I knew this girl called Noelle. Now I didn’t know her name for sure until I killed her, and I’m still not sure it was her real name but it fit her better than Amber, which was a name she tried on for a bit that didn’t stick.
Anyway, Noelle was one of those girls that would always grow her hair out and then chop it all off about the time it got long enough that other people would start to comment on it. Now, why’d she do that when it looked absolutely gorgeous long was always a mystery to me.
Maybe she was uncomfortable with the attention or maybe she didn’t like having people remember her for her hair instead of her personality.
After cutting it, people she knew would always be surprised and remark how different she looked afterwards. She always said that she changed her hair to just keep people guessing or just to change it.
So who knows why she kept doing that? I’m not sure she even knew for sure. But I could tell she missed it after it was cut.
Even with short hair that didn’t move, she retained the head toss reserved for moving it out of her face. Her hands would flutter around her ears and neck, seeking locks to alight upon and twirl around within that weren’t there.
There was a wistfulness in those flutterings, like a parent’s hand reaching for their child’s before crossing the street, who then hesitates and pulls back because they remember with a longing smile their baby isn’t a baby any more.
She asked me to save a lock before I killed her. She found a powder blue ribbon and tied off a pigtail braid at the end and top. I cut the cord off with scissors I found in the kitchen knife block.
It was perfect, with not an errant hair out of place within the weavings, and it was bound for eternity at each end with a bow. She asked me to keep it in a wooden box, and if I would take it out and look at it every now and then, just so that someone would remember that she had been alive.
How could I refuse a dying woman’s wish?
It first resided in an old cigar box my great-grandfather gave to me when I was a child and that I used to keep dice and rocks in. It had a wood-burned logo and tobacco plant decorations on it. I didn’t keep it in there for long. It was too masculine of a resting place for such a feminine artifact, with scratches and scribbles in the bottom.
It lays now in a dark walnut jewelry box lined with black velvet, partially coiled. When I first put it in, it looked lonely, so I added her favorite dangle earrings, the silver coils. They became fast friends.
They look elegant together, and I can almost imagine her in a black velvet dress and her golden hair in a herringbone that drops down her exposed back. Laughing, the earrings tap at her neck and she’s happy.
She needed more happy in her life and now she’s in a box. Packed away tightly, unbreathing, wrapped in tops and skirts and underwear now frozen in fashion time, waiting for some future archeologist to come along and unravel the mysterious funerary offerings of cotton, nylon, polyester and spandex and earn tenure by decoding it all into a believable hypothesis.
But the truth lays buried and still, safe in Death’s unbreakable grip, surrounded by unguents, potions and powders, brushes and clips, and medicines for the eternal journey through the afterlife.
She took it like a woman. She knew the blow was coming, but she still held her head up proudly and defiantly, even though I knew she was tired.
I miss her. A lot. But it was Noelle or me. When I offered to go, She demurred, telling me that I still had some things to do here.
She called herself a phantom, and taunted me to kill a ghost. At the very end, it turned out that she was the stronger one, telling me that it was O.K. and that everything was going to work out.
Damn I miss her.