- A Box of Memories
Date: Wednesday, December 05, 2007
- From: <neneithel @ aol.com>
- This was originally
posted at Steelewriting for the "Laura's Past"
challenge. Anyone is welcome to archive it, send it to interested
A Box of Memories
- Laura struggled out of the elevator
with the big box and was about to take
it into her office when Steele took it from her. "Let me."
he said, "What have
you got in here?"
- She frowned. "Nothing."
- "It weighs a lot more than
it used to when I had an abundance of it." he
replied, "On your desk?"
- "Thanks." she said.
- She followed him into the office.
When he'd put the box down she went and
put her hands on it. "Thanks." she said again.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
- "You wouldn't understand."
she said, fearing he would. She didn't feel she
- could take his sympathy on top of
- "Hm." he said, "If
you need me, you know where I am."
- As he headed for the door, she said,
"Wait. It's not you, okay?"
- He stopped and turned, "Good."
- "I just don't want ..."
her voice trailed away.
- "What?" he said.
- "It's easier alone." she
- "Not in my experience. If it
helps, I can pretend I'm not here."
- She smiled. He smiled back, a shy,
- "What's in the box?" he
- "Stuff, old stuff. After the
... after what happened, I asked the family for
any spare photos, bits, you know."
- "To replace what you lost in
- "Sentimental, aren't I?"
- "The word is human, I suspect."
- She looked at the box. "Only,
now I can't open it. I can't face it."
- "Would it help if I did?"
- She felt a sudden sense of rising
fear. There was no convenient box
containing his past and she wasn't sure she wanted him going
through hers. He was
watching her eyes and she wondered how clearly he could see what
- He put his hands in his pockets
and looked embarrassed. "Or maybe you'd
rather I left you in peace."
- "Open it." she said, "But
if I cry, don't ..."
- "Never." he said. He went
to the box and broke the tape with his keys. He
opened it carefully, almost reverently. He lifted out a framed
kid." he said.
- Laura took it. "I was seven
- "Still the same look in the
eye." he said.
- "What look?" she said,
looking at the photo.
- "The look of someone who doesn't
let life make all the rules."
- "Maybe that was your reflection
in the glass." she said.
- "Maybe we are reflections of
each other. Imperfect ones, anyway."
- Laura still looked at her younger
self. "Life was simpler then."
- "You were happy?"
- "Very." she said. She
looked at him in time to see a shadow of old pain
cross his face, "I'm sorry. If this brings back bad memories,
you don't need to
- "I was happy at seven too.
Lost it all a year later, but seven was a good
age." He looked into the box again, "Your mother made
a lovely bride."
- "Pity Dad didn't hang around."
- "His loss." said Steele,
handing her the wedding photo.
- "And mine." She put both
pictures onto the desk. "What else is there?"
- "An old lady with a gleam in
her eye." he said, giving her an unframed
- "My grandmother." she
said. Her voice shook and she knew she was going to
cry. "I'm sorry, she ..."
- He wrapped his arms around her.
"She was a wonderful woman."
- "You didn't know her."
- "You loved her. You don't care
about people who aren't wonderful, though you
generously make an exception for one."
- "Not that I can think of."
- "She was like you, wasn't she?
Same look in the eyes, same spirit."
- She looked at him in surprise. "How
do you always know what to say?"
- "I never know what to say with
you. The old lines don't work. I find myself
resorting to the truth out of desperation."
- "You're a good friend, Mr Steele."
- She was worried he'd take that as
a brush off, but he smiled. "How do you
always know what to say?"
- They both looked at the box. Laura
said, "Go on."
- Steele went back to it and took
out another unframed picture. "I recognise
one of these fresh-faced teenagers." he said, "But
who's the one with his arm
- She took it from him and smiled
at her old school friends. "Marty." she said.
- "Marty?" said Steele,
"I wonder what prison he ended up in."
- "Prison, Mr Steele?"
