The Heart-Shaped Locket
Danyelle picked up a small box out of the back
of the U-haul truck. "Where do you want this one, mom?" Danyelle's
mom looked up, sweeping her long brown bangs off to the side behind one
"That one goes in the kitchen, but all of
those go in the attic. They're just Christmas decorations and old
photos." She said, gesturing towards the back of the trailer.
Danyelle and her parents had just moved to
Colorado from Pennsylvania. Her father, who worked for a national
law firm, got a huge promotion, but it required them to move halfway across
the country. The decision was up to Danyelle. Her parents didn't
want to put pressure on her to relocate halfway through her freshman year
in high school. Danyelle could have cared less. Actually, it
was just the opportunity she was hoping for. She hadn't clicked with
hardly anyone at her old high school, and was ready for a fresh start.
Besides that, she thought Colorado was beautiful. She could stare at the
mountains all day. They fascinated her. They had purchased
an old house right outside of Colorado Springs at the foot of the mountains.
The house was very old. It was a two-story house that was off-white,
trimmed in a dark green color. The grounds had obviously been used
as a ranch many years ago, but the house had recently been remodeled, and
the only original furnishing that Danyelle could see was a big black bell
that hung from a post. From what they could guess, it
was a family ranch. The real estate agent had said that there was
even a small family cemetery behind the house about a half of a mile back
in the field.
Danyelle quickly ran in the house, and put
the box down in the kitchen. She looked around her new house in curiosity.
She hadn't seen the house before they bought it. Only her father
had. The whole kitchen was done in a light tan color, except for
the cupboards and drawers, which were a light oak color. Against
the back wall was the sink, in the back right corner the fridge, and the
stove stood against the middle of the left wall. The whole kitchen
was sunk-in. Three steps up took you to the dining area, which was
openly attached to the kitchen. Danyelle followed the hall that led
out of the dining room, eager to explore. With each step that she
took, she left an imprint on the new gray carpet.
After looking around the house, Danyelle hurried
back outside to help her parents. "Here you go. This goes to
the attic. Do you know where that is?" Her father said, handing her
a box marked "x-mas".
"Your room is at the top of the stairs on
the right. On the far side of your room is a small door and that
should take you up to the attic," he explained. Her father was cute
looking guy. He stood about five feet, ten inches tall and had short
salt and pepper hair. He had wrinkles around his eyes when he smiled,
although he didn't do that much. Her father was a serious man.
He was a genius and used logic in everything he did. He thought it
was a waste to dream. He had told Danyelle that he never has had
a dream. He simply worked. He worked and worked his way to
the top. He never thought about doing it, he just did it. He
always said "why waste time dreaming about doing something when you could
be spending that time achieving your dream. When all is said and
done, and you can't get any higher, then you can relax, and look at what
Danyelle climbed her way to the top of the
stairs and turned into the first room on her right. Her room was
much larger than she had back in Pennsylvania. The carpet was sea
foam green and the walls were painted a pale purple with white trim.
She knew why her father had picked this room for her. Her favorite
color was purple. She walked over to the other side of her room,
set down the box, and tried to pry open the attic door. It looked
like it had been painted shut. Danyelle took out the box cutter that
she had put in her pocket that morning, and slowly gouged away the paint
that had dried between the cracks of the frame and the door. Soon
enough, she had cracked the seal and with a big tug, opened the door to
the attic. Danyelle fell back, her cushioned bottom breaking her
fall. As soon as the door was open, a musty smell filled Danyelle's
room. Obviously, no one had been in the attic for a long time.
She crouched down to fit through the small door and followed the few steps
up to the attic. The room was very stuffy and humid. Danyelle
was already having a hard time breathing, and beads of perspiration were
starting to form on her forehead. She surveyed the room quickly and
was surprised to see that there were a few old boxes and pieces of furniture
already in the attic. Excited to see whose they were and what the
boxes contained, she walked over and knelt down beside the boxes.
There was no writing on them, and they appeared to be tied shut with thick
string, like they did in the old days. To the left of the boxes were
an old rocking chair that had no finish whatsoever on it, but had been
worn to exhaustion and a mahogany chest. The chest was clasped shut
with a black hinge that allowed a place for a lock, but no lock was there.
She couldn't wait to see what was inside. Her heart was already beating
"Danyelle! What are you doing up there?
Did you get lost?" her father called from the bottom of the steps.
"Sorry, dad. It just took a while to
get the door open to the attic. I'll be down in a sec." I guess
this will just have to wait until later, she thought. At that, she
jumped to her feet, scurried down the steps and back to her unloading.
It took Danyelle and her parents another half hour to unload all of the
boxes and furniture. After that, she and her parents had cold meat
sandwiches in the kitchen and talked about plans they had for decorating.
