Rooting through the stranger’s garage sale, Sasha spotted the large antique urn poking out of a cardboard box marked ‘Sale.’ Easing the box the rest of the way out from under a table weighted down by ornaments, she looked through it. There was a collection of small and medium vases and decorative jars, but nothing as eye catching as the purple urn. Shuffling things back into place, Sasha straightened up and did a quick glance around her.
The large driveway in front of the house had an array of tables arranged in a horse shoe shape on top of it. Sections had been carefully created, so that buyers could find it easier to look through the items as there seemed to be a chaotic mixture of things. A good stream of people flowed around, seemingly interested in different things. Sasha spotted the owners across the way in deep discussion over the price of a dining room table. To her left four children were playing an old board game.
Turning back and feeling drawn to the urn, she gingerly picked it with both hands and inspected it. The purple glaze was bright and not cracked; sliver flowers had been inlayed on one side. The urn felt heavy and Sasha wondered if there was something inside. She tried the lid, but it wouldn’t come off. Raising it to eye level, she saw that someone had glued the lid on.
Puzzling over it, she placed the urn down on the cluttered table before a cat statue and wooden elephant. It would look really nice on my new bookcase, Sasha thought and I wouldn’t be using it for anything, so the glued lid is no problem.
‘Are you going to buy that?’
A little voice cut through her train of thoughts. Sasha blinked at the little girl who had appeared before her on the other side of the table. She couldn’t have been older than six. Glancing at the other children, Sasha saw that they were staring at her too.
‘I might,’ she replied, ‘do you know what’s inside it?’
The girl shook her head.
‘Well, maybe you’re parents do know?’ Sasha asked and picked up the urn.
‘They are busy,’ the girl said rapidly, ‘it’s ten bucks.’
‘That’s a little bit more then I was hoping. How about five?’
Pulling a face, Sasha glanced over her shoulder. The parents were still busy selling the dining table. Sliding the urn back down, Sasha pulled over her handbag and looked through it. By the time she had found what she wanted, the girl had been joined by her older brother.
‘How about…I give you two dollars and this bag of candy?’ Sasha said and held them out to the kids.
‘Deal,’ the boy said quickly and reached out for them.
Sasha handed them over and picked up the urn. The little girl pouted and began arguing with her brother as they walked back to their game and their other brother and sister. Smiling, Sasha finished her walk around and decided that there was nothing else she wanted. Leaving, she walked the few blocks back to her new apartment. Letting herself in, she went straight to the floor to ceiling bookcase in her living room and placed the urn into one of the square slots. Standing back she admired the urn and then thinking no more of it, she went off to do other things.
A few days later, whilst Sasha added some new books to the shelf, she wondered if she could get the lid of the urn. Carefully, picking it up she went into the bathroom and ran the hot tap of the bathtub. Placing the urn under the gushing water, she sat on the edge of the tub and realised that she hadn’t even wiped down the urn when she had brought it. Her mind drifted as steam began to rise, what if there was something inside the urn? Would she keep it or return it? Hopefully, the urn hadn’t been used for its intended purpose otherwise she would have to give it back.
Gripping a towel and turning off the tap, she picked up the urn and attempted to remove the lid. At first it wouldn’t move, but after the fifth or sixth twist, Sasha thought the lid gave a little. Getting excited, she put all her strength into it and lid came off. Smiling, she looked inside and her face quickly changed. Replacing the lid, she dried off the urn and carried it with her as she gathered her handbag, coat and shoes.
She walked straight back to the house and knocked on the door, feeling both guilty and embarrassed. She rehearsed what she was going to say, but as the door opened the words wouldn’t form.
‘Hi, can I help you?’ the woman asked.
Sasha held out the urn and the woman looked very puzzled.
‘I brought this from your garage sale a few days ago and…well…’ Sasha trailed off.
‘What’s wrong with it?’ the woman questioned.
‘There’s erm…someone inside it,’ Sasha whispered.
The woman, still looking confused, took the urn off her and opened the lid.
‘It was glued shut,’ Sasha explained, ‘I just wanted to check it because it felt heavy. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it, but you were busy and I just give the kids the money.’
‘I’ve never seen this before,’ the woman replied, ‘are you sure you brought it from here?’