- "His eyes are too close together."
- She laughed. "How can you be
jealous of a school photograph from a thousand
- "I'm jealous of anyone who's
ever looked at you like that." he said.
- "Note I'm not even looking
in his direction." she said, "Marty was not that
- "Good. I like him better now."
said Steele, "Nice chap. Honest face." He
watched her face for a moment.
- "What is it?" she said.
- "It's hard to imagine you a
teenager, wondering who liked you and agonising
over who to dance with at the prom."
- "I didn't do much agonising.
I didn't really expect to be asked."
- He looked flatteringly surprised
at her lack of confidence. "But you were."
- She smiled. "If I say yes,
will you be jealous of everyone I danced with,
- "Were they better than I am?"
- "I refuse to answer that on
the grounds that you're conceited enough." she
- She went to the box and took out
a pale green scarf. "I wore this at my
- "Which one?" he asked.
- "Not just that, I trust."
- "No. I lost the dress in the
- He put his hand on her shoulder.
- "I'm fine." she said,
"Or I will be fine. It's just seeing my whole life
turn to ash and now this box is reminding me of all the things
couldn't replace, all the things they never had copies of."
- "Laura, I wish I could give
you back your house and everything in it."
- She kissed his cheek. "You
gave me back the most important part of it."
- "A replacement, not the real
- "Two people in my life have
cared enough to give me a piano. When I play it,
I think of both of you." She lifted a small teddy bear out
of the box.
"Sandy." she said.
- "Well, at least Sandy escaped
- "He was my second favourite,
my favourite was destroyed." She started to
cry. "This is stupid!" she said.
- "It's not." said Steele,
stroking her hair.
- "My life went up in smoke and
I'm crying because of a bear. It should be the
photographs I lost, or the letters or the presents people gave
me or that
- "The bear is all of that. It's
what you clung to, when things went wrong."
- She struggled to overcome the tears
and said, "It happened once to me.
You've had to start from nothing a lot more often. What did you
- "Whatever came in reach."
- "Do you have a box somewhere?
- "No. In my line of work ...
well, former line of work, you don't take
anything from one life to another." He tapped his head,
"I keep my memories in
here. It's not an ideal place for them. This box is important.
I'm glad you have
it. I'd love a picture from my childhood, or a bear, for that
- "Maybe you're the only one
who knows what I've lost, because you never had
it." She smiled and wiped her eyes. "That sounds stupid."
- "Not to me." he said.
- "How did you survive?"
said Laura, "How did you keep on rebuilding your
life? It's hard enough to do it once."
- "It gets easier." said
Steele, "You get used to it."
- "Do you?"
- "No." he admitted, "But
you come to expect it. You learn not to take
anything for granted. You learn not to make future plans."
- "And never to get too fond
of any one place or person." she said.
- He nodded.
- "You'd never cry over a lost
bear." she said.
- "Laura, you'd be surprised
what I've cried over."
- Mildred knocked on the door. Laura
looked at her watch. "Mr Roland!" she
- "Lie." said Steele.
- "Prevaricate, bend the truth,
beguile, deceive, equivocate." He kissed her
forehead, "Lie, Miss Holt. You can't deal with a client
- "Can't I?" she asked,
annoyed that he now thought her incapable of doing her
- "Sorry, bad choice of words.
You can, but don't. For once in your dutiful,
generous, dedicated life, put Laura Holt before the rest of the
- "Miss Holt?" said Mildred,
- "Is Mr Roland here?" asked
Steele, opening the door.
- "Should I show him in?"
- "No, I'll talk to him."
said Steele. He went out with Mildred. Laura
wondered if she should follow, but instead she gave the bear
a quick hug. Steele
didn't take long. He came back in and smiled. "He went off
smiling. He'll be
- "What did you tell him?"
- "Lies." said Steele, "Pretty
good ones, actually. The kind of lies Tiffany's
- "I should have stopped you."