Then, she was by herself. Her parents had to run into town to return
the moving van and buy some groceries to fill the cupboards. Danyelle
had already made plans to go back into the attic and check things out.
As soon as she heard the front door slam, she was bounding up the steps
to her room. Of course it was dark out, now. Long ago, the
sun had disappeared behind the mountains, leaving the sky colored in hues
of orange and pink, and it had been beautiful, but now all that remained
was the stars and the half-crescent moon hanging drowsily in the sky.
Danyelle had discovered earlier that the light bulb in the attic was burnt
out, so she brought a big flashlight with her. Shining the light
around the room, she easily found the chest and boxes in the same corner
where they had been earlier. She knelt down beside the chest once
again, and opened up the heavy wood lid, shining the beam of light inside
of the chest.
On top, there were some yellowed pictures
that were so old that the corners had started to curl up. The photos
were in black and white. The first one was of a couple. The
lady sitting in a chair, and the man standing behind her with one hand
on her shoulder. The lady's hair was done up loosely in a bun.
Both were dressed in dark clothing. The looks on their faces were
ones of seriousness. Their lips formed almost a perfect line across
their faces, not daring to crack a smile. The next one was a girl
who appeared to be about seven. Her wavy hair hung down just passed
her shoulders. She was wearing a white fluffy dress that ended just
below her knees. The following pictures appeared to be of the same
girl, but at different stages in her life. In the last picture, she
looked to be about nineteen or twenty, the look on her face resembling
the couple's in the first picture, which Danyelle guessed to be this girl's
parents. Danyelle carefully put the tattered pictures on the floor
and continued to muse through the chest. Next were carefully folded
pieces of clothing. She took the first one out and standing up, held
it against her slightly plump figure. It appeared to be a wedding
dress. It was rather plain and no longer white. It, too, had
taken on a yellowish color from sitting inside this musty chest for years.
The next piece of clothing Danyelle knew was a shawl before she picked
it up. It was knit in several shades of light colors, like pink,
yellow, and white. She then shined the light back into the
chest to find a thick, black book. Carefully, Danyelle picked up
the book and leafed through it. The whole thing was hand-written
in black ink. At the top of each page read the date and time.
Wow! This must be a diary! I wonder whose it was. Could
it be that this stuff is from the first owners of this house? This
is way cool. She closed the book and tucked it under her arm, intending
to read it later. Danyelle was about to close the chest and head
back to her room when out of the corner of her eye, she saw what looked
like to be a bag of marbles. Why it caught her eye, she didn't know,
but she picked up the bag with renewed curiosity. The bag was made
out of burlap and had a leather drawstring that was tied shut. She
untied the bag and dumped the contents into the palm of her hand.
It was a necklace. She let it dangle from her hand and shined the
flashlight on it. It was a gold chain with a gold heart-shaped locket
hanging from the chain. Unlike everything else, the chain had kept
it brilliant shine and it sparkled as she shined the light on it.
She opened up the locket to see if there were any pictures inside.
Inside the locket were two tiny pictures. On the left side was a
picture of the same girl in the other pictures she had found. On
the other side was a picture of a young man smiling up at her. He
looked handsome with a strong and prominent jaw line and black hair smoothed
back to perfection.
The necklace was so pretty that Danyelle couldn't
resist putting it on. She undid the clasp and put the chain around
her neck. It was so delicate. She felt important and different
as soon as she put it on. Danyelle sniffed at the air. Was
that bread she smelled? Yes, it smelled like freshly baked bread
drifting up from down stairs. Could her parents have come home already?
What time is it? Maybe I lost track of time while I was up here.
I better go back down. She carefully replaced the clothing and pictures
back in the chest, grabbed the black book, and headed back downstairs.
As soon as Danyelle was back in her room,
her jaw dropped in awe. Her room that had only consisted of boxes
and a bed a short while ago had suddenly transformed to something she'd
only imagined in storybooks. This cannot be right! Where is
my room? Danyelle searched her brain frantically, trying to figure
out what had gone wrong, but could come up with no explanation. In
the middle of the room sat a big, four-poster bed. There was no longer
carpet, but just a wood floor with a couple of woven rugs by the door and
the bed. There was a vanity, too. It was along the far side
of the wall. Atop the vanity sat a great big mirror and a small wooden
chair to sit on. Danyelle sat down, trying to get a handle on what
was going on. Her image in the mirror frowned back at her.
Her mousy brown hair had grown frizzy from the heat that radiated in the
attic and a layer of oil had settled on her round face.
