Some days are made for snuggling under warm blankets with a book and mug of hot chocolate while the world lazes its way by. Other days are made for going out with friends, shopping, eating out, exploring the world. Then there are days like today: sipping a hot drink while doing projects around the house.
Kate hummed a merry tune as she walked into their bedroom. Today was the day she’d conquer a project she’d delayed for months: clearing out the last of the moving boxes. She set her mug of hot chocolate on Chloe’s dresser and opened the closet.
We’ve been here 6 months already… time went by so quickly.
With the Indigo Girls playing on her bluetooth speaker, she began taking the boxes from the closet. Each box she set neatly on the floor in a semicircle. There were too many handwritten labels made in black sharpie, with only some scratched out to remember what the contents were. The last box she left on the closet floor for now. The boxes were heavier than she recalled.
“Chloe will be so happy to have these boxes put away.” She sipped her hot chocolate as she surveyed the now ample free space in the closet.
I’ll move some clothes from her dresser to the closet. Maybe she’ll be able to close that bottom drawer without struggling.
Closer to Fine started playing, immediately causing her to sing along softly. Kate kneeled next to the box she had decided to start with and opened it.
“Oh! I forgot I had this!” An ugly, but amusing, Christmas sweater greeted her. She held it up, giggling at the garish scene, debating whether or not to keep. The hideous clothing had sparked a lot of comments from Chloe the last time she wore it two Christmases ago. Thankfully, there weren’t any holes or tears in it, though it definitely needed cleaned. She re-folded the sweater and set it aside before exploring the rest of the box.
One by one, she went through the contents of each box. They contained an array of miscellaneous items: clothes, knickknacks, pictures, craft and art supplies, and more. One even had some cookware she’d been missing. She put each item into a pile: keep, donate, discuss. Once all the boxes were empty, she collapsed most of them and set them next to the recycling bin in the utility room.
Returning to the bedroom, she drank the rest of her hot chocolate. Her eyes fell onto the box in the closet, realizing she’d completely forgot about it. “Guess I’ll get to you once I put everything away.” She took her mug into the kitchen, where she placed it in the dishwasher.
On her way back to the bedroom, she glanced through the living room window and paused a moment to watch Chloe changing the oil on the car. Feet stuck out from under the front of the car, which was secured on car stands. Tools and parts lay on the curb next to the feet. After a second or two of watching, Kate returned to the bedroom to put away the items in the keep pile.
The donate pile she carefully put into the box she’d kept for that purpose. It went next to the front door to put in the car later. The ‘discuss’ pile she moved to a convenient place. Maybe after dinner they could figure out what to do with them.
Finally, only the box in the closet remained.
What mysteries do you hold?
This box was covered in art instead of labels: cartoony people, geometric shapes, and over-sized letters, all done in colorful marker. The style was unmistakably Chloe’s. A slight frown touched Kate’s face as she turned the box around.
When did you do this? I don’t remember seeing it when we moved.
After sitting cross-legged, she pulled the box close and opened it. Inside was a wooden box that fit perfectly into the outer cardboard box. The wood was unmarked and stained a light red. Carefully, she removed the wooden box and set it on the floor before her. The cardboard box she set aside.
When she lifted the lid of the wooden box, she gasped: inside were papers of all sizes and shapes and colors, stacked neatly and bundled with ribbons. She immediately recognized them. All the notes she’d written Chloe over the years, the little messages she included in her lunches or hid in her piles of clean clothes, were in this box. It amazed her how many there were. And that Chloe had kept them.
The messages weren’t profound things. Many of them were silly, like the one she spied on top:
Chloe, you’re my jam!
She’d written that message after they’d talked one night about which jams were their favorites and why. It had brought back memories of making jams and jellies with her mom and grandmother, which had brought her down. Chloe had noticed and gently got her to open up about those memories and share them. That night, the hurt she felt about losing her family had eased for the first time in years.
Gently, she picked up the first bundle and undid the ribbon. Setting the ribbon on her knee, she moved the first note to the side. The note below made her chuckle:
I hope your day is as bright as your smile
The afternoon sun was warm, and the breeze was cool. Chloe let the car hood fall the last few inches, and it closed with a satisfying thunk. She wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her hand, then wiped it on her pants. With one of the few clean rags, she rubbed the oil and grime from her hands. Next to her feet was the container of used oil.