- "Were you ready to give him
your full attention?"
- "No." she admitted.
- "No. So it was best for everyone,
including him, to send him off home."
- "Shall we look in the box again?"
- She nodded. She went to the box
and took out a child's red watch. "Oh." she
- Steele took it. "It wouldn't
fit you now. How old were you when you had it?"
- "About eleven. Nearly twelve
when it drowned."
- "I made a rope bridge across
a river. I made a good job of it, too. Only
fixing it on the other side didn't work. When I was about halfway
across, I saw
it untying. I fell in. My watch never worked again."
- "You must have been terrified."
- "For a second, when I was under
the water. Mostly, though, I just felt it
was a great adventure. I knew Dad would have heard the splash.
I knew he'd come
get me. I took a lot for granted in those days."
- "Childhood is supposed to be
the time when you can." said Steele.
- Laura smiled. "I could, then.
Childhood was great. It was later things got
- He picked up another photo out of
the box. "Is this baby you or Frances?"
- Laura looked at it. "That's
- "Your parents look very happy."
- "Of course, Mother never knew
then that I was going to become a detective.
That smile is the smile of a woman who is sure her little girl
will marry a
doctor or a lawyer."
- "Well, there's still time."
- "Which would you recommend?"
- "The doctor, I think. A lawyer
would be in a far better position to wreak
revenge if he caught you having an affair."
- "I'm not the type of person
who has affairs." said Laura.
- "Then don't marry either of
them, or I'll cry at the wedding." said Steele.
- "So I have to stay eternally
single, just so your desires aren't thwarted?"
- He smiled. "Put like that,
you make it sound quite unreasonable."
- He took a notebook from the box.
"Ill Met By Moonlight?" He raised a
- She took the book. "Didn't
you ever try writing a novel?"
- "I think I lived most of the
fictions in my head. What is it, a torrid tale
of passion and ambition?"
- "A mystery."
- "I'd love to read it."
- She held it close to her chest.
"I wouldn't let anyone read this. I can't
bear to read it myself. The style is somewhat overblown."
- "I understand." he said.
- "You do, don't you?" she
said softly, "You've been wonderful over this box,
so supportive and thoughtful and so ready to back off."
- "I have spread my dreams under
your feet, tread softly because you tread on
- "That's Yeats!" she said,
- "I know I'm not and can never
be as sensitive and wise as the Remington
- Steele you have in your head, but
what matters to you is important to me."
- "These days, that Remington
Steele has your face." she said.
- Laura looked at the large photo
albums in the bottom of the box. She lifted
out the top one. "These were Dad's. I didn't know she still
- Steele took the other. He opened
it and turned the pages. "Holt women are
gorgeous." he said, "Apparently from birth."
- "That's all." she said,
"Now I just have to put it all away and get it home."
- "I have a proposition."
- She nodded, "You usually have
- "It's a heavy box. Let me take
you and the box home, then you can arrange
these treasures as you wish while I prepare dinner."
- "And then?"
- "Then we eat." he said.
His eyes held hers for a moment and then he lowered
his gaze. "Then I go home, having made no seduction attempt
of any kind."
- "You have my word as a gentleman."
- "Why?" she asked.
- He smiled. "Three reasons.
One, I'm an unprincipled swine, but there are
situations of which I will not take advantage."
- "I know that." she said.
- "Two, when you and I finally
unleash all that pent-up passion, it's going to
be intense. We'll both need emotional energy that we don't have
three ..." He hesitated.
- "Three?" said Laura.
- "Today, we shared a different
intimacy, no less meaningful. I don't want
what happened between us here to be overshadowed by anything
- She tried to speak,but hearing something
like that from him was so
unexpected she had nothing to say.
- "Tomorrow, of course, all bets
are off." he added.
- "This meant that much to you?"
she said at last.
- He nodded.
- "Me too." she said.
- "We have a deal?"
- "I think we have a lot more
than that." she said.
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