The room was aglow by oil lamps, giving off a warm heat that filled the
room and laid shadows across the floor in different shapes and sizes, changing
with the flicker of the flames. On the vanity was a thick brush with
a silver handle, some bobby pins, and what appeared to be face powder.
Danyelle picked up the brush. On the back of the brush, the name
"Clara" was inscribed in cursive letters. Clara? Who the hell
is Clara? She mused.
Once again, the smell of bread invaded Danyelle's
senses. She followed the smell out of her room and down the stairs.
Once in the kitchen, she was again amazed by her surroundings. Where
the sink had once been, now there was a big, black stove with a pipe coming
out of it that lead right into the ceiling and out of the house.
Against the left wall, where the stove had been was a very big and deep
sink. The dining room was still connected to the kitchen, but was
no longer raised up, but level with the kitchen. In the dining room
was a very long, wooden table with chairs to match. There were candles
newly lit in the center of the table, and about nine settings of plates
and silverware. From behind her, Danyelle caught a lady coming into
the kitchen, paying her no attention as if she weren't even there.
She was the same lady that had been in the picture with the man upstairs.
She was sure of it! The lady appeared to be in her late thirties,
and her hair was worn the same as it was in the picture, with it all piled
on top her head in a bun. She was a bigger woman, and she wore a
white apron doused with flour from baking.
"Claaarrrrrraaaaa!" the big lady called at
the top of her lungs. Clara is the name that is on the brush, Danyelle
remembered. Pretty soon, a young woman about the age of seven came
rushing into the room. She was Clara, and she was also the little
girl in the pictures!
"Yes'm?" she looked readily at the woman,
listening intently to her orders.
"You go fetch your papa and the rest of the
men. Go on, go ring the supper bell. Don't dawdle now, dear.
You know how your daddy hates cold suppers." Clara exited the room,
and Danyelle followed her. Clara went out of the house and down the
front porch. She started to ring the black bell, swinging it back
and forth. Ding! Ding! Over the hill, the men were already
making their way back to the house. The outside of the house was
completely different, too. To the immediate left of the house was
a large stable with five or six horses standing about. Down the hill
where the men were coming from were two barns and in between the barns
was a wide-open pasture with cattle grazing slowly for their last meal
of the day. That was another thing that had changed since Danyelle
had come down from the attic. The sun was just now starting to set
behind the mountains. Before she had gone in the attic, it was dark
outside. There was a dirt road that led out of the ranch with a sign
above it that read The Riley Ranch.
Realizing that she still had the heavy, black
journal in her hand, Danyelle found a place in the grass and started to
comb through it.
Papa and I have just finished building a new house. The house is
grand, and I can't wait to get my life started here. Papa's been
saving so hard to build this house and he says he plans on dying here.
It's his pride and joy. My fifteenth birthday is coming up, and Papa
said that he's getting me my very own horse. . . Danyelle
flipped further into the book.
October 29, 1833
hired a boy to work on the ranch with him and the other men. The
boy's name is Matthew Adams, and he is quite handsome. He said hello
to me while I was fetching some water from the well, and I could do nothing
but smile sheepishly at him! I do believe I've taken a liking to
him, although I just met him. The leaves are starting to fall from
the trees, and every day it seems the mountain peaks have more and more
snow on them. It won't be long until that snow makes its way into
Further into the book it read:
May 10, 1835
I have been courting for about a year now. This last Saturday, Matthew
asked Papa for permission to marry me! Of course, Papa said that
he would be delighted. Then, Matthew got down on one knee and asked
me for my hand in marriage. It was so romantic, and I do love Matthew
so. I told him that I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest
of my life with him. He's a hard worker, and I know he will make
me happy. To be honest, I can't wait until our wedding night to climb
under a blanket of passion in our bed and finally be his in every way possible.
I know most girls aren't like that, but it's hard enough for him to keep
his pants on as it is, now. Why, the other night, we were fooling
around in the barn, his hands caressing every inch of my virgin body and
his fingers exploring any crevice that he could find and it felt so good!
But, then Papa called me to come inside. I'm afraid it will be awhile
until my lips can even touch his. After proposing to me, he left
in search of a better career to support us once we are married. It
could be months before he returns to me, but I will wait patiently.
June 21, 1835
that mama and papa have fallen sick. I don't know what it could be.
Our handyman named John left this morning to call on a doctor, and hopefully
he will reach us in time. There are only two other men to take care
of the ranch since Matthew is gone and papa is too ill to work. I
started helping them yesterday to keep up with the chores. Both mama
and papa have a terrible fever and can't seem to keep any of their food
down. Mama is losing weight fast. I pray every night that Matthew
will return home soon. I don't even care if he doesn't have a job
yet. I just need his comfort right now. I feel so helpless.
