Marci pulled out the plastic bin from underneath the splintering shelves in her storage unit and wiped a year’s worth of dust from its top. She drew in a sharp breath of mold and mildew as she lifted the red bin, leaving only its imprint among the dust and dirt. She carried the large bin up the stairs and into her living room and placed it atop her perfectly polished table. She drew in another sharp breath, this time of fresh pine and sap. She could hear the Christmas music blaring from her upstairs neighbor and her floors and walls seemed to vibrate with its sound. She paused for a moment before lifting the lid off last year’s memories.
Last year, the music had played in Marci’s home, her three-year-old daughter, Amanda, singing along so loudly that the same neighbors upstairs had complained. But her house was quiet this year, Amanda gone before last year’s Christmas tree had even been taken down. Now Marci was forced to listen to the same songs her daughter had loved as she set about decorating this year’s tree.
Marci pulled each shiny ornament out of the storage bin and placed it in perfect order upon the tree. She reached into the bin for another ornament, but instead pulled out a small pink shoe. The laces were frayed at the edges, the tennis shoe dirty and torn. It was Amanda’s. She had been wearing this shoe the night she died. Marci could not figure out how the shoe had gotten into the Christmas bin, could not understand how she could have been so careless. When she had removed Amanda’s body from under the Christmas tree where it had lain, lifeless, the shoe must have gotten caught in the fallen ornaments. She was sure before she had secured Amanda’s body in the Christmas tree disposal bag that nothing of Amanda’s had been left behind.
She tossed the tattered shoe into the fireplace, surrendered to the Christmas cheer offered by her upstairs neighbor’s music and began to hum “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” letting the sound take her mind far away from last year’s Christmas memories.