My grandmother kept her heart in a box under her bed. On still nights, you could hear it beating softly, a soft, comforting, musical thrumming, as I lay on my truckle bed beside hers.
“I can show you how, my sweet child, when you grow up. How to keep it safe. How not to break your heart, and fade away and die as your mother did. The foolish girl…”
And so I did grow up. Soon I was too tall for the truckle, and moved to the hayloft room in the barn. You could see the moon from the little shuttered window. I ran off under it with my sweet Paul in my sixteenth midsummer.
It was five years later that I knocked on that door again. My Paul was seven months in his grave in the butternut I had sewed for him, and my daughter had been a cold, still bundle in my arms for the last three days.
My grandmother opened the door to me, and there still was not a white strand in her dark hair.
“I’ve learned. I’m ready,” I said softly, as if I’d spoken to her two hours ago instead of five years.
She brought me in and sat me in front of the fire. The bundle in my arms felt all the colder in its warmth.
She looked in my eyes and shook her head. “Too late, my child. It’s not yours any more.” She leant forward and laid her hand on the bundle. “The question becomes…are you as foolish as your mother?”
I look long into her eyes and smiled. I had not thought I had it left in me.
“Yes,” I say softly. “I am.”
She sighs, softly, and reaches forward. The buttons of my blouse nearly come away as she undoes them and lays her hand on my chest.
The pain is sudden, and sharp. My vision blurs. I can only see a jewel-bright blur of red in her hand as she swiftly unwraps the bundle on my lap.
They say hearing is the last sense to go. I hear my daughter whimper softly, then begin to cry, before the darkness rolls over me.