbook back into the cupboard and allows herself to be dragged to the kitchen table. She sits at Pria’s command. Pria climbs onto her mother’s lap.
<i>Why do they insist? Andrew knows I hate computers. Why must he set it up in the kitchen?</i>
Pria types, choosing her letters on the oversized keyboard with care. Not making one mistake. ‘I love you, Mummy. Daddy loves you. Jesus loves you.’
<i>Why is she typing this? I am the one who cannot speak.</i>
Pria picks up her mother’s right hand, holds onto a finger and presses it on the keyboard. ‘I’m sorry about yr voice and yr hands and yr piano. But I say thank you to Jesus every day cos yr home every day when I come home. Please speak to us.’
Stella tries to pull free. Pria will not let go.
Stella’s finger slowly spells out ‘I am sorry.’
Stella stands and walks slowly back to the music room. She checks the cupboard doors are locked, opens the window and throws the key into the garden pond.
A strong breeze stirs the wind chime. Soh, doh, te, lah, doh.
<i>Soh, doh, te, lah, doh.</i>
Stella tries to release a disk from its plastic box but her crippled fingers betray her.
‘Here, honey, let me help.’
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