The Last Day
“Livie, dear, it’s time for your bath,” young Lizbeth Sutton reminded her dolly as she combed its hair. The three-year-old had just set out a change of clothes for Livie: comfy pajamas and slippers. Lizbeth had received the doll for her birthday, and though she loved all her dolls, this was her favorite. She loved its blue dress.
Lizbeth sat on the floor beside her bed in the middle of the cute, irregularly shaped bedroom. Her little toes, snug in warm socks, comfortably dug into the softness of the holly-and-ivy-patterned rug her mum had brought out for the holidays.
She had recently finished breakfast. Mummy was preparing mince pies. She didn’t know where Daddy went; he had left long before, and his truck wasn’t home. “And after your bath, you’ll need to take a nap. It’s Christmas Eve, and we have a party tonight.”
“Have I ever told you about my last Christmas Eve?” asked Walter.
“I don’t believe so,” Lizbeth said to her “imaginary” friend behind the solid, half-round wooden closet door. The deep enclosure, a unique feature to the cozy cottage she lived in, was one of Lizbeth’s favorite places to play—so much, in fact, that she designated it her “castle” and resigned all her clothes to the dresser. She often played with toys and stuffed animals here, or redesigned the area into a kitchen, or the great outdoors with a sleeping bag and flashlight.
A space once designed merely for storage now well fostered the child’s imagination. Perhaps many children’s imaginations…
“Tell me,” the girl asked of Walter.
“Every home has a story—many stories, actually,” Walter began. “You don’t see them, and many times you don’t know them, but they live in the walls, they live in the floors. And they can never leave because they are a part of the house. They have no purpose elsewhere.
“When I was a boy,” Walter reminisced as Lizbeth casually continued brushing Livie’s hair, “we had many wonderful holidays. We ate figgy pudding and sat by the fire. I loved the smell of it. But then something bad happened.”
“What?” asked Lizbeth.
There was a pause.
Walter beckoned. “Open the door.”
Ever curious, Lizbeth put her dolly down and approached the closet. Her soft, small hand reached for the sturdy knob and twisted it. With a click, the door slightly shifted as the latch bolt separated from the strike plate. Lizbeth opened the door fully, allowing the light to invade the empty but well-festooned closet. Inside she had hung some stockings, holiday decorations, and pictures she had drawn of Father Christmas. The little girl smiled; her dolls and stuffed toys looked so comfortable in the pleasant abode she had created for them. “That’s better,” she said.
Lizbeth turned but stopped at Walter’s startling, raspy response. “I’d like to ask you something: Would you like to see me?”