A journey of ancestry for the Austin women
"Lauren, it is Christmas Eve. Why are you sitting out here all in the dark by yourself?" the elderly woman questioned her granddaughter. "Surely, you are beyond the days of waiting for Santa to appear."
"Oh Grandma of course I am. It is just very calming to sit here on the couch with just the lights on the tree twinkling. Come sit with me awhile."
She was covered from head to toe with fleece blanket making only her facial features visible. Her bright blue eyes twinkled with the reflection of the tree's lights highlighting her many freckles. With her head covered, she couldn't see the bright red curls that adorned Lauren's scalp but the freckles made her grin. It was almost as if she had stepped back in time for she could see her sporting the impish grin of her ten-year-old self. She had to remind herself that she was really her granddaughter all grown up.
"What are you up to child? Are you planning some devious trick for the family on Christmas?"
"No Grams, just remembering. Tomorrow is a big day for me. So many things have happened to me since I was gifted this treasure chest. I just worry that Maisie might not be ready for it."
"Maisie will be fine, my child, as were you. It has been the tradition of our family for each female to pass on Paris' treasure in the year of their 21st Christmas for centuries. She is strong and will grow in wisdom with this gift."
"But Grams, what if it is too much for her to handle? It was for me at first. And Maisie is only ten. How will she understand the power of this gift?"
The elderly woman rose gingerly from her chair to light a fire in the fireplace. She gathered the wood from the nearby basket as she spoke. "I hope that you don't mind if I light the fire. These old bones don't deal well with the cold anymore."
"No, that is fine Grams I am feeling a little cold myself." She replied with visible shivers shaking her tiny frame.
"Bring your blanket down with you. We will talk by the fire where it is warmer."
Grandma coaxed the girl with her smile and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Lauren hopped up eager to partake of both the food and the fire. She also knew that Grandma would be handing out wisdom by the fire as well. She felt in desperate need of this commodity.
"So tell me, Lauren, are you truly worried about your sister or is it actually relinquishing the power that you fear?" the blunt question escaping grandma's lips even before the girl had taken her seat on the hearth..
Lauren sat pondering the question with the only sound heard were the crackling of the flames behind her. From her cozy rocker, Grandma now watched Lauren as the many emotions passed across her face. Grandma recalled all the same emotions from her Paris' Eve so long ago. The curls on her head, no longer red but grey bobbed loosely as she nodded. With the nod and a wink, Grandma was trying to convey some sense of peace at the transition for Lauren.
Lauren parted her lips to slowly form an answer. "Probably both, Grandma. I have come to rely on the power of that box. At first, I was afraid of the contents. Once that I learned to control it I no longer feared it. It has become a part of who I am. How do I go on without it? Was it hard for you?"
"Yes it was. It was new and different. I learned to go on without the power. You will always be respected as the carrier of the Paris' Box. That in itself will give you power. You will carry the crown of curls the rest of your days. Maisie has certain tasks ahead of her and she will need the power, just as you did. It is so written and nothing can change tomorrow Lauren. So the worry is a senseless thing."
"I know but I was remembering the day that I opened my treasure. I was overwhelmed at first but once I learned to control the tools at my disposal I was never afraid again. There was no one that could hurt me. Tomorrow I won't feel that way anymore. It is very hard to give up that feeling."
"Yes, it is but we go on to do other things. We are free to live our lives. We have paid our debt to the family legacy. We did all that was required of us. You should be proud. It is now Maisie's turn."
"Proud? That is not the term I would use. I did what was expected of me I defended our birthright but the demons still live. All so my ancestors would forever know the power of Paris's Box. And Elijah, the green monster in the chest who did my bidding cast the souls of once good people to hell at my command. No, Grams I am not proud of sitting in judgment. The power of that chest corrupts and entices. All this time I thought that I possessed the power but it was the box that possessed me. Elijah was the evil that made me destroy. If I had never opened that treasure, I might remember what goodness was."
"Yes, that is the dilemma that we women face at the end of our journey Lauren listen to me. It is God that sits in judgment, not us. Child, our destiny was determined long ago. We offer only a second chance for those that choose to take it. We were destined to repeat the history of the box because of my great, great grandmother Paris. She left the mark of curls upon our head. A multitude of snakes that strike our enemies uncoil from our very tresses. Slithering serpents casting our foes into the depths of hell is a scene once witnessed is never forgotten.The power is tantalizing. Our sisters and daughters need only to grasp the treasure to realize its allure. There is no escaping its hold or the rules that guide it. Maisie bears no choice in this matter. There will be both good things and bad things that arise when she cracks open that chest tomorrow. There is no way for you to prepare her. It is God's goodness that we fight for. It is never evil that we portray. We rescue the Angels that choose their second chance."
"But Grams, I feel so guilty about not letting her know what is ahead of her." Lauren whispered as she laid her head on the old woman's lap.
"No one warned you. You wielded your power well. We have faced no threats since last you opened the box on Christmas Eve. It was a sight to behold. Your serpents were well trained and efficient in their task. Elijah called upon his demons to carry them away. It was a great Christmas. I am acting like a kid in a candy store. The battles are so fun watch. Tomorrow you will be watching from the sidelines with me. But first to bed with us both so we can wake up early."
"Yes I am tired. Goodnight."
