The Shadow of a Great Man

Fiction By Elizabeth Anne // 3/27/2013

A shadow; a vague mist of darkness buried in the night. She put it in a box and locked it away in her heart, wishing it hidden from the world. From time to time she would pull it out and caress it gently as she cried. Eventually, it became a source of comfort, even when her sorrows passed. During those days she would pull it out and wrap it around her fingers like a scrap of cloth. She would pull on it when she was nervous and press on it when she was angry. It never failed to calm her.
It became tattered and worn until its original form was no longer discernible. When this time came, she pulled out her box once more and took the shadow out. It never left her hands as she gave it a new place to rest. Looking through her belongings, she finally found the perfect place. The tiny wooden box was carved with intricate gold designs that wrapped around and up its side. In the bottom there was a tiny hidden lever that, when found and pressed, slid a hidden door at the top open.
When opened, the door revealed a miniature man on one knee who began to twirl on a platform while a quiet tune played. Gently touching the shadow to the man’s outstretched hand, she let it slowly wind around him. As the shadow twirled in the man’s arms, she placed a finger on it as it moved gently with the music. She then closed the box with a final sigh and placed it back in her heart.
Locked deeply away, she guarded the music box with her life but let it continue to play constantly. As the man went in circles, forever proposing, he would occasionally catch hold of pieces of her heart. Before long, her entire heart was wrapped around that man and his shadow. It kept winding tighter and tighter until she could barely breathe.
When it could be borne no longer, she reached in and pulled the music box out. It filled her with great pain to slowly rip her heart away from the box. Because it was wound so tightly, the man himself and most of the shadow stayed with her heart, and she honestly would not have it any other way. They were simply a part of her.
The tiny scrap of the shadow that went with the music box was small at first, but it only took a few moments in the sunlight for it to grow and change, although still keeping its original form. This new shadow was beautiful and yet still incomplete. She searched through the shop until she found the perfect piece to complete the entire music box.
This different man was standing with one hand pointing upwards and the other stretched outwards towards her with a Bible laid gently on top. He fit perfectly into her music box, which strangely switched tunes when she placed him inside. The man also seemed to turn faster than hers, but also smoother. It was slower to grasp on to the shadow than hers had been, but when it did he did not let go.
After watching the man for some time to make sure he didn’t break under the pressure she closed the secret door for the final time and walked away with the box. She did not put it down until she reached her destination. Her daughter’s white and delicate hands brushed hers as the music box passed from mother to daughter.
Her wedding ring clinked against the metal lever as she let go of the box. Her daughter’s engagement ring clinked against the lever as she took hold of the box. Then her daughter opened the hidden door and the different man smiled lovingly as he twirled between the mother and her daughter. The daughter smiled and caressed the shadow as it twisted around the man, making him look complete.
Smiling up at the life-sized man in front of her, her daughter almost whispered “I do.” As she spoke, the daughter took the music box and placed it in her heart. After locking her heart, the daughter bent it into a circle and slipped it onto her man’s finger after he slipped a ring onto hers.
The mother smiled as they kissed, but her heart felt almost empty without the music box. Still, she had her own man who wrapped his arm around her now. They smiled together through joint tears because they knew that the shadow was safe, and would be safe for a long time. It would never leave their daughter’s heart until her heart was wrapped so tightly around her man that it was time for it to leave her heart. Then she would rip it out and give it to their daughter’s daughter on her wedding day. It would be beautiful.

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