Stories

The Family Secret

by Amelia W., Age 13 , Grade 8, Holy Trinity Parish School, Louisville , KENTUCKY USA
Teacher: Mrs. Reinhart

My deep sleep was quickly interrupted by the sound of the porch door shutting followed by my Grandma Sally’s signature screech to make sure everyone knows she was there. It was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and we were off school for break. I went down the stairs and Sally made Haller, my brother, and me a huge breakfast. We each had microwaved bacon, scrambled eggs, and orange slices that she called smiles. We scarfed the meal down quickly while we sat on our spinning bar stools in soft, cotton pajamas. It was supposed to be an exciting day because we were going to decorate the Christmas tree. My mom was at work, but before she had left she wrote out a “To-Do” list for us and left it on the counter. It had the usual basic chores. “Feed the dog, put away the dishes, put away your clean laundry,” and, ugh,  the one I despised the most; taking out the trash. It was such an easy chore but it was rainy that day which meant I would be wet and cold. But my mom threatened that she would hang me up by my toenails in the basement if I didn’t complete the checklist. She comes up with such crazy jokes.

    Granny Sally and I grabbed the large, worn, and torn cardboard box that we had stored our fake Christmas tree in for years. Then Granny grabbed a vacuum and I moved the chairs so that we could clear a space for the twelve foot tree and its red and white tree skirt. We made the unanimous decision to assign Haller the most tedious task of plugging in each strand of Christmas lights to see which ones still worked and which ones were dead. Granny started assembling the tree.

        “Grab the boxes of ornaments from the basement please,” she requested. So I slumped down the beige carpeted stairs that led to our basement. Like many people describe in movies, I was scared of the basement. Well, I wouldn’t have said scared, it just gave me an eerie feeling, so to speak. Sometimes I thought I was hearing noises coming from down there, but I knew it was just paranoia.

         Once I got to the bottom step, I quickly dashed to the back of the closet, grabbed the dusty plastic box, and sprinted so fast up the stairs that I almost tripped over my own feet. We only had a small amount of time to decorate, so we had to use it efficiently. We started somewhat of an assembly line where I unwrapped each individual ornament out of its bubble wrap and handed it to Granny or Haller to hang on the tree. This brought a feeling of reminiscence over us. For each ornament represented a special memory. Once we were finished we took a few steps back to admire the tree. Looking at the tree brought such a sense of joy. It was a symbol that Christmas was coming.

    There was one last thing we needed to adorn our lovely tree with; the special ornaments. My mom had porcelain ornaments that had been passed down to her from many generations. They were gorgeous with 22 karat gold outlining each festive shape. Mom told us to wait for her to hang these beauties on the tree, but we were so excited that we couldn’t wait. Since they were so precious, we kept them in our large black safe in the basement. I had never looked in the safe before that day but I knew what we were looking for: a rustic, wooden crate with brass hinges marked fragile. On the inside it was lined with black velvet and it had indentations for each ornament. I told Granny that I would run down, grab the ornaments, and be right back up.

    I typed in the code to the safe, twisted the silver knob, and struggled to pull the heavy door open. There she was, right before my eyes, staring straight back at me. She was an extremely gaunt figure, with haggard and sickly pale skin. Her toenails were bleeding and nailed to the back wall of the safe. Her face was a slightly more reddish tint from the rest of her body since she was hanging upside down and blood was rushing to her skull. You could clearly see it because her face was so hollow. But when I got a better look at her face, I began to tremble, quiver, and shake violently. I had cold sweat running down the back of my neck and palms. I opened my mouth to scream but I was so petrified with complete terror by the sight that lay in front of me that my vocal cords stayed silent.

    There was something about her face that was horrifyingly familiar. She had crystal blue eyes that were glazed over. They reminded me of every time I had looked in the mirror. Her hair was made up of a mix of platinum and dirty blonde. And though the strands were tangled into a rats nest, I could tell they resembled my hair. It had hit me like a dart to the head. I didn’t want to think it but there was no other possibility. The human was my sister. I wanted to run but it felt like my feet were chained to the floor. I was completely paralyzed with fear. Her eyes shut tightly and her scrawny, foaming mouth opened and screeched, “AMELIA, AMELIA, AMELIA…”

    “Amelia! Amelia! Wake up! It’s time to decorate the Christmas tree,” my grandma said. I sat up in disbelief and confusion.

Then I said, “Okay, but first I have to do chores before mom hangs me up by my toenails!”

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