Night has crept in and claimed the sky. A cool breeze whips around the distant oaks and willow tree dropping in the distant backyard. The house thrums with loud music and shouting bodies swaying about inside. A few people linger out under the twinkle of the stars and glittering, silver moon. The bulbous shape dips low tonight in the sky increasing the intensity of its glow. I lost my friends a while ago in the chaos of inside.
I rest against the blue bird wall paper in the sweltering heat watching classmates and strangers prance about in ridiculous attire either drinking and conversing or grinding against each other. The tables are clear and the living room sofa, one of the few remaining pieces of furniture, is pressed to block off the clogged fireplace. From my place in what was once a dining room I can make out a small shape perched upon the fireplace mental, the thin brick strip providing enough support, when she can dig her feet into the top of the blue sofa, to be a semicomfortable seat. Something catches in the dim light cast by the battery powered string lights running over each of the rooms.
I inch my way closer to catch sight of the item that holds her fascination hoping for some escape from the boredom the party is presenting. I make it to the quieter living room against the doorway before I can make out the heart-shaped glass. This close I can also make out the girl holding the item, pale blonde hair spiraling in this curls over her pale shoulders and wide, almost unnaturally teal eyes glowing in interest. A backless floral dress tight around her torso then flaring out around her waist drapes down to about her knees.
“Hey Bax.” I swing my legs over the arm of the couch to sit on the top of it by her. “What are you doing sitting over here by yourself?”
Baxter cast me a side glance with those big eyes. Her smile grows some as she holds out the snow globe. Her thin fingers trace over the rough porcelain bottom made to resemble lace before stopping at the opal pressed in the middle of a heart.
“Checking out this snow globe. I really like the birds inside.” She shouts over the music.
I scoot closer to finally examine the newest portion of my collection. Inside two doves dance around a white, pink, and green wreath each carrying the end of a pink ribbon to loop on a wide bow.
I gently take it. “Yea? It plays music too.”
I turn the snow globe over and find the silver key still locked in place. It resists initially before I can turn it around a few times. I let go to let it play. Bax leans closer to me to listen. The smell of honey and lavender washes over me with her so close. Her delicate hand perches itself on my shoulder so she can steady herself a smile growing across her face again.
“It`s like an old music box.” Bax whispers gleefully.
Her childlike enjoyment and proximity make my heart speed up a bit. “Do you like snow globes?”
Baxter looks at me with those bright teal eyes before rapidly nodding her head bouncing those tight coils of hair.
“I have a collection upstairs if you want to see.”
“Sure.” Baxter chirps, launching herself off of the fireplace mantel and onto the floor.
Her sneakers thunk against the hardwood and she takes a step to stabilize herself before turning to look at me. My boredom dies in a strike of warmth as a chuckle forces its way up. I hop off of the sofa and start pushing my way through the crowd. I`m not particularly big myself, but Baxter is small enough to fit in the trail left behind me. I make my way to a door at the back of the hall and unlock it before ushering Bax in. I step in after her and shut the door. She is so close I can feel every move she makes as she turns around in the dark. She waves her arms out to feel for a wall until they eventually land on my chest.
“Oliver? Where are we?” Baxter whispers through the darkness.
I glance down almost catching her outline, my breath stuck in my throat. I back up so I am pressed against the door to give her some room. It takes some fumbling with my phone before bright light flares from the flashlight chasing away the shadows.
“The stairwell to the second floor.” I answer her with a small smirk.
Bax`s eyes light up like she has been told the greatest secrete in the world or been given special access to something spectacular. I mean, it is like special access since I`ve been the only other person here since my grandmother`s roommate moved out two weeks before grandma. I was only three at the time so I don`t recall either living here and when I found the place inside was in shambles. Mom never let me change the downstairs but upstairs became totally mine.
I entwine my fingers with Baxter`s surprised by how small her hand is in comparison. I slowly start to ascend the spiraling staircase with Baxter right on my heels. The stairs are narrow and old, but they do not creak or groan under our weight and they haven`t been slanted or worn down. Apparently grandma never went up and her roommate rarely came down.
