A Gift Like None Other

Becca moved all manner of items from one cardboard box to another, organizing the best she could before the movers arrived. The brown-eyed woman of 25 was forced to leave her apartment home, the rent too high after losing yet another job. This was the 4th job she had been fired or had quit from in the last year. She feared no one would dare hire her with such a resume, but that was a problem for another day. For now, she had to keep focused on the move. She moved all manner of things from shelves and counters to boxes, and from one box to another further still.

She placed hair ties once used for her brown hair, now defunct after a poorly self-made haircut led to a short, asymmetrical bob. She threw her small collection of clothes into two garbage bags, a mishmash of whatever had been sold at the thrift stores on the days she went. After moving a few packed boxes out of the way, Becca noticed a large folder on the floor, hidden underneath a large winter coat in the closet.

Opening the folder, Becca let out a melancholic sigh. Inside were several pages of photos she had taken with her mother, Cheyenne, many years ago. Turning each page with care, she flipped through the album containing all of the memories she had made before becoming an orphan, just over a decade ago. The years since had hardened Becca’s skin, but her heart remained soft. Turning another page, she came to the last picture, of which there were only a couple dozen in total. Tears began to splash over the empty spaces. Through wet eyes, she could barely make out the only picture on the last used page. A young Becca of 13 running toward the doors of a high school on the first day, waving to the camera. A hand extended out into frame, waving back.

She never took another picture of her mother after that. Once the diagnosis came in, she refused to keep any pictures until her mom had recovered. Becca regretted that decision more than any other choice she had ever made. More than any choice she will ever make, she believed. Cheyenne died shortly after Becca’s 14th birthday, mere months into the school year in mid-December.

With her mother's death, everything changed. She no longer lived in the house she had been raised in, and with the move, attended a new school. Her uncle Lorne had taken Becca in and treated her as best he knew how which she was always grateful for. That alone, however, did not help ease her burdens. She felt alienated at her new school for years and completely alone without her mom to guide her. And to top it off, Christmas only served to remind her of it all. Her uncle had persuaded her to keep her photo book when she first moved in with him, much to Becca’s disdain at the time. The photos now hurt to see and think about, but she knew it was a good hurt. One that she spent the better part of a decade avoiding.

Moving the photo album out of the closet, she noticed the flip phone her uncle had gotten her for her 15th birthday, unused for several years now. She was certain she had thrown it away after acquiring her first smartphone. With mild concern, she picked it up. She held down the power button and to her amazement, the flip phone buzzed to life. She quickly pocketed the phone as the movers knocked on the door. Becca helped move the boxes she had packed and permitted them to pack the rest of her things.

Her new apartment was much smaller and further from downtown than the last, but the rent was a steal. After moving all of her things in, she collapsed on the couch, falling asleep for hours. Upon waking late into the night, she groggily rose to attention, momentarily confused at the unfamiliar surroundings. Waving the boxes off for another day, she searched her pockets for her phone, taking out the flip phone instead.

Deciding dinner could wait and after a few minutes of searching, she found her way into the camera roll. Back in her mid-teenage years, she had been obsessed with origami, and her pictures showed as much. The various art pieces brought a slight smile to her face. Among the many paper animals and objects were a few pet pictures; a black cat her uncle cared for frequently, her best friend's dogs, and some silly little birds.

For all of the pictures she had scrolled through, she had at least a vague memory of them. Or at the very least, understood why she would have taken them. But as she hit the arrow to progress, the pictures changed. From silly little birds to images of her, mostly alone. Many were simple pictures of her studying, some of her crying, or while she was outside, walking to the store. She saw pictures of herself on the day she smiled for the first time after her mom had passed. On the day she won an art competition with a particularly intricate origami tortoise. Several were taken on the day she graduated high school, and so on.

She should be terrified, she thought to herself, but all she felt was a blanket of comfort fall over her. She continued to sort through the photos. After a few minutes of scrolling, she had to take a moment's break to wipe away the tears welling in her eyes, although Becca had no idea why she was crying. More images. Some of her after being hired for the first time, or after she had been fired. Others at her best friend's wedding, next to the bride, walking her down the aisle, and while she was tipsy on her fourth cup of wine. Eventually, she came to the last few photos.

Some of the final images were of Becca, moving her things into cardboard boxes. Staring at old trinkets, or moisturizing her hands after filling several boxes. The last shot was of her, asleep on the couch in the new apartment. Her mouth wide open, looking absolutely foolish not 30 minutes earlier. She never questioned how it was possible. Instead, she took solace in the why, and checked the phone for any new photos every few days from then onward.

Days after, Becca sat in her new apartment, unpacked with a job interview lined up, adding several pictures from the old flip phone into her photo album, filling it. She smiled the happiest smile in over a decade and planned to buy many more.

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