All night long Joe slept and all night long, while sleeping, he heard that music play.
It was as if there was a professional marionette show going on just outside his range of hearing. He could hear it but not too loudly, it was as if it was being played as back ground music, or from a distance it was so faint. There were children’s voices weaving in and out of the melody, talking, laughing, and giggling, in anticipation of the show starting. It was all such a joyful sound that he turned in his sleep as if to ask Annie where it was coming from.
“Annie, get up, we’ve got to go to this show”, he said as he sat straight up in bed. But Annie wasn’t there, no music was playing and no children were whispering in excitement. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head to clear it and looked out the window and saw a beautiful late autumn day with the sun just rising and shining out; Annie’s favorite time of the day. It was what she called the best part of the morning.
He could almost hear her saying “Get up sleepy head, don’t forget you’ve got to get Millie and take her out for breakfast”.
Startled, he glanced around the room to see if anyone was there. He then looked at the bedside clock and saw that it was 7 am. He’d better hurry or she might bet angry and belt him again in the gut. Smiling then, he felt his stomach. He really didn’t want another blow from her tiny, but apparently, powerful fist, that was for sure. And even though he knew that she would never hit him like that again, he thought it best not to take that chance. Besides he thought that Angie probably had a word or two to her about it. She had said that Millie was having a rough time and was probably acting out at school. He sighed at this, but then laughed out loud for the memories of last night’s dinner; and as well as the incredibly realistic dream he had just woken up from. In remembering this, he jumped out of bed and went to get cleaned up and leave.
By the time he had gotten in his car and started driving to pick Millie up, it was a quarter to 8. Oh, this was going to be such a great day, he just knew it. And he was really looking forward to spending the day with her going through all those things in the attic.
Seven minutes later he pulled into their driveway and saw Millie peeking out the window, watching for his arrival. Boy was he glad he was a bit early.
The front door flew open and out she came running with the biggest smile he had ever seen on her face. “He’s here Mom. Gotta go” she yelled as she raced to the car.
‘You just wait up a second young lady”, Angie yelled back at her which brought a chuckle from his throat (which he immediately turned into a throat clearing sound seeing that she was already climbing into the front seat to join him).
“Hold on Millie, its best we see what your mom has to say, at least let her say bye ok?”
“Oh, ok Joe” she said with a sigh, then laughed. Angie came out smiling as she gazed at her daughter.
“Morning Joe; I’m sorry about her rushing you like this. I don’t know if she slept a wink last night, she was so excited. She hasn’t been this happy in a long time. I’ll tell you what; I’ll bring lunch for you two? How does that sound, maybe around one?”
Joe reached over and took Millie’s hand and smiled. “Well, I have a confession to make I was hoping you’d volunteer. But first breakfast right?” Millie smiled again and said “RIGHT! I’m hungry”. Then with both of them laughing at this, he pulled out and off they went.
The Pancake House was wonderful. Millie ate those pancakes like she hadn’t eaten any for a long, long time. And with each bite, she made this “mmm, mmm” sound to show her pleasure and then wipe the syrup off her chin with her fingers and then lick them clean, again making that “oh this is so good” sound.
“Where does all that go, girl? Joe finally asked as she finished her 5th (and final) pancake. He had barely been able to get 2 down.
“I told you I was hungry” she said with a contented smile. Then after paying the tab, they left there in a jovial mood, ready for a day of fun in the attic.
It was then that he started to hear the music again.
“Uncle Joe? Whats that song you’re humming?”
“What?” Joe replied back. “What?” he said again, shaking his head. “Oh I’m sorry I guess I’ve been a bit distracted ever since we left the Pancake House. I guess I didn’t realize I was humming at all.”
“Well, at times you were whistling and then humming; and it was a really pretty song too” Millie said quietly.
“It reminded me of a song that Annie used to play on the piano but I can’t remember it”.
“You know...” Joe said. “I’ve been having that tune in my head since I got up this morning. It came to me in a dream and it was really weird. I woke up telling Annie we ought to go see that marionette show”.
“What’s a marionette show? And by the way, what’s a marionette anyway” Millie piped back to him.
“A marionette? Oh those are what they call puppets that are hooked to strings and the puppeteer uses those strings to make the puppets to dance and walk and stuff”.
Millie looked over at him and said, “And you had a dream about one?”
“Yes, last night or rather just this morning before I woke up; in fact that’s what woke me up then, I heard a voice telling me to get up and reminded me of our date for breakfast” he said with a laugh. “And the weird thing about it was that it sounded just like Annie and even the words sounded like something she would say to me. That got me rolling out of bed in a hurry” he said, again with a laugh.
“Uncle Joe, didn’t Annie have some puppets like that?”
“Yup Millie, she did, and I think that they’re somewhere in that attic.”
“I thought I remembered them, there were 2 of them right; Both girls, one a blond like Annie and one dark haired like mom, right?
“Right you are, on both counts Millie; and they were named “Anabelle” and “Evangeline”. Your mom and Annie named them and played with them together a lot until they both got older; then your mom and dad got married, and then I came along. She brought them with her when we got married. She loved those puppets and when we bought that house, she fixed up the attic as a place to keep them. She said that there was something special about that place. She would go there to read and the stories seemed to almost come alive.” Joe smiled a bit when saying this as if he just remembered it.
“Are you ok Uncle Joe?”
“Yes, I’m fine, but sometimes those memories have a habit of sneaking up on me when I least expect them. In fact yesterday when I was up there, I thought I heard her voice at one time, but it was more like, as if she was a young girl talking.”
They got quiet then as Joe pulled the car into the driveway and into the garage.
Then when they entered the house, Millie just stood there for a moment in silence as she looked around. “Where is all of Annie’s stuff?” she asked.
“Well Millie...” Joe then stopped and stood for a moment to think of how best to answer her. Finally he spoke quietly, “I ended up gathering them all together and took them to that attic. I was in a dark place and it was hard for me to be here with all those memories flooding into my head all the time. I still thought of her but it was easier.”
“Didn’t you ever go back up there at all after that?” Millie asked.
“No” he answered her quietly, “ not until yesterday morning. I just started thinking that it was time. And when I went up there, I found out that it was.” Joe looked at Millie then and smiled.
“That was when I found the necklace. I wasn’t even looking for it and I went right to it. I figured when I saw it, that it would be dusty and all, but it wasn’t. It was as clean as when I gave it to you last night.”
Millie put her hand up and touched the pendent and smiled. She so loved this gift and didn’t want to lose it but she just couldn’t bear the thought of taking it off so soon. So she was wearing it, but under her sweater. The story that Joe was telling her sure was strange and even exiting a bit. She could hardly wait to get up there and start rummaging around.
“Well, now that we’re, let’s get us a bottle of water each and get to it ok?” Joe said. And so they both raced up the stairs to the attic door and went inside.