Home > Newest Books > Fragments of the Lost

Fragments of the Lost
Author:Megan Miranda

Fragments of the Lost

Megan Miranda

For A & J

There’s no light in the narrow stairway to the third floor. There’s no handrail, either. Just wooden steps and plaster walls that were probably added in an attic renovation long ago. The door above remains shut, but there’s a sliver of light that escapes through the bottom, coming from inside. He must’ve left the window uncovered.

The door looks darker than the walls of the stairway, but it’s hard to tell from this angle, without light, that it’s blue. We painted it during the summer from a half-empty can he’d found in the garage, a color called Rustic Sea.

“A complicated color for a complicated door,” he joked. But it turned out to look more like denim than anything else.

He stepped back after applying the first stroke, wrinkled his nose, wiped the back of his hand against his forehead. “My feelings on this color are also very complicated.”

There was a smudge of Rustic Sea over his left eye. “I love it,” I said.

I reach for the door now, and I can almost smell the fresh paint, feel the summer breeze coming in from the open window to help air it out. We painted it all the way around—front and back and sides—and sometimes, the door still sticks when you pull it open. Like the paint dried too thick, too slowly.

There’s a speck of paint on the silver doorknob that I’ve never noticed before, and it makes me pause. I run my thumb over the roughness of the spot, wondering how I missed this.

I take a slow breath, trying to remember the room before I see it, to prepare.

It’s got four walls, a closet, slanting ceilings before they meet at a flat strip overtop. There’s a fan hanging from the middle of that strip, the kind that rattles when it’s set to the highest speed. Shelves built into the walls on both sides, giving way to a sliding closet door on my left. A single window, on the far wall.

There’s a bed, with a green comforter.

A desk to my right, with a computer monitor on the surface, the tower hidden below.

The walls are gray and the carpet is…the carpet is brown. I think. I’m no longer sure. The color blurs and shifts in my mind.

It’s just a room. Any room. Four walls and a ceiling and a fan.

This is what I tell myself before I step inside. This is the whisper I hear in my head as I stand with my hand on the knob, waiting on the top step.

For a moment, I think I hear his footsteps on the other side of the door, but I know this isn’t possible. I picture us sitting across from each other on the floor. My legs, angled between his.

He leans closer. He’s smiling.

Then I remember: the carpet is beige. The door will squeak as I push it open. The air will be hotter or colder than the rest of the house, depending on the time of year.

All these things I know by heart.

None of this prepares me.

His mother asked me to do this, because she said it wasn’t something a mother should ever have to do. I don’t think it’s really something an ex-girlfriend should have to do either, but mother trumps ex any day of the week.

“The room is full of you, Jessa,” she explained, by which she means the pictures. They’re taped around the room, directly to the gray slanting walls, and in all of them I have my arms looped around his neck, or his arms draped over my shoulders from behind me. I can’t even look directly at the photos, but his mother is right. I’m everywhere.

Sometimes I wonder if his mother knows about the ex part. If he told her, if she overheard, if she could tell all on her own. Though something about the way she stands at the base of the stairway watching me linger at the entrance to the attic room, something about the way she asked me to do this in the first place, makes me think that she does.

There’s a chill up here, but I know it’s nothing more than the poor insulation of a converted attic, heat escaping through the cracks of the window frame, the November air seeping in from the outside.

His clothes are still on the floor, however they fell when he last kicked them off, on that rainy day in mid-September. His bed is unmade. His computer monitor sits black on the desk, my distorted reflection looking back. His desk is stuffed full with ticket stubs and old homework, and more, I know, and so is the closet. Caleb wouldn’t want his mother doing this, either. Under the bed, between the mattresses, there are things a mother shouldn’t see. My stomach rebels, but I can feel her still watching, so I step inside.

I don’t know where to start.

I don’t know how to start.

If Caleb were here, he’d say, Just start.

I hated that, the way he’d brush aside everything else, forcing the point, or the issue, or this moment.

Just forget about it— Just leave it—

Just say it—

Just pick up the shirt at the foot of the bed, the one he wore the last time you touched him.

Just start.

The shirt still smells of him. Dove soap. The cologne that always let me know when he was behind me, a smile starting even before he’d place his hand on my waist, his lips on my cheek. I don’t bring it to my face. I don’t dare bring it any closer. I throw it into the corner—the beginning of a pile.

See, Caleb? I’m starting. I’ve started.

Underneath the shirt, there’s also the jeans. Knees worn thin, hem slightly fraying, soft and familiar. I’m holding my breath by the time I get to the pockets, except I already know what’s there, so it should prepare me. But it doesn’t. The chain crackles, cold on my fingers. And then I feel something else: the memory of his warm skin as I placed it into his open palm.

I said: Please hold this for me.

I said: Please be careful.

He put it in his pocket, no big thing. He did it like that because of everyone watching. To show me he didn’t have to be careful anymore. Not with me.

The clasp of the necklace in my hand is broken, had already broken when I gave it to him, but the gold chain is now kinked and knotted too, from sitting buried in his pocket. I wore it every race, even though we weren’t supposed to, taping the dragonfly charm to the inside of my jersey to keep it in place while I ran. I wore it because it was good luck, because it was a ritual, because I had a hard time doing things any other way than how I’d always done them.

It broke on the starting line as I raised my hands over my head in a stretch. The pop against my skin, sickening. My body already wound tight, waiting for the gun. I scanned the crowd, and there he was—familiar. It didn’t occur to me right then that he had no reason to be there anymore. It didn’t even register. There was no mystery, just the momentary panic of a broken necklace and a race about to start.

Wait, I begged, leaving my place on the field. I jogged over to him, standing near the starting line, as everyone else took their places.

Please hold this for me.

Please be careful.