The Heirlooms

The Heirlooms
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio

perhaps something to listen to as you read?

Jason sat on the porch, his feet kicking the lattice as his legs swung slightly. He was singing a wordless tune to himself as the tears streamed down his face. The funeral had lasted only an hour and even in the house filled with friends and family, he felt alone but for the girls sitting on either side of him.

“Come on, Jay, please?” Jillian handed him a cup of punch once more, and finally he drank it quickly.

“Okay…satisfied?” He stared at her and she burst into tears. The girl on the other side of him leaned closer and whispered,

“She was kind to you, Jay…come on. Go easy on her…she lost a Mom, too.” Jason turned to answer his sister and saw that she had been crying as well.”

“I know she lost just as much as we did. I just don’t know why she’s so cheery. I can’t handle this…” It was hard being the middle child in a family of five...four, actually; especially when he was the only boy. He looked at Julie and frowned.

“How do you do it? Mommy isn’t here any more. Daddy didn’t even care to show up and now everything is ruined…Everything, Jules….I hate this…I hate myself. Things will never be any good…” He began to sob and she pulled him close in a hug, patting him on the back. He felt Jillian’s soft hand kneading his neck and between the two he had no defense.

Being one of two would have been difficult enough, but god in his/her infinite wisdom saw fit to give Jason two sisters, both of whom he adored. That would have been ‘normal’ in anyone’s world but for the fact that Julie was flesh and blood just like him, and Jillian was part of his own soul; the twin who would have been born, some might have said. But really, even if she was only a recent addition to the family, Jillian was as real as Julie; perhaps even more so as Jason felt that he was the doppelganger to the true and living being which inhabited the body that sat on the porch between solid and ethereal.

“You know Mommy’s here with us, don’t you?” Jillian said in his head, her hand through his rubbing his ear and kissing his cheek. Julie held his left hand, circling and tracing the lines on his palms while echoing what his other half had just said.

“Let’s go in the house. The crowd has died down,” Julie said, as if they were going inside to a concert or standing on line at Magic Mountain in Orlando.

The ‘three’ stood up and walked into the house, almost sneaking past the stragglers as the minister bade farewell to the departing family members and friends. Climbing up the stairs, Jason found himself scribing a line up the wall parallel to the handrail, remembering it was something he had seen his mother do once and deciding that it was worth duplicating. God he missed her. He stopped at the top of the stairs and looked back, as if Jillian was actually standing at the bottom.

“Go ahead. I’ve got something to do. I’ll meet you there,” he heard her say as Julie’s hand gently tugged him toward their mother’s bedroom.

Opening the door to the bedroom, they found a familiar figure sitting on their mother’s bed; her face was streaked with the same tear streams as their own and the same warm familiar face smiled back at them.

“Hi,” their Aunt Beth said. “I’m glad I got to see you now that things have calmed down. She patted the bed and the two walked over, sitting down on either side.

“You know that we’ll be meeting at the lawyers on Tuesday, but it’s all been settled. You two inherit the house and your mother’s insurance is enough to take care of both of you for college and other things. I’d rather not even go to the lawyers; it’s just so cold and final, but since your mother left you in my care? And you’re both having a birthday in a few weeks, and I think you’re certainly old enough to be there.” Julie and Jason were separated birth-wise by a year and a day, with Julie the older of the two turning seventeen and Jason sixteen.

“I’m so glad you’re coming to live with us,” Julie said as Jason nodded half-heartedly. He noticed Beth looking at him and his face turned bright red.

“Oh, gosh, Jay…I understand. I love being here, but if only it were under different circumstances. I miss your mom…..” She choked back a sob. Beth and Jo had been separated birth-wise much in the same way as Julie and Jason, and she understood more than anyone how they felt. He put his hand on her arm and squeezed.

“I’m sorry you have to be here…you know? I know you’ll be good for us. It’s just it’s so hard to believe she’s gone. Even after all these months.” He tried hard not to start crying, but his efforts were in vain as he rested his head on her shoulder and began to cry softly.

“You can’t prepare for this. When your grandmother died it was the same way; we thought we were ready, but even though we expected it, it hurt just as much…as anything. I know, Jay.” She breathed in a deep breath.

“Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about some things your mother and I discussed just before she went into the hospital for the last time.” Beth smiled and turned toward the door.

“Jay…would you bring the chair over there and put it across from the bed here? And Julie? Would you stand by the trousseau there?” She pointed to the chest sitting on the floor at the end of the bed.

“Is Aunt Amy joining us? Aunt Meg?” She smiled even as she repeated their aunts’ names. Their grandmother’s favorite book had been Little Women.

“No…they’re seeing the rest of the visitors out and we’ll join them after we’re through here.” Beth smiled and looked at the door as if someone would walk into the room.

“Now Julie, open the trousseau and read the card that’s on top of the garment bag, okay?” Julie opened the trunk and pulled out the card and read;

“My dearest Julie, I love you so much. This is important to me because it was my mother’s, and I know you’ll treasure it. Be well, my darling daughter. Mommy”

Julie pulled up the garment bag and unfolded it, placing it on the bed. She unzipped it to reveal the white folds of soft fabric underneath. Her face grew warm and tears began to flow.

“This is grandma’s wedding gown. Oh, Aunt Beth…this is….” She burst into tears, unable to finish. Beth gathered her into a warm hug, her hand stroking the girl’s soft auburn hair.

“She knew you wanted to honor our mother…your grandmother, and this is for you. The veil and train are under the comforter along with the jewelry she wore when she married Daddy.” Beth smiled and nodded.

“Can I try it on?”

“Yes, but not just yet, okay?” She nodded but turned and faced Jason.

“Jay? Would you sit in the chair across from the chest?” He shook his head slightly, not to refuse, but in confusion.

“Go ahead, honey. It’s okay. Please sit there.” She offered the seat as if it were a place of honor. He sat down, still shaking his head. He wiped the tears from his face and looked at her.

“Julie? Please open the card on top of the rest of the things in the trunk, okay?”

“My dear daughter. It occurred to me that I have no one to leave my own wedding gown to, with grand mom’s gown already being bestowed. So I leave this gown to you. I married your father in this dress, and it is the most precious article; the heirloom of my own life that I wish you to have. Please wear this and remember me when you do? I love you. Mommy.”

Julie began to cry once again, but she had a look of curious wonder on her face. She laid the garment bag on the bed opposite the other dress and held the card before her aunt who nodded and smiled. She turned and looked at Jason before picking up the garment bag once again. She hung it on the closet door and opened it, revealing yet another wedding gown, somewhat similar to the one she had revealed only moments before, but with lace covering the bodice instead of the the satin of the first.

Unzipping the bag all the way, she pulled the dress from its confinement and held it up for them to see it. And then she walked slowly to Jason, who still sat in the chair opposite Aunt Beth. She smiled through her tears and draped the dress across his lap, startling him. She then picked up the card she had read and handed it to him. He opened the card and saw the inscription and began to weep.

“To Jillian, My dear daughter…”

He looked up at Beth and she nodded.

“She knew, honey. She’s found out so late…she never knew how to say that, and then when she got sick it there was no time.”

By now all three were crying softly. As they wept, they were joined by several others in the small bedroom, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Aunt Amy and Aunt Meg stood by the end of the bed, looking with excitement and wonder at the scene. Beth had shared with them what Jo had told her only days before her death, and both of them had decided that they would help their sister see her last wish fulfilled; that her daughters would grow up safe and cared for.

Joining them were two others; both almost angelic in appearance. Jo stood at the doorway and looked to her side, where a girl almost sixteen stood. Jo nodded and smiled, and the girl walked over and sat down….settling in the same chair as Jason. It was sort of ethereal and sort of poetic, the girl would say years later. And Jo smiled at Beth and Amy and Meg with a wistful grin; the most serene smile as she simply faded away.

A few years later, the local newspaper featured a short article in the Town and Country Section.

Julie Annette March and David Alexander Stevens were united in holy matrimony at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church this past Saturday. Also wed were Jillian Marie March and Constance Nicolle Perone. Ms. Perone and Mr. Stevens wore matching Ivory tuxedos while both March sisters wore dresses given by their grandmother and mother as heirlooms….

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This story is 1895 words long.