Young Emilia had remained silent during that entire afternoon session. She preferred watching the power struggle from her spot by the window where she could peer over her knees at the proceedings. There were things of her great grandmother's that she wanted, of course, but it didn't really matter as much to her because it was her great grandmother she wanted, not her baubles, and she was just going to have to accept that nothing could make her feel better than the passing of time. So she sat up on her perch and watched Cousin Taryn and Uncle Bob nearly come to blows over some ugly painting and a distant cousin named Fredrick fawn over Grandma Emilia's rusted old Studebaker which had resided in the garage since the late sixties.
The sun shone crisply through the window and gently warmed Em's back and soft brown hair. Though her heart was heavy with grief, she wondered if maybe the sun's warmth wasn't just a scientific process of radiation and gasses but rather Grandmother Emilia looking down on them with love. The faintest hint of a smile touched Em's lips at that thought; she knew it was silly, and yet somehow it comforted her all the same.
The afternoon progressed as slowly as Grandma Emilia's standing grandfather clock suggested (the old thing was eventually snatched up by Cousin Lucinda, who claimed she wanted it as a reminder to herself that she must enjoy life because time was fleeting. Besides, "Grandma Emilia would have wanted it that way," which Em found amusing because they had all used that very same line, but didn't seem to realize how trite it sounded when spoken en masse.). It took some time to sort all the claims, wants, and needs; some of them viable while others preposterous. And still Em sat back and watched the feeding frenzy with a certain amount of amusement..
Eventually the sun dipped behind the marvelous oak tree outside and shadows crept across her shoulders. Uncle Jimmy looked as if he had aged fifteen years just since everyone had first arrived, and he dabbed a handkerchief at his forehead at the assembly's conclusion to mop up the sweat (and possibly the frustration) of the afternoon. Everyone seemed reasonably satiated -- though not completely pleased -- with the results. Tempers cooled, and conversation resumed. Family members left Grandma Emilia's parlor and mulled around different rooms of the old Victorian, perhaps to take one last look. When the room had completely vacated, Em slid from her perch and approached her balding uncle, "Uncle Jimmy, you did a great job today. You must be a very a very patient man."
The look he gave her was one of surprise, as if he hadn't realized she was still in the room, or present at all for that matter. He looked conspiratorially toward the exit, to be sure they were alone, and returned to face Em once again with a either a grin or a grimace on his lips, "I hate them all."
She smiled. That didn't seem like something you would tell your distant fourteen year-old relative, so she kept his feelings for their kin as a sly little secret between them.
He quickly added, "Except your parents, of course."
"Hey, Uncle Jimmy?"
"Could I have something, too? Nothing big. I just... wanted something to remember her by."
"Well," Uncle Jimmy looked sad, "I'm afraid there's nothing left to give, really. Your great grandmother's stuff has been pretty thoroughly picked over by these vultures."
Again Em smiled. She didn't think he even realized what was tumbling out of his mouth, but his tongue seemed to lace his words with enough vitriol to elicit a broadening smile from his grand niece. "I'm not seeking monetary value," she explained, "but maybe more... sentimental."
Uncle Jimmy put a finger to his lips in thought and produced a small, dilapidated box from one of the unclaimed desks in the room. He held it out to Em and told her, "I think it may be some kind of old jewelry box. It's a bit of a conundrum, actually, because Mother's jewelry has all been accounted for. In fact, the insurance company has no record of this box at all, yet if you shake it --"
And he did. Objects of weight rattled inside, but their true nature was not immediately discernible.
"What's inside?" she asked.
"I don't know. There's no key to open it. It's kind of neat, I'd say -- in a mysterious kind of way. I thought you might appreciate its novelty more than the others. It's magic."