It was a couple of weeks after her grandfather had passed that Beautiful Dora got the courage to look at her mother’s old things.
At first she refused them in the same way she refused all of the things he had left her. Finding out that “good old Mr Laurence” had kept her parent’s possessions for so long without ever telling her felt like a betrayal, her mourning turned to rage, for the last blood family she had left on this earth had deceived her. It took long letters from her husband Jo to get her to calm down and let her anger go. Jo was as proud and had as much of a temper as his wife, but in his years of prayer, meditation and transition, he had learned to handle his feelings with more patience than when he was sixteen.
After her anger had settled, her reasons as to not wanting to unpack her parents' relics became a mystery to everyone around her.In the meantime she concentrated on the immense amount of stuff that was left to her now that she was the only Laurance alive. The properties went to her and Jo, Half the books in the library were left to Jo specifically, and all the clothes although meant for Dora ended up in her husband’s closet as well. Anything that was not left for Dora and Jo was divided between the three March sisters : To Meg, a sizable amount of the furniture to fill her family with the rich life she had always wished for, To little Amy, All of Mr Laurence’s paintings and the drawings she had made for him so many years ago, and to his favorite sister, shy Beth, he left the piano.
This is what stung the most.
Dora loved Beth very much and rejoiced in knowing that her sister in law would have a fine instrument that would make justice to her musical talent, however she had also longed for that piano for many years. Even though she and Jo had the means to buy one (and had done so) she cherished her old piano and the memories it held, it was at that stool that she felt the happiest, where she realized that, in Jo's poetic prose ‘she was made of all the softness and sweetness in the world’, where she most felt connected to the family she had never met, the people who had never had the chance to see her become a daughter, a wife.And so Dora spent weeks organizing and reorganizing everything, bringing all the things to their house, looking over the documents, taking every single excuse she could as to not address the old boxes left unopened.
Now, Jo would never tell this to his Dear Dora, but he had a theory as to why she rejected something that she had wished for most of her life. No pictures were kept of Dora’s mother, but throughout her youth she had heard countless times the fears and concerns of her grandfather as to how similar they were. Mostly he referred to their passion for music, but she knew that she looked nothing like her father, that her dark hair and eyes as well as her brown skin were the gifts her mother had left her. Sometimes Jo would catch her staring at herself in the mirror for hours, and he knew that she was looking for traces of her mother in her own face, in the same way that Jo looked for the signs of his father in his.
It’s not that Jo and Dora didn't talk about their transitions, quite the opposite, it was among their favorite topics of conversation. In each other they had the perfect match, a lake of peace and understanding each soul. They loved each other, and so they loved themselves, and in loving themselves grew their love for the other. The way the both of them cared for each was akin to the roots of a tree, a whole forest, going down down down until it reached the core of the earth, together entangled in perfect understanding. And so they both knew that some things were simply too painful to share, too shameful to look at under the sun. In each other they had found poetry and symphony, their pride would not let them ruin this little corner of perfection in their lives.
One night, one of those early summer nights, when the air is warm and filled with fireflies, when all is quiet and the only sounds are the strings of the grasshoppers in the garden, Jo was braiding Dora's hair (one of their favorite night rituals) and though it the perfect moment to address the dreaded boxes. “My Dear” he said softly, caressing her hair “don’t you think it is time to sort through the last things your grandfather left us? It would be a pity for them to keep collecting dust in a corner” Dora tensed at this, and without looking at Jo she responded “I don’t know why you would think that, my darling, whatever is inside is probably not even worth it.” at this Jo could tell that she was lying, for his beautiful Dora found it impossible to hide her emotions, especially feelings as pressing as these ones. “They are probably just some old dressed, and Lord knows that I already have my fair share of those”
“Well” Jo insisted “we wouldn’t be able to know until we looked through them, would we?” He then turned to look at his wife face to face, one hand at her shoulder, the other one carefully holding her cheek “Who knows what we may find inside? Where has my adventuress gone? You used to be so curious, so daring and… unafraid” He looked at her deep dark eyes for a second and saw them fill with tears before she turned her face to the side. He kissed the crown of her head and before retiring to their bedroom said that he would be out early in the morning to take care of business in town and give a quick visit toMr and Mrs Brooke, and so he would return late at night. What business? he did not say, but Dora would have the house all to herself.
As promised, Jo left early in the morning, rode to tone under a gray sky still cold from the lack of sun. Dora silently thanked him, for letting her face this alone, giving her space to breathe, it reminded her of how, when they were younger, she would do the exact opposite. Dora would push and insist until Jo would act or tell all the hidden things he didn’t have the courage to admit out loud. It was the nature of their relationship, where one pushed, the other pulled, when one said yes, the other said no. Theirs was a delicate balance, a perfect dance, a constant back and forth that made their lives flow in perfect harmony.
At around midday she took the boxes to the main bedroom and carefully set them on the floor. Laying in the soft rug she started with the smallest box, which contained the things her father had left behind, which was not much. A couple of jackets, some old books and most interestingly, some travel journals that she would later give to Jo.