She gathered her tools into her small toolbox, closing and latching it. Gathering it, the car stands, and the trash in hand, she took them to the utility room. One of the last clean rags was used to open doors. No sense in getting her greasy hands on what she and Kate had cleaned this morning. She placed the toolbox on its shelf with the stands next to it, and the trash she packed into the bin.
Quickly, she washed her hands and arms, using the last clean rag to dry with. A downward glance revealed grease and dirt on her shirt and pants. She twisted to look at her butt and saw a little dirt there, too. After a couple of slaps across her butt and a few down the front of her legs, she was satisfied the pants were clean enough for the car.
She tossed the dirty rags on the floor beside the washer in the utility room.
I’ll throw them in with my shirt and jeans once I get back.
Outside, she carefully moved the oil container into the trunk and made sure it was secure. Although the container was sealed, she didn’t want to chance a freak accident coating the inside of the trunk with dirty oil. Slapping her hands across her hips to wipe them, she got in the car.
The nearest place that accepted used motor oil was only a 10 or 15 minute drive away. Feeling in an old school mood, she blared The Distillers and drove away with the windows down. The wind dried the sweat in her hair and brought in the smells of the city on a warm fall afternoon.
The drive was relaxing after the work she’d done on the car. The tunes rid her of the annoyance she’d felt during the repair work and she was soon singing along and tapping the windowsill as she drove. After dropping off the oil, she decided to splurge and take the car through a carwash instead of washing it by hand.
The car gleamed in the afternoon sun as she parked in front of their house. She gently shut the door and looked at the shiny car for a few seconds. “Looking good, girl,” she whispered, then walked toward the house.
Lynn was off with some of her friends, leaving only her and Kate until tomorrow. Once inside the house, she went to the utility room, humming Dismantle Me. Opening the washer, she tossed in the dirty rags. Her dirty shirt, jeans, and socks quickly followed. She set the machine for a normal wash, then went into the kitchen.
“Kate,” she called, and opened the fridge. Pulling out a bottle of her favorite microbrew, she popped off the cap, tossed it into the trash, and took a long swig. “Kate?” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then stared at it a few seconds before wiping it on her bare thigh.
Since Kate wasn’t answering, she walked to the bedroom, not caring that anyone outside could see her in only underwear and bra through the front windows. “Kate?”
She found Kate kneeling on the floor by the closet. Around her were strewn papers and ribbons. A wooden box caught her eye. Next to it was a moving box she’d decorated. Energy exploded in Chloe’s chest, swirling and bouncing erratically.
“I, uh, see you found my collection,” said Chloe, trying to act nonchalant. She took another swig of the beer but didn’t taste it.
Maybe I should go take a shower?
Kate looked up at her, eyes gleaming from the tears collected in the corners. “You saved them,” she choked, “all of them!”
Chloe shifted her stance; her eyes looked everywhere but at Kate. “Uh… yeah,” she said, left hand hanging limp as she tried to figure out what to do. “I… uh, couldn’t throw them away…”
A whirlwind of happiness and sunshine engulfed Chloe as Kate threw herself at her. The beer bottle went flying! For a moment, Chloe envisioned the beer splattering everything, making a colossal mess. The hug attack drove her backward, and she barely managed to keep them from tumbling to the ground. Then lips were kissing her, driving the concern away. Hands pulled her close, held her while Kate kissed her with a passion she rarely expressed. Words exploded from Kate when she ended the kiss, but she spoke too fast and with such emotion Chloe couldn’t understand what she said.
Chloe brushed hair from Kate’s face, now streaked with tears. She was practically blubbering now, with half-formed phrases, words tumbling into chaos as she talked about the notes Chloe had saved. After several minutes, the tears stopped, though Kate continued to hang onto her.
“You saved them,” Kate breathed as she gazed up at her. “All of them.”
“Well, yeah, I saved them,” Chloe whispered. Her head tilted forward to touch Kate’s. “You gave them to me. When I’m… sad or in one of those moods, I dig them out and read them. They… mean a lot to me.”
Hazel eyes looked deeply into hers. It amazed Chloe how much depth Kate’s eyes had. They changed color, from light to dark, depending upon clothes or mood. “I love you,” Kate whispered.
Chloe’s heart leaped at the words, and the breath caught in her chest. A tingly, fuzzy kind of sensation swept down her arms and wrapped around her body.
“I love you,” Chloe breathed before she caught up Kate in her arms. “Fuck yeah! I love you.”
“My heart belongs to you,” Kate whispered. “Always.”
“And mine to you.”