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It was silver, a delicate patterned silver with flowers and ivy intertwined. The lid was padded, with a painting of ballerinas printed on the front. A label underneath the box informed her that the painting was by Degas. She smiled, remembering how she had pronounced it “dee gas” until a boyfriend corrected her. They hadn’t lasted long.  He had been a pretentious idiot.

She turned the box over and gently wound the key, one, two, three turns. Always three.

She righted it again and set it down on her lap. She gazed at it for a long moment, then lifted the lid.

A tiny ballerina sprang up from her hiding place and twisted as the key unwound, and as the first chiming notes rang out she closed her eyes.

She was seven again, standing in her bedroom listening to the music box. She wore her tutu because it was pretty, even though she didn’t have class today. She practised her plié to the sound of her music box.

The vision became paler as the box wound down and the music slowed. She listened as it wound out a last few notes, the silences between growing longer and longer until they had no end.

She opened her eyes with a sigh and closed the music box, sending the tiny pink ballerina back into her hiding place. She sat still for a long time, then maneuvered her wheelchair across the room to the dresser to put the music box away.

© Kari Fay