When she opened the box with the things belonging to her mother, she did so with trembling fingers. The first things she encountered were a series of beautiful party dresses, under them she saw a jewelry box, old expired makeup, and a beautiful set of crystal bottled perfumes. She took the time to set them all carefully in her boudoir, treated them with the respect that they deserved. These were not just relics of the past, but the remains of a woman lost to time, lost to memory. All that remained of her mother were these things and herself.
At the very bottom of the box, where she thought she would only find dust laid a little leather bound music book, the pages were a brownish yellow and smelled of forest and rain. She looked at the book carefully, savoring every page and she found that written on the back of the book was an old letter, the ink no longer black but a dried old gray.
To my little Theodore .
My only wish is for you to be as daring as your father, and to share my love of the piano, so that even when we are not beside you, we will always be with you, if not in body then in spirit.
You'll always have our love.
Dora started to cry, and once she started she couldn't stop. After a couple of minutes she thought that she would never stop. She cried for herself, for her mother, for the both of them. She cried because she never got to know her mother, and her mother never got to know her.
It had been dark for a long while when Jo finally returned home and found Dora on their bed, red eyed and tired. He took off his coat and laid next to her, put his arm around her and just stayed still, caressing her, and when he felt her tears on his shoulder, he kissed her gently and held her tight, whispering things neither of them would remember in the morning. He did this until she fell asleep, and without letting her go he to let himself rest.
They woke late into the morning, still entangled in each other, and if they had no mortal needs they would have stayed there the rest of their lives. Jo had once resented the idea of love and marriage, meeting Dora made him change all of this. It had taken him a long time to fall in love with her, because even though he knew he wanted to spend all his life beside her, he could not stand the idea of being a wife. So he became a husband, the one he always knew he was born to be. He was kind and hardworking, his first thought when the morning came was of Dora and so was his last thought when he fell asleep. He held her and knew in his soul he would never let her go. If they had to walk through hell and back he would carry her all the way, and he would do it again, and again, and again.
They stayed in bed as long as they could. Eventually they got up. They spent the rest of the day in silence. Not an uncomfortable or awkward silence, but a resting one, a needed one. Soon they would be able to speak about it all. About the perfumes, the books, the dresses and the tears, but for now they waited until it was safe, until the mention of it all didn’t hurt as much as they both knew it would.
Because they knew it would hurt. And it would not only hurt now, but it would hurt again, as these things always did. Because that was reality. Their reality. And they would be there for each other, every single time, as they always were.
Late that night, when they were lying in bed again, both pretending to sleep (and pretending they didn’t know the other was awake) Jo asked about the books in his bedside table.
“They were in the boxes, they were my father’s” she said
“I thought so my dear, but why are they by my bedside?”
“I believed they would be to your liking, are they not?”
“They certainly are… but they’re yours”
Still in the dark, still whispering and with her eyes closed, Dora gently took Jo’s face in her hands “My darling” she said sweet and soft, as everything she did, as everything she was. “Aren’t we past those words? whatever’s mine is your. My father’s books, my old shoes, the books in the library, the paintings on the walls… my heart and soul” she leaned forward, kissed his eyelids, his nose and then finally his mouth.
Little by little, the objects from the boxes started to be seen more and more around the house. The march sisters would come to visit and Dora would be wearing one of the old rings, Jo would go to work and one of the old books would be spotted in his pocket, and on particularly cool nights, he could be seen wearing one of the old jackets left behind. Little trinkets found, signs of healing. This was also a time of discovery, as Jo’s sisters pointed out, and they had started to try and piece Dora’s parents' lives together like one would do a puzzle, fitting the little clues together. Dora’s Mother's favorite color, for example, turned out to be green, as reflected by the amount of dresses she had owned in that color, And her father was a gifted artist, his travel journals being filled with beautiful drawings of cities, parties, fauna and flora, and of course the love of his life. Their favorite writers, flowers, songs and places, all hidden in embroidery and diary entries.
One night, Jo came home and was welcome by a sweet, serene melody. This was not an uncommon thing, but soon enough he realized that the song being played was one he had never heard before. Dora was a talented musician, but she was no composer, and so he quietly went to the living room, without being noticed, and for a moment, he thought that one of the drawings of Dora’s mother had come to life.
There she was, a vision in green sitting in the piano, her hands moving over the white keys so gracefully and with such power. She was so concentrated on the music, she made no notice of Jo until she was done playing. “My darling, what’s wrong?” she said standing up “you look like you’ve seen a ghost”
The room was warm with candle light, the fiery glow shaping her soft features, reflecting on her dark hair and eyes. “You…you look so much like your mother”
Dora stood frozen for a moment, her eyes started to water and she, to both her and Jo’s surprise, started to laugh. She quickly covered her mouth, but neither the smiles or the tears stopped, and as if it were contagious, Jo started to have the same reaction. Suddenly, Jo was by his wife’s side kissing her, hugging her, just holding her in his arms. They both held each other’s faces softly, foreheads touching, whisperings of “thank you”s and “I love you”s caught between the laughs and tears.
“I love you” for this
“I love you” because of this
“I love you”.