The best and last of all things

by Jenny

The best and last of all things

Hope stood under the picnic tree, rainwater trickling into her school shirt, not knowing what to do. If she went home her mum would know it was gone immediately and she’d promised to bring it home safely. On the other hand, she couldn’t out stand here forever.

On Saturday Hope had turned thirteen. For years Hope and her mum had walked home from school the long way, past the jewellers, to look at the Pandora bracelets in the window. Hope liked the charm shaped like a tiny elephant, Mum liked the delicate rose. When Mum’s shift patterns had changed and Hope started to walk home by herself, she still made sure to walk past their jewellers to tell Mum about any changes to the display.

It had been hard since the two of them had left Hope’s dad on that terrifying night last October, but they had talked about it and they both agreed that it was better now. Mum explained that sometimes alcohol made people do things that they didn’t mean to do, not really. Hope was safe now. Hope understood.

The elephant inevitably disappeared from the window. Hope bit back the tears when she told her mum, speaking casually, but somewhere inside her a light flickered and went out for good. She walked a different way home after that.

And on Saturday, when they had come to the picnic tree, Mum had watched her as she opened the tiniest present to find her elephant nestled on a bed of pristine cotton wool. The look of delighted astonishment on Hope’s face made all those extra shifts and missed sleeps worth it. Everything.

Hope had worn it all day long, taking it off carefully at night and resting it by her bed. It was the most beautiful and expensive thing that she had ever owned.

And now it was gone. She remembered feeling its weight reassuringly in maths and then, on the bus, it wasn’t there anymore. She’d turned her bag inside out to find it; crawled under all the seats, but it was still gone. She couldn’t be trusted with nice things, Hope knew that now. She lowered herself onto her heels in the mud, wondering how she could tell Mum that the elephant was gone for good.

Then Hope spotted the corner of a box sticking out of the mud under the picnic tree, where her mum had sat on her birthday.

Frowning she leaned forward and dug it free, the chipped red of her nail varnish glinting bright, bright in the dark mud. The box had been buried for some time, Hope could tell. It was far more elaborate than her elephant’s little cardboard box - this was made of wood. It was beautiful and looked...well it looked ancient, but to her astonishment, as she brushed off the dirt, she saw etched into the wooden lid the familiar letters that spelled out PANDORA.

Hope’s fingers found the edges of the Pandora box and gently lifted the lid...