Writing Challenge 4/16/2015
A Broom & Ten years in the future
Nephrite & Quatre
The only sound was the slow scrap of dry bristle across tile. Ten year-old Quatre concentrated on moving the broom carefully down each aisle. Packing peanuts shimmied and danced with each precise sweep.
When the bell above the door jingled Quatre let the broom fall to the floor with a sharp smack. He rushed to join his father behind the counter, clambering up on a stool in time to see the customer approach.
Mr. Winner patted Quatre lovingly on the head as he greeted the gentleman. “How may we help you Sir?”
The man was only slightly shorter than Quatre’s father with long auburn hair falling around his shoulders.
“Yes, I hear that your family has owned this business for many years?” he asked.
Mr. Winner nodded, “We have been in this exact spot for three generations. Originally, we just stored items for safe keeping, but now we have expanded to many kinds of storage and shipping.”
“Good,” the gentleman sat a package on the counter. “I would like you to store this for me.” He placed an envelope on top. “If I do not come back for the package by the date on the box, I would like to you mail a letter to this address requesting its pick up.”
“Okay,” Mr. Winner pulled out a form and pen passing them across the counter. “Just fill this out.”
Quatre stood on his knees to look at the package, carefully he read the date allowed. “July 10th, AC54.”
Mr. Winner pulled the box toward himself double checking the date. He looked up questioningly, “This is dated ten years from now.”
The gentleman nodded, looking up from the form, he asked, “Is that a problem?”
“No,” Mr. Winner replied quickly, “just unexpected.”
Collecting the signed form and package Mr. Winner turned to Quatre. “Please take Mr. Stanton’s package to Mom.”
Happily, Quatre hopped down and reached for the box. Holding it carefully to his chest he slowly walked out the rear door toward the warehouse. He heard his father say goodbye to the customer.
“Don’t worry Mr. Stanton, everything will be handled just as you request.”
Quatre moved the broom across the floor with quick efficient strokes. With annoyance he watched a few more bristles fall out of the old tool. He should really replace the old thing. Ever since his father put him in charge last year, he had been making upgrades and modernizing their business. The shiny new computer on the counter, remodeled store front, and security system were only a few of the improvements he wanted to make over the next few years.
So much had changed since the war nine years ago. His father and many others were resistant to the technology introduced by their enemy. Quatre’s generation welcomed the advances. The invaders had been defeated and those left behind were attempting to make this their home. In his opinion, since we were the victors, we should just let the fallen live in peace, they didn’t need to be punished further.
The swish of automatic doors pulled him from his thoughts, he heard Anna behind the counter greet the customer. “How may I help you?”
“I received a notice of a package.” Came a woman’s voice.
Recognizing the voice, Quatre left his sweeping to greet his neighbor.
“Miss Lita!,” Quatre called coming around an aisle. “It is so good to see you.” He gave her a welcoming hug. “Did you bring us some cupcakes?”
“Not this time,” she answered. Her large green eyes twinkled merrily. She was one of the few women he could look directly in the eye, being the same height. She wore her wavy brown hair loose around her shoulders, hiding the straps of her sundress. “But if you drop by the shop later, I let you try my newest creation. We are still experimenting, so we love guinea pigs.”
“Count me in.”
Anna came back and laid a dusty box on the counter.
Lita and Quatre looked at it in surprise.
Lita looked at Anna questioningly, “Are you sure this is my package?”
Anna double checked the computer screen. “Yes, it is your name and address.” Anna frowned at the screen. “This says it was left here over ten years ago.” She looked at Quatre, “can that be right?”
Quatre continued to stare at the package. Slowly, he nodded, “Yes. I remember standing here when it was dropped off. My father accepted it from a man. He was tall with long dark red hair.”
Lita reached out to touch it with shaking fingers. “Nephrite.” Her voice shook with emotion.
Quatre gently touched her arm. “Why don’t you come with me to my office,” he suggested.
She clutched the package to her chest and blindly followed him to the back of the store. Sinking into the chair, Lita stared at the box, loosing all track of time. She was assaulted by memories of her youth, the love and pain, honor and betrayal.
Blinking the tears from her eyes, she became aware of Quatre watching her patiently. She pulled the twine and unwrapped the box. Opening it, she removed a letter and a small velvet box. Shaking visibly, she opened the box and found a gold ring. It was carved to resemble a rose, cradling a beautiful piece of jade in the center. She sat the ring on Quatre’s desk, the gold shimmering in the sunlight coming from the window behind her.
“Beautiful,” Quatre murmured.
Lita almost tore the letter taking it from the envelope.
My Darling Lita,
I wish I could tell you this in person, but I cannot risk seeing you. Please forgive the abruptness and cruelty of our last meeting in the garden. They were watching closely and there could be no hint that might cause them to doubt my loyalty. It was all to keep you safe and in the true hope of rescuing our friends.
Please do not hate me. My prince needed me and I could not give up on my long time friends. As I know you fought honorably, I could do no less for those who I served. I hope by the end, he sees the truth.
I know that if you ever read this than I have not survived the coming conflict. You don’t know how hard it is to write this to you, but I could not leave things unsaid.
Should I have returned, my fondest wish would have been to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you and am showing you in the only way I know how. All my possessions and wealth have been left to you. Take the enclosed letter and follow its instructions. The company and all it entails will be yours.
You and I have forever been ruled by destiny. Sometimes it is not kind, but often one person’s pain ensures another’s happiness. May destiny smile on you and bless you with a long happy life.
With all my Heart
Lita sobbed. The letter drifted to the floor. She buried her face in her ands and cried. Quatre came around the desk wrapping his arms around her. She reacted violently shoving him away. “No!” she cried. Reaching down she grabbed the letter and thrust it at him.
She paced the room, arms wrapped around herself, tears streaming down her face.
Quatre read over the letter. “How wonderful and sad,” he said.
Lita said something so low he couldn’t hear her.
“What?” he asked.
She stared at him, her eyes haunted. “I killed him.”
He could only stare in shock. Slowly, he shook his head in denial.
Her stare went through him, not seeing the room, but another place and time. “The prince joined the enemy. We saved him and our princess, but during the battle we slew his guards. I fought my way up the stairs and at the top, there he was. Please, I begged, please come back to me. But his eyes were empty and his sword slide through my arm.” Lita rubbed at her upper left arm over a vertical scar. “I heard Serena call my name full of fear and pain. I had to get to her. I had to. I HAD to. So, I called my power and he died. A pile of ash at my feet.” Lita blinked rapidly and seem to come back from that dark memory.
“I killed him.” All the blood had drained from her face and she weaved back and forth on her feet.
Quickly, Quatre came to her side, guiding her back to the chair. “Lita,” Quatre said, forcing her to look at him. Tears continued to run unchecked down her cheeks. “The man who left this letter loved you. Whoever you fought that day was not this man. He never would have hurt you. You’re not the one responsible for his death.”
He held her in his arms as she cried.
After a while she collected herself and left. Quatre remained at his desk pondering the will of the gods that would create such love and destroy it. Perhaps there wasn’t room in the world more than one such extreme love. There was no doubt that the love, that so many sacrificed everything for, was that of the King and Queen. Their love was the stuff of legends. For the chance to see them be together and the love they shared, was it worth the sadness of so many others? Quatre didn’t know the answer.
After he locked the doors for the evening, he made his way down the block to Lita’s shop. Would she still welcome his company? Did she remember the invitation? Could she think of anything but the letter today?
The bakery was brightly lit and he could see Lita in her apron moving around in the kitchen through the glass door. She looked up seeing him hovering outside the door. Smiling brightly, she waved him in.
A gold ring glittered on her finger.