When we found the film taped to the underside of the drawer, they were both gone. She younger than he but then we all knew it would be that way. He took her life we knew with meanness and spite. We had wanted her to come to be with us, to be done before it was too late. But she was choosing still to be at his side. She remained soft sweet beautiful until the end. That was the side we saw.
What we did not see was the strength she hoarded inside her very being. The meals she refused to cook ever again when he complained that “Grandma” did not make it that way. The furniture that did not get dusted for several months after he ran his hand over a high place she could not see. Still she could be loving toward his good side when it did appear. But we knew she withheld from him what he needed most. The spoiling.
The film was the thing we could not understand. Why was it there and which had seen the need to hide. We debated about what to do. Would there be news we could not or would not want to know? Would we regret ever bringing this one piece of furniture away from the now decaying house?
We had found the mounted deer horns on the living room wall and money he hid in the shed inside the screw jar. She had put the small blue flower broach that had been her mother’s on her ‘burying dress’ and never worn lipstick or earrings. In her closet up on the shelf we found the bank deposit book she had hidden. She had taught school then hoarded what she thought she needed to survive. We knew there was nothing else to be found. He had never given her a gift. In many ways they were alike, yet she was the one that suffered the most.
And the piece of furniture symbolized the marriage even more than the swinging bridge. It was polished and preserved. The set of dishes given them by her parents was hidden in the doors below. His feathers and duck calls and bits of wood and fishing lures stood on the shelves, in plain view along with a stack of Outdoor magazines. The drawers that would have held photographs and family mementos stood empty, not by chance but by choice.
He had systematically taken anything that did not hold something important for him and given them away to neighbors. The baby shoes were gone as were the locks of hair and smiling baby faces. He had, in the end, spoiled himself in every way possible.
It seemed only fitting that she should die of a broken heart and he would drown after a fall from the bridge into the river on a frozen day in January. The pictures were never developed, at least by us. Maybe the next owner of the piece of furniture would do it. But we had escaped and there was no turning back now.
I invite you to read “Choosing” in yesterday’s post. That is the beginning of the story. Totally fiction in every way.