by Lizzie Lawson
The jar was full of souls. Charlotte didn’t believe Jaci at first, but when Jaci revealed the glass container over the dandelion grass in her backyard, Charlotte could see for herself. Still in their navy jumpers after school, the girls huddled close as Jaci unscrewed the lid. Charlotte could see wispy bubbles swimming in the glass, iridescent and slippery.
“Want to know who they belonged to?” Jaci asked. Charlotte nodded, transfixed. Ever since Jaci moved in next door, they’d spent every minute together, in the yard or at the top of Jaci’s swing set, where Jaci’s parents’ shouting dulled into little more than muffled TV sounds. When they first met, Jaci told Charlotte she liked her light. Charlotte wanted that to mean she was special but later learned Jaci said that to people a lot, I like your light.
“This is my best friend since preschool,” Jaci said, one gleaming soul rising to the top. She talked about a girl who lived on a lake where they could run out on the ice and make snowmen. Jaci pointed to other souls. A girl who threw rocks at cars when they were speeding too fast down her block. A boy who kept a journal where he wrote letters to his dead sister. A girl who had a backpack full of candy flavored Lip Smackers that Jaci wished were her own.
“What do you do with them?” Charlotte asked, careful not to sound too eager. She never had a friend like Jaci before, one who trusted her with secrets. Actually, she never really had any friends at all before Jaci and had perhaps never lived before she met her. Charlotte wanted to dip a finger through the glass’ opening to feel the cool pearls separate and fill in each others’ edges.
“I just look at them,” Jaci said, pulling the jar away. “They don’t like to be touched.”
Charlotte sat on her feet as Jaci turned the jar to create kaleidoscope views. The souls were Jaci’s treasures. The memories within could not be tarnished by her father’s sarcasm or her mother’s ranting in the hallway where Jaci took her first steps. Safe inside the glass, the souls would never change or grow old.
“Couldn’t you get in trouble for this?” Charlotte said.
“I don’t think so,” Jaci answered without looking up. “It’s not like people die without their souls. Their light is just in the jar.”
In swift, even movements, Jaci lifted the glass to the center of Charlotte’s chest, careful so she wouldn’t spill, and cupped Charlotte’s cheek with her other hand. When Charlotte felt the light pulling from a place behind her eyes and sliding out into the air, she didn’t fight it. She was almost glad to go, to be one of Jaci’s treasures.
Lizzie Lawson is a writer and educator from Minneapolis, MN. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Sun, Wigleaf, Redivider, Atticus Review, and others. She received an MFA in creative writing from The Ohio State University and can be found at lizzielawson.com.
Original photo: Ryul Davidson/Unsplash