Fingers, slender but wrinkled with time and age, descended carefully upon the pages of the scrapbook, worn pads tracing over faces in photos like a meaningful caress. There were stories here, in these pictures, or at least the ghosts of them remained, because each one returned something to her memory: a feeling, a melody, the sound of laughter and of confessions whispered in king-sized beds. With each turn of the page, she felt clarity again. It wasn't that she was senile or had forgotten; she was much too stubborn and defiant to let age rob her of everything. No, it was more like her mind was a painting, and as she looked through the scrapbook, she was restoring it to some semblance of its former glory.
For hours now she had been in the dusty attic alone, rummaging through boxes of what appeared to be junk to anyone but her. At one point, her hands had grazed against an old, worn jacket and she trembled as she pulled it from the box, pressing it to her face in the vain hope that somehow old familiar scents still lingered on the fabric.
After that the woman discovered a stack of letters (too soon, much too soon), a necklace (which she was holding still now in her free hand, thumb rubbing against the silver charm each time she turned a page), and then, of course, the scrapbook itself. There were more pictures elsewhere in the boxes, she knew, but this was a thing she had to do piece by piece, and for now, the scrapbook was the least distressing option to start with.
She had purposely avoided going into the attic for years. Whether that decision was motivated by cowardice or pain or both, she couldn't be sure, but she alone had the key to the room, and until that very morning it had remained untouched inside of a drawer in her bedside table. Upon waking, the desire to confront what she had been keeping locked away hit her suddenly, like a flash of lightning. So she'd gotten out of bed, made her way downstairs for an appearance at breakfast like any proper matriarch would do, and then very simply told her son and daughter-in-law that she would be in the attic and that she would like to remain undisturbed for the rest of the day.
They of course, seemed shocked and perhaps a bit awed by the announcement, but nevertheless as she walked away she distinctly heard her grandchildren being instructed to play quietly today.
Some part of her knew, even before she heard the pattering of feet scrambling up the stairs and little voices talking in curious whispers, that her peace would be short-lived. Dark eyes--still as sharp as the day she was born, mind you--glanced up from the sketchbook and over towards the doorway, catching sight of two small heads poking before they rapidly disappeared from view. This was followed by stifled giggling, and the old woman could not help but to allow a grin to grace her lips before calling out to the children.
"Your father told you to leave me be today, did he not? He's no fun, is he?"
She was aware that it had been her own request, but the woman had been born with a mischievous streak that she had never quite grown out of, and besides, grandchildren were a parent's best revenge. Never once did she miss an opportunity to tease her son. Or anyone for that matter. At the sound of her voice, the children reappeared in the doorway, this time completely in view; a boy and a girl, ages eight and nine respectively, like carbon copies of their parents. She loved them dearly, and was proud that even though they'd never look anything like her both had picked up some of her wilder traits, much to her son's dismay.
The old woman patted the empty space beside her on the dusty couch she was seated on, beckoning for them to join her.
"Come. I have pictures to share with you. And perhaps even a story as well if you promise to behave."
They would. Especially for her. The two hurried happily into the room, both scrambling up onto the couch and settling to where they could see the scrapbook. Almost immediately, the boy's arm shot out, pointing to a photo of a girl, dressed like a rockstar and singing her heart out into a microphone. Her expression was fierce and passionate, that of someone who thought she could take on the whole world at once.
"Grandma, who's that?" He questioned, unknowing that the sight of the picture had caused a twinge of pain to settle deep into the old woman's heart. She steeled herself, however, remembered that she had come up here for this very reason. She could not run forever.
"Why, that's me, actually. Can you believe it?"
"You used to sing?"
"I was rather good at it. And I was fortunate enough to get to do it with my friends."
She turned the page to reveal another picture, this one a bit larger and of five girls, herself included. Their arms were slung about one another and they were smiling, laughing, making hilarious faces without a care in the world. This picture too, she traced gently, lingering on one face in particular above the rest. Tears threatened to well up in her eyes as she stared at this face, but thankfully they would not come. Not yet.
"Would you like me to tell you about it?" She asked softly, earning two enthusiastic nods in response.
"It started around the time I turned twenty. I had just moved out of my parents' house, and as far as I was concerned, I could do anything. I was going to make all of my dreams come true..."