Last Breath

Contributor: Jeanelle Nicole Driver

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The latches on the box gleamed dull in the light, brassy and stained. He undid the clasp, sucked in a breath, and lifted the lid. The faded paper stacked in the box was the key to so many painful memories, a love just beginning to bloom, and lost too soon. James hid it all away, but in his twilight years his soul longed for closure.

Footsteps crossed the dust-strewn floor, and a small hand touched his shoulder.

“Grandpa, are you all right?” Iris asked.

James tucked the box under his arm, got to his feet with a groan, and faced the concerned eyes of his granddaughter.

“I’m fine, Sweetie,” he said. “I just came up here to find something.”

He smiled when Iris slipped her hand in his and led him back down the narrow attic stairs.

“Daddy says you’re distant, so I told him I would get you,” she said. “The attic isn’t far away.”

James chuckled at such literal innocence. He squeezed Iris’s hand. Her coming to find him was the lift his spirit needed. He was distant, but it was difficult to fight, as he grew older. “Your dad’s just worried about his old man, Sweetie. You’ll be the same way when you get older,” James said smiling. He made sure it was loud enough for Jack to hear from the kitchen.

“Grandpa’s right, Iris,” Jack said coming around the corner and ruffling his daughter’s hair. “Go eat your lunch, and we’ll join you in a minute.”

Iris squeezed her grandpa’s hand one last time and skipped into the kitchen. James watched her go with delight.

“What were you two discussing?” Jack asked in a whisper so Iris wouldn’t overhear.

James laughed and moved closer to his son. “She heard you call me distant,” he said. “So I was trying to explain it so she’d understand. You’ve got a good kid there, Jack.”

“I know I do, Dad,” Jack said. “Speaking of distant, anything I can do to help?”

James ignored the concern radiating from his son, shrugged, and held out the box.

“There is something you can do,” he said. “Take this, burn it, toss it, just do something with it.” James held up his hand when he saw Jack open his mouth to protest. “Just do it, Jack. I can’t keep clinging to the past. It is destroying my future. Your mother and I would still be together if I learned this lesson long ago.”

Jack nodded and took the box from his father. “Do you want to talk about it?”

James shook his head. “What’s done is done,” he said. “I told her not to go out in the rain, but she didn’t listen. I blamed myself for too long, and ruined so many good things in my life because of regret. Letting go is what I need, to end my days in peace.”

Jack hugged his father. “It’s good to have you back, Dad,” he said. “Go get some lunch, Iris wants to go fishing.”

James returned his son’s hug. “I know just the place. It was your special spot when you were little,” he said.

Jack nodded and headed for the garage.

“I was hoping you would want to go there. It’s perfect.”

James watched his son disappear with the wooden box and his regret vanished with him.

Iris patted the seat beside her at the table. “I made you a sandwich, Grandpa,” she said. “I hope you like it.”

James kissed the top of her head. “Of course I will, thank you,” he said.

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Jeanelle Nicole Driver is a Creative Writing student. She writes whenever she can, and hopes to make a positive impact with her writing.
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