Ambrose dumped all of his clothes onto the bed.
“I sure have a lot of clothes.” He rifled through the mess, trying to cobble together the right outfit.
He considered the khaki Bermuda shorts, but decided against them.
Maybe some other time.
When it isn’t winter.
Ambrose accidently rapped his knuckles against the wooden jewelry box and his body went into automatic panic mode.
His hand shot up to his shoulder. His fingers dug into his shirt’s collar. His breathing became too fast. His heart beat too fast.
He closed his eyes and waited for the panic to die down.
His hand slowly loosened its death grip on the material.
He opened his eyes and examined his fingers.
He sighed with relief. “Good.”
Ambrose looked down at the weathered wood and shuddered. “I really need to buy a metal box for that stuff..”
He reached for the box.
His fingers curled into the tightest possible fist.
I can do this.
I won’t touch the wood. Just the metal. Just the metal. Just the metal.
His thumb came out of hiding.
He nudged the metal clasp to the side and flicked the lid open.
His hand uncurled.
All of these rings. So many memories. Some happy. Some not. I could take them to The Cardboard Box and get them all cleaned and spruced up. He laughed softly. “And where exactly would I wear them? While I go hunting? Yeah, right.”
His fingers threatened to cramp up on him as he reached into the box and pulled out a ring.
It was an old-brass one with an oval centerpiece. A fleur de lis sat in the middle of the oval. The rest of the ring was decorated with what honestly looked like a bunch of small, warped wrenches.
He put it on his finger.
“Look at this! Isn’t this ring great?”
“I don’t know. It’s a little too ‘Look at me! I went to France.’ for my liking.”
She laughed. “Try it on. Let’s see.”
“Huh. I like it.”
“You should get it.”
He gingerly pulled the locket out of the box.
He opened it.
Her face was soft edged and framed by waves of chestnut hair. Her blue eyes were serene as if she were contemplating Heaven. But her mouth was set in a smile that wanted to be a laugh.
The street lights came on as darkness fell. Store fronts that had been dark came to well-lit life.
He smiled at her. “Now, we’ll go shopping. These businesses are for night timers like me.”
“Yes. So, don’t wander off on me. Stay close. I’ll protect you.”
She wrapped her arm around his waist.
They went from store to store.
“Ha! Look at that. This place sells locket pictures.” He smiled at her. “Do you want to give it a try?”
“If you’ll do it too.”
The photographer disentangled Maria’s hairstyle, setting her chestnut hair wild and free. He carefully arranged her hair just so around her face.
“Now, hold still.”
Maria looked up at Ambrose and smiled.
I wonder what happened to my picture.
His smile faltered. Her father probably shredded it, burned it, shredded the ashes, and threw the whole lot into the Atlantic Ocean.
Ambrose rubbed his thumb across the stiff plastic covering her face.
But his thoughts turned to Barbara.