With my phone light lighting the way I lead Baxter up the spiraling stairs to the second floor hall. Six doors branch off of the hallway. One is the bathroom, another is a bedroom, one is a closet, one is for the attic and the other two have always been impossible to open so I don`t really know. I painted over the bird themed wallpaper with grey paint, when that failed I chose a dark blue. The hardwood floor is polished, still sparkling in the right light because it is almost completely untouched. I lead Baxter down the narrow space to the second to last door.
The handle jingles some as I roughly work the door free from its frame. It takes me several tries of digging my shoulder into the wood before the door and gives and sends me tumbling in. Baxter shuffles slowly after me now clenching the snow globe to her tightly to her chest. Her eyes don`t even run over the entirety of the room before she gasps. There are to dressers, a closet with several shelves, several shelves around the room, and a glass case filled nearly to the brim with snow globes. The curvature of certain snow globes amplifies the silver light shimmering around the room. In the moonlight Baxter`s curls catch the glow and nearly shimmer a soft silver themselves.
The plastic, glass, and/or porcelain items around the room are not entirely mine. Most of the collection comes from my father. He had an affair and left shortly after grandma let us move here. Things had been kind of rough at home and he wanted out, but at least he left me his collection to build from. Nathan is the only other one to have seen all of them. I gave the idiot a key to upstairs but between his s**t balance and ever dropping IQ we both thought it best he never actually came up here. Or at least I thought that, but nestled among the other piece of the glass case sits the box I brought along.
Baxter and snow globe temporarily forgotten I cross the room and quickly pull the box out before fixing the adjacent snow globes so they do not fall. A sigh escapes my lips as I glance down at the box. The swirling patterns over it are difficult to make out in most places and the opalescent shimmer of the top coat is lost to leave behind white base paint or chipped brown wood. I am certain the item is older than grandma and wonder if her bad habit is the only reason it is in this house now. I place it on a free table to redirect my full attention to Baxter.
The young female is stepping slowly through the room, dress swaying against her. Between volleyball in fall, basketball in winter, and lacrosse in spring she has developed an incredible form that hardly hints at her chubby younger years. I watch her silently while she pays me know mind. She traces a delicate figure along each unique piece of my collection. Occasionally she picks one up and shakes it to send glitter or fake snow spiraling down slowly through the water inside.
“Why do you have so many?” Her voice is barely above a whisper as if speaking louder will shatter the glass around her.
I tense and straighten my posture, her voice jolting me from my thoughts. “Um, well most are from my dad before he left. He kind of collected them then when he…moved on to another family he left them behind so I started to collect them too.”
I didn`t give away anymore. I didn`t need to. What I just said is enough to ensnare Baxter`s attention. A small frown turns down the corner of her lips and the look in her eyes is so soft. My father leaving should probably bother me more and guilt once more clenches my stomach when I pick up the pity in her gaze that I don`t really deserve.
I see her open her mouth to speak but words start spilling from my mouth before she can. “It doesn`t really matter though. I just grew to like snow globes and forgot about their connection to him.”
Baxter bows her head some and slowly returns the snow globe in her hands back to the dresser. She stays there for a long while just staring at the scene inside. I make my way over rolling each step to try and lessen the creaking of the floorboards. I didn`t realize until now how little the music and voices below actually reach the second floor leaving us almost completely alone in silence. I stand by Baxter and eventually she is close enough for our arms to brush. I don`t stare at the scenes in the glass but rather the glass itself where my warped reflection stares back with grey eyes and short brown hair. Baxter`s small fingers hook with mine then I gently entwine them.
“Let`s head back downstairs to the party.” Baxter speaks in a whisper.
I glance at her and nod some. I feel a smile stretch over my face but my throat is tight. Dad. Grandma. The silence. I start to pull Baxter along out of the room to get away from it all. I glance back once my eyes catching on the box resting on the mostly empty table bathing in moonlight. I pull the door shut with an unintentional slam that reverberates through the walls. Baxter takes the lead through the dark this time as the hall is too narrow to walk side by side.
We join the party separately at my request to avoid any stupid rumors that may stain Baxter`s reputation. The decision leaves me standing alone in the dark for a while. I could turn on the light but the tight space at the bottom of the stairs feels more secure with it off. From here I can immerse myself into the world of the party through the pulsing movement and bursts of chatter without being exposed to the undesirable crowds. Closing my eyes in such an environment is enough to clear my thoughts but not fully chase away the cloud sweeping through my mind.