The dust stuck to the sole of Fiona’s feet as she walked up the stairs to her grandparents’ old attic. Dust bunnies hid between the hidden treasures and boxes that were stored up there. She wasn’t looking for anything specific at first; just the smell of the house and the sight of some of the toys from her childhood made her heart ache with nostalgia and grief. In front of a pile of boxes right by the steps, Fiona saw the seven typewriters that her grandfather and she had tested out together six years ago. Only one of them had worked – it had been the one her grandpa had used in high school. Brushing her fingers over the carefully aligned machines, she remembered how the two of them had gone to the next town over and found ink tape to start writing on it once again.
She heard steps behind her as she went further into the attic, swatting away low-hanging spider webs from her face as she went to the corner with board games and books. As she stood there and pulled out her favourite game from when she was little, Fiona felt Allie wrap her arms around her waist from behind and pulling her close. Warmth spread through Fiona’s body instantaneously and she couldn’t help but smile.
“The clouds cleared up, so if you still want to we can go to the hills and…” Allie chuckled, put her lips right next to Fiona’s ear and whispered. “…look at the freaking stars.”
Fiona turned in the arms of her partner and looked at Allie’s face in the low light of the attic. “How lucky I am that you put up with me and my cheesy routines.” She gave Allie a quick kiss and nodded towards the stairs. “And yes – definitely still want to. Go ahead and get ready, I’ll just be another five minutes.”
Allie let go of Fiona, held a hand to her cheek and nudged Fiona’s chin gently before she turned away and went back down.
The living room lights were dimmed and created a low, cosy feeling around the house and I sat by the oven while I listened to Fiona rummage through her grandparents’ things upstairs. There was no one else in the house but us – something that I was used to but must have felt extremely bizarre to her. I never got to meet Fiona’s grandparents apart from the versions of them I knew from the stories she told. This house was where they had created a family and where she had spent a lot of her childhood. The first time she ever brought me here, all she did for days was sit in her grandpa’s armchair and tell me about them in between occasional bursts of tears and laughter.
This house had since become a second home to us – to me. We spent so many weekends here just relishing in the amazing quiet of the countryside. I was just thinking about the last time we had come here with the rest of her family to celebrate her birthday when I saw her trudge down the stairs with something big in her arms. That day had been very special because her cousins had shown up, which I knew was a development she was struggling to get used to after an entire childhood of not having had a relationship with them. I watched as she walked towards me, carrying what looked like a basket that she had retrieved from the depths of the attic. Fiona set it on the carpet, right in front of my feet and looked at me like a proud school kid presenting their science project.
I eyed it curiously and looked up at her with a smirk. “Are you going to tell me what that is, or should I ask?”
“It’s my grandmother’s picnic basket. We can take it on the walk, but there’s also something special inside.” I could tell she was trying to hide a grin. I raised an eyebrow and waited for her to continue.
“Take a look!” She sat down in front of the basket, cross-legged, and looked at me in anticipation.
Allie hesitated before she slid down from the armchair and opened the basket. She took out the little box Fiona had put inside a minute ago and stared at it, puzzled. With unsure fingers, she gently took off the lid and placed it aside before taking a look inside. She gasped. “No way. Wait, what is this, are you serious?”
With disbelief in her eyes just as much as excitement, Allie took out the pair of keys that Fiona had had made for her and Fiona beamed at her.
“One for this house and one for my place; none of them are truly home without you."