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Guitar Gifts, part XVII

A short story in small installments.

Brasilia seemed to be getting a little better. Certainly, she was more cheerful. Cheerful enough to once again laugh at Charming Tom’s flirtatious jokes. The looks she gave Charming Tom felt like body blows to Gifflet. But despite it all, and despite dragging himself home every night exhausted after hours of fruitless hunting for jobs—jobs he would hate if he got them—it made Gifflet happy. Brasilia was rallying. But a few days later, he woke, startled, and saw that Arrietty was standing in his doorway. The morning light streaming from behind was turning her nightgown white, and she looked like a floating cherub.

“Arrietty!” he cried. “What are you doing here? How long have you been standing there?”

“Mama won’t wake up,” she said.

Gifflet leapt out of bed and he tore to Brasilia’s rooms, with Arrietty trotting in his wake

As soon as he looked at her, he knew she was gone. She was lying propped crookedly by pillows, as if she had tried to sit up, and there was a paper and pen falling from her fingers. She still looked beautiful. But whatever had animated her, the thing that had made her so vital and whole and extraordinary, was gone. Gifflet sat on the edge of her narrow bed, closer to her now than he had ever dared come while she was living, and he took up her hand. He wanted to lie down next to her and stay there; but Arrietty had crawled into his lap. “Why won’t she wake up, Gifflet? Why won’t she wake up?” And Gifflet despaired of how to tell her. He sang the story of the empty seashell, so that she might understand. He croaked so sadly that Arrietty buried her head in Gifflet’s chest and shook her head, and that was how the others found them.

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