Return to Contents

 
 

The Heart-Shaped Locket

Brooke Wright

     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 ear. 
     "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 you've accomplished."
     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 with excitement.
     "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.

     July 15,1831
          Momma and 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
          Today papa 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 our valley.
     Further into the book it read:

     May 10, 1835
          Matthew and 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.  ~Clara Ann

     June 21, 1835
          I'm afraid 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
          Today, our 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
          Today, the 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
          The sickness 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 in amazement. 
     "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…
 
 


 
 
  Return to Contents