There seems to be nothing I can do to make my parents feel better.
Oh God, help me! ~Clara Ann
July 1, 1835
family grieves. We've lost papa to the sickness. Last night
around Ten O'clock, I saw him take his last breath. I begged Papa
to stay with us a little longer, but he was suffering too much. Mama
cried all last night in my arms. The boys have begun to dig a grave
out back for papa so that we can bury him tomorrow morning. I only
hope that Mama will make it. She is all I have right now until Matthew
returns. May my father, Joseph Chapman, rest in peace. Matthew
still has not returned. I've had no word of him since he left, and
the boys have not returned with a doctor yet. ~Clara Ann
July 9, 1835
doctor finally arrived. Unfortunately, he could bring nothing but
bad news. He believes mama has Rubella and she is too far gone to
save her now. He says that she will die within the next week.
How could my life be so quickly destroyed? What have I done to deserve
this! I still wait every day for Matthew and watch hoping that he'll
come galloping on top his horse over the hill back to safety, but every
day he disappoints me. I'm afraid that I've not been feeling well.
My skin seems discolored and dull and all of the energy has drained from
my body. I told the doctor of these symptoms, and he said that I
am probably getting the same thing that my mother has. I am not concerned
about myself, though. The doctor said that I am young and strong,
and that with extra care, I have a good chance of making it. I know
I will make it! I have been promised to marry Matthew, and I will
marry him. I have my whole life ahead of me. For God's sake,
I'm still a virgin! I cry openly every day, now, but I still try
to be strong. ~Clara Ann
August 28, 1835
has consumed me rather quickly. Mama passed away long ago.
It's hard for me to keep track of days. It takes a lot of energy
just to write in my diary. It's been too long since Matthew has left.
I received a letter from him a while ago. It said that he would be
home soon, and that he couldn't wait to kiss me and couldn't wait until
our wedding night. I used to think of those things, but now I can
just lay here and pray that I will recover. Matthew knows nothing
of the sickness that has consumed our family. I know that if I can
hold on to these last days, he will return and make me strong again.
But, he must hurry. I know I have no more than a few days left.
No matter what, I will always be with Matthew for the rest of his life.
I love him more than words could explain. ~Clara Ann
September 4, 1835
Today, the world weeps. Clara is
gone. Upon arriving home, I knew that something had happened.
The ranch was empty of workers and the fields were overgrown. Immediately,
I ran into the house to find only the body of Clara lying there still as
could be, and the soul drained from her body and already greeting her mother
and father up in the sky. Why? Her last entry was just a week
ago and it must have just been yesterday that she passed away. Her
body has not began to waste. Why couldn't God have spared her the
extra time? Clara and I were meant to be, and now I am left all alone
to grieve her for the rest of my life. My true love is gone, and
I shall never love again. Tomorrow, I will go behind the house and
bury her with her mother and father. I cannot stay in this house
because it reminds me too much of Clara. I will have to sell the
house. There is no other family members left to take it over.
I will pack up their belongings for now and put them in the attic.
I will have to come back for them when I have settled in my own place.
I will never be the same again…. Matthew Adams
Tears fell from Danyelle's face as she read
the last entry that was from Matthew. How sad Matthew must have been.
Danyelle looked down at the gold locket around her neck. I know what
I must do. I must have entered some kind of time warp or something.
At some point while I was in the attic, it switched over, and now I am
living with the people that first owned this house. Danyelle carefully
unclasped the chain from around her neck, letting it fall into the palm
of her hand. Just like that, everything transformed back to her time
in 2002. It was dark out and the moon brightly hung in the sky once
again. With her flashlight still in her hand, Danyelle ran around
to the back of the house and through the overgrown field. About a
half of a mile out, Danyelle found a small clearing with washed away head
stones still barely standing. Shining her light at each of the stones,
she found Clara's at the far right of the three graves. "I think
this belongs to you," she said, taking the gold chain out of her hand.
She dug a shallow hole right in front of the gravestone and placed the
necklace in the dirt. She covered up the necklace and hurried to
the front of her house. Just in time, Danyelle thought
as her parents pulled up in their Explorer.
"Hey, you want to give us a hand?" her mom
called, hopping out of the passenger seat.
"Yeah, sure," she said with a smile on her
face. Her mom paused outside the vehicle looking at their new house
"This must've been a beautiful house when
it was first built," her mom said in awe.
"It was!" Danyelle said. "I mean, it
probably was!" Her parents looked at her oddly, but just dismissed
it and continued unloading the groceries.
Danyelle opened the big black book that she
had just bought from the general store in town.
July 10, 2002
Yesterday, my family and I moved into a new
house. I can't wait to start my life here. Boy, do I have a
story to tell…