“Open The Box”: Writing Exercise #1

February 18th, 2021

The following fictional short story is a writing exercise inspired by a prompt taken from “A Creative Writer’s Kit” by Judy Reeves.

“Callie, have you seen my keys?” Her mother Lydia, asked as she felt around in her jacket pocket without any luck. The little girl shook her head as she timidly placed a cup filled with pastel markers on the desk.

“I am pretty sure you left them in the truck, honey.” Alice said setting down a box on their daughter’s new bed. It had been an exhausting day so far, what with the six-hour drive to the campus and staying up late the previous night to pack up the truck. On the bright side, they were able to leave first thing in the morning. Alice collapsed on the bed next to the box.

“I will be right back.” Lydia said, putting on her jacket to go search the truck for the lost keys. The three of them nodded as she went, closing the door behind her.

“This dorm is much nicer than mine was back in the day. It was basically a shoebox with bunk beds.” Alice said staring up at the ceiling.

“I can’t wait to meet my roommate!” Haley beamed, unpacking the shirts they had wrapped in trash bags, still on their hangers. She hung them in the wardrobe next to her desk. “They are supposed to arrive tomorrow, they said something about not liking crowds so that’s why they didn’t come to move-in day.”

“I think it is so awesome that they let you stay in mix gender dorms nowadays.” Alice sighed, thinking about her wife and remembering a time when she felt guilty for doing so.

“I don’t understand why you would want to stay in a room with another person,” Callie said turning her nose up at the thought, arms folded across her chest. “You have your own room at home that is bigger than this place. And you have your own easel and paints and everything!”

Haley was continuing to organize the wardrobe, then paused to look at her little sister. At seven years old Callie was full of honest opinions, an age where nothing is better left unsaid. Though despite her honesty Callie knew it would be uncool to admit she would miss her sister.

Their relationship had not always been an easy one, after all, Haley had been an only child for eleven years so imagine her surprise when her mothers asked her how she would feel about having a sibling. She understood at eleven that them asking her opinion was just a courtesy, it wouldn’t really change their minds if she said she didn’t want a sibling. She loved receiving their undivided attention and didn’t want that to change. But after Callie was born, Haley’s temperament towards her began to soften. She was going to miss the little monster.

“We discussed this Callie, Haley is here so she can study art and become a better painter. Not to mention she is going to make so many new friends! We should be happy for her.” Alice said pulling Callie in for a hug.

Callie pushed her away, clearly upset. Alice gave Haley a desperate look as Callie turned to face the wall, staring with disdain at a faint pencil marking above the bed frame.

“I am gonna go see if I can find us some snacks before we hit the road again.” Alice said leaping off the bed, “You girls want anything?”

“Lemonade? If you can find some?” Haley said, then looking at Callie “Maybe two. Thanks Ma.” Alice nodded and disappeared into dormitory hallway in search of a cafeteria or vending machine.

Haley closed the wardrobe doors, satisfied with the contents and their place inside. Callie sat stubbornly on the bed, unmoving save for her breathing, which was controlled and intentional. She dare not look at Haley, if she did she might cry.

Haley sighed and rooted around the drawer by her new desk. She withdrew a tiny wooden box decorated with glitter glue and sequins. A few had fallen off over the years but there were still a few that had remained, hanging on for dear life. Haley sat next to her sister.

“I was going to wait until Christmas to give this to you, but maybe now is a better time. Here you go.” Haley said handing Callie the box. “I want you to know I am still here Callie, I am still your big sister, nothing’s gonna change that. You will have to work a lot harder to get rid of me.”

Callie didn’t move. She didn’t take the box. She didn’t drink the lemonade that her mother brought back for her. Nor did she speak the entire car ride home from the university. Her stubbornness was unmoving, her resolve hardening every time she felt the tears tugging at the back of her eyes. She found the box on her nightstand the next morning, Haley must have given it to Alice or Lydia just before they left.

It sparkled in the morning light, filtered sunlight bouncing off the glitter and sequins. She realized looking at it in more detail it was familiar, something she had seen in Haley’s room once or twice, maybe when she went snooping around in there because that was what younger sisters did.

Her curiosity overruled her stubbornness as she reached for the box and peered inside.

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