The alarm clock sounded earlier and louder than Lauren had hoped. The time was now and she could no longer delay the inevitable. She scurried to the living room to begin the event. Her family had all gathered ahead of her eager for the opening of Christmas presents. Grandma nodded in her direction as a show of support.
Lauren glanced at her sister who was oblivious to how her life was about to change. She knew there was to be a passing of the torch but had no way knowing the depth of importance. Lauren grabbed a camera to photograph the girl just as she was at this moment. She wanted to remember the sweet child of her untroubled youth. Maisie was dusted with freckles just like her sister. Her eyes were a deeper blue than Lauren's. The real difference between the sisters was the hair color. Maisie sported pale blonde hair that was thin and straight for the moment. Lauren knew that was about to change.
The Christmas morning enthusiasm of the family filled the air. There was the joy of being together mixed with the sense of pride in tradition passing. As always there was hushed jubilance among the children eager to open their presents. The Austin family looked like any other family celebrating the holiday. Lauren sat quietly comparing the Hallmark scene in front of her with the reality of her life. They two pictures were in stark contrast to one another.
The children were given the go-ahead to begin the Christmas frenzy. It was a fast and furious race to unwrap the current year's desire of the heart. The race was over before it had seemed to even begin. An entire year of shopping had been devoured in the flash of a moment. The children, like beasts, were sated.
Breakfast was served and the children were scooted from the room, all except Maisie.
This would be the year that Maisie had come of age as the intended keeper of the box. The males in the family retired to the den as they were not part of the next phase of the Austin Christmas.
Lauren called Maisie to her side by the tree. The little girl was still confused as to why she was not sent out with the other children. There was a longing to join the kids in play but pride in being allowed to stay with the elder women. Maisie was distracted by her thoughts. She was fidgety as Lauren tried to pull her down to sit with her. The eyes of the other women boring into her made it hard for the child to focus. Lauren sensed her discomfort and wrapped her arms around her sister. Maisie melted into Lauren's lap feeling safe.
"There is one gift left to give. It is a treasure like no other. Maisie, it is the heritage of all Austin women that have come before us. I, Lauren Austin, am the current keeper of the Paris' Treasure and bestow this year of my 21st Christmas to you Maisie Austin as the intended successor." Lauren spoke softly. The room was quiet and calm. Tears rolled gently down her cheeks as she pulled from beneath the tree a wooden carved box decorated in gold.
With the quizzical face of a child Maisie reached for the box whispering, "For me? It is so beautiful. My name is written in gold. Can I open it?"
Lauren took the child's face in her hand making sure that Maisie's eyes were focused toward her. "Yes in a moment but I must first explain the contents of this gift. I must teach you the significance of your heritage. The responsibility that comes with this gift will transform you from the child that you are at this moment to the keeper of the Austin legacy. You will be one with all of the women seated here. You will be our continuance." She stopped to let the words sink into Maisie's mind.
"Lauren, what are you talking about?"
"Maisie, I can't explain everything but please know that you will learn quickly. I will be there to guide you. I must first tell you the story of ancestors Your name was inscribed on the box exactly one year after I became the keeper of the box. You were named by me as the next intended keeper. It is part of our job to ensure that the legacy continues. You will inscribe the name of your intended upon the box next Christmas. You are to tell no one of your choice. The secret will remain until your 21st Christmas. Do you understand?"
"I think so but why?" the little girl stared at sister with tears of worry pouring from her eyes. She didn't quite understand the drama but knew that it was a very serious moment in her life. "Are you okay? Lauren, you aren't going away are you?"
Lauren smiled assurance. "No sweets, just kind of retiring. You get to be the big girl now." Lauren was proud of the maturity the girl was displaying. She remembered wanting to run away and hide on her keeper's day Christmas. Maisie was standing firm and ready to accept the gift.
"Good. I love you, Lauren, It wouldn't be the same without you around here." The girl was no longer crying as she spoke the words because her biggest worry had just been dismissed.
The antique treasure sat beside the girls with both of them staring at the box in awe. It was an awe of anticipation for Maisie but for Lauren, it was a touch of nostalgia.
"Many years ago our great, great, great Grandmother Paris was gifted this treasure for her bravery in saving an Angel who had fallen from God's Grace. Paris was willing to give the Angel a second chance. She helped the angel find the goodness in her heart and to always seek God's grace when cast in doubt. God so loved Paris for her efforts to save the Angel that he granted her and her descendants the power within this box for all of eternity. With this gift comes the responsibility to carry on the goodness just as our Grandmother Paris did. Each Christmas the keeper of the box must face the demons within this box. We use the tools and powers granted by God to cast the demons back to hell to save all of the fallen angels. It is here that we find our purpose on this earth. The battles are difficult and scary but we must always prevail. Maisie, the journey will change the person that you are now but the journey will strengthen you in ways that you cannot imagine. My faith, I place in you today to carry on this legacy. Maisie, let us go together to free the fallen angels."
Simultaneously they reached for the treasure chest. Glowing light escaped the box as the lid was lifted. The light intensified as the gap widened. Soon the entire room was bathed in the glow and the asps of hell danced about the room. Elijah made his appearance as the sisters readied for battle. Maisie's hair deepened in color to that of fire while coiling in curls as history repeated. She was the new keeper of the box.