The Box - Christina Gaudet - cover

Some gifts should be left unopened.

When her gran passes away, the only item left to Lou is a small wooden box. Although it’s not the car that her sister, Cindy, receives, Lou knows it could have been worse. She could have gotten Gran’s collection of toenails. When Lou opens the box and a guy the size of a stick of gum falls out; she changes her mind – the nail clippings would have been better.

Not a day goes by that Lou doesn’t wish she could shove that guy back in the box and pretend she’d never laid eyes on him. Because of him, she discovered Gran was a sorceress and Cindy is a witch and all these years they have been keeping Lou’s magic locked away “for her own safety.” Without the magic she’s vulnerable to whoever, or whatever, is after her. With it, she’s a target for a fate worse than death.

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Chapter One

 

I check one last time to make sure Mom is still working on supper downstairs before closing the door to my bedroom and crouching next to the cardboard box in the middle of the floor. The thing looks completely at odds with the super clean white carpet, light pink walls, and matching white dresser, bed and night stand. Other than a couple of paintings, the dance trophies displayed around the room, and the few Taekwondo medals I’ve managed to put up without Mom noticing, every other object is tucked neatly away in dark pink containers, making the cardboard seem much grimier and much more interesting than it might otherwise.

I stare at the folded flaps covering the top for a long time without doing anything.

I should put it back and leave it alone. It’s what Mom would prefer. When she set the box in my closet a week ago, she made a point of telling me she wanted to be the one to go through the contents, but she needed time. I doubt it will stay in my room much longer. As upset as Mom is about Gran’s death, she’s already starting to come to terms with it, which means the box of stuff Gran had at the hospital will be organized and most likely tossed out soon.

Although I know from the weight of the thing there isn’t much inside, I can’t help being curious about what Gran chose to keep with her up until the end.

I pull the flaps apart and peer within. The space is almost entirely empty except for a few folded articles of clothing. Set carefully on top is Gran’s watch and a small wooden box I’d never seen before. Just to make sure there’s nothing else, I take everything out and carefully spread it over the floor. A pair of cotton pants, two blouses, underwear, a comb, and then the watch and the box.

As I put everything away exactly as I’d found it, I can’t help feeling disappointed, though I’m not sure why. What did I expect? Her collection of toenails? And if she kept it with her, would I want to find it?

I smile and shake my head. I should be relieved there’s nothing else in here. I’m sure her house is going to have enough odd objects to sort through to make up for the lack here.

I’m about to set the box back on top of the clothes when I stop. Why a box? At the size of my fist it can’t hold too much. Maybe some jewelry, but that doesn’t seem likely since this is Gran we’re talking about.

After glancing back at the door and considering my options, I make a decision. Instead of putting the wooden box away with the other items, I set it on my bed and then return the rest to the back of my closet. After quickly examining everything to make sure the room looked exactly the same as before, I flop down on my bed and reach for the box.

I twist it around in my hand, lifting it above me as I lie back on my pile of pillows. It’s actually kind of pretty. How have I never seen it before? I visited Gran every weekend with Mom after she got sick. My sister Cindy, on the other hand, went once and then refused to go back. She said it made her uncomfortable or something equally selfish.

My hand tightens in anger at the memory and my thumb jerks across the front of the box. Seriously, who does Cindy think she is? Couldn’t she take one day out of her busy schedule of getting drunk and making out with boys to visit our dying grandmother?

And in the end, Gran still decided it would be a great idea to give her car to Cindy. She doesn’t know anything about responsibility, and completely ignored Gran and yet she’s the one who gets rewarded.

Without meaning to, I flick the latch and the lid flies open. I scramble to keep it from dropping out of my hands. Something about the size of my thumb falls out onto my stomach and gets lost in the folds of my salmon-colored top.

Damn it. What would Gran leave in there that would be so small? It wasn’t shiny like a ring. In fact, it kind of looked like a…

Movement. I saw movement. Don’t tell me a spider was living in that bloody box. I hate spiders. Especially the kind that climb into your ear and lay eggs on your brain. I’ve heard stories.

Every muscle in my body is tense and ready to spring, but I hold myself in place. No need to freak out. It’s only a spider, after all. More afraid of you and all that. And if I start flopping around like an idiot, it might get mad and bite.

Slowly, I reach down to the hem of my shirt. Even more slowly, so as not to frighten the thing into doing something rash like bite me or run for the excellent hiding spot of my ear, I pull the material down, flattening out the folds.

My heart flutters as I finally catch sight of the thing. I’m about to flick it off me and throw myself in the opposite direction when I notice the bug is staring straight at me with a look more horrified than my own. Not only that, it seems to have only two legs and two arms, not the eight I’ve been expecting.

When my ears start to ring I realize I’ve been staring at the thing on my stomach for a very long time without breathing. I gasp and it takes in a similar breath.

A human. An impossibly tiny human crouches on my stomach.

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