Sasha nodded, ‘I’m new to the neighbourhood. I was returning home from a walk around when I saw your garage sale. I remember the double blue garage doors and that apple tree,’ she pointed them out.
The woman frowned, ‘I’ll just go and check with my husband and kids. Do you want to come in? You can wait in the front room.’
‘Yes, thanks,’ Sasha said.
The woman let her in and showed her to a small room, before leaving to find her family. Sasha sank down into the sofa and noticed she was shaking. Sliding her hands between her legs, she glanced around the room and listen to the sound of distant voices. After a long time, the woman came back and handed her the urn, but Sasha didn’t accept it back.
‘I’m sorry, but you must have got the wrong house. None of my family have ever seen this before.’
‘There must have been a mistake,’ Sasha spoke, ‘it was a boy who sold it to me. He had brown hair, but I was speaking to his sister first and she was a little blond girl. Afterwards, they went back to playing a board game with the others.’
The woman placed the urn on the coffee table, her eyes never leaving Sasha’s, ‘What others?’
‘I thought you had four kids. I didn’t get a good look at the other two though because they didn’t come over, but one was a girl and the other a boy, I think they both had dark hair.’
‘I…only have two children and both are dark haired,’ the woman replied nervously.
‘Oh. Maybe they were friends or a neighbour’s children?’ Sasha suggested.
‘Maybe…sorry, I can’t help you.’
‘Could I talk to your children? Perhaps they know?’
‘No. They don’t like strangers. Here, please take this with you,’ the woman declared and tapped the urn.
Frowning, Sasha picked it up and left. As the door shut behind her, she turned and looked up at the house, but saw nothing. Unsure what to do, but knowing she couldn’t return home, Sasha knocked on every front door and questioned people about the garage sale, children and urn. She got no answers and as the sky darkened she headed home.
Placing the urn back on the bookcase, she made up her mind that tomorrow she would scatter the ashes at a local cemetery before washing out the urn and placing it back on the shelf again. Lying in bed, she wondered about the urn and the four children. Someone must know something about it. She’d go back to the house before visiting the cemetery and try to solve the mystery, she decided.
Arriving back at the family’s front door in the morning, Sasha rang the bell and waited. The woman opened it slowly and eyed Sasha up, ‘I knew you’d come back,’ she spoke sadly.
‘I’m going to scatter the ashes at the cemetery,’ Sasha cut in, ‘I thought you’d like to know that and I just wanted to double check that you didn’t know anything.’
‘Come in, please,’ the woman said.
Sasha paused then stepped inside. The woman closed the door and led her into the front room. They sat down on the sofa together and Sasha balanced the urn in her lap.
‘I didn’t want to say anything yesterday and to be honest I was a bit scared too,’ the woman began, ‘you see, I’ve not seen that urn in a very long time. My mother died last month and we emptied her house. I guess that’s where the urn came from, my husband or another relative must have put it with the things we were planning to sale off.’
‘I see,’ Sasha answered, ‘so who’s reminds are these?’
‘My younger brother and sister’s,’ the woman replied with a shudder, ‘they died very young. I thought they had actually been buried, but when I saw the urn and what was inside, I realised that my mother must have kept some of their ashes. Maybe, she thought they’d be buried with her or something.’
Sasha nodded, feeling upset, but glad she had decided to come back.
‘I think you saw them that day,’ the woman muttered and stood up.
Crossing the room to a chest of drawers, she searched through it and pulled out a photograph. Handing it to Sasha, she pointed out the two children, who were stood together next to a large dog. Sasha felt her hand shaking.
‘Yes, it looks like them. I give them two dollars and some candy. Couldn’t it have been some other children though?’
‘Maybe,’ the woman replied.
‘Here,’ Sasha said, handing the photo and the urn back, ‘I don’t want the money back. I’m sorry for what happened. At least you can…put them all to rest now.’
The woman nodded, ‘thank you. I know…I shouldn’t ask this of you, but would you please come to the cemetery with me? I want to scatter the ashes over my mother’s grave. I don’t think I could go alone though…’
‘Of course,’ Sasha replied without thinking about it, ‘we can go in my car.’
‘Thank you. I’ll get my things,’ the woman replied.
On the way to the cemetery, Sasha learnt that the woman’s name was Celia and her younger brother and sister had been Tom and Betty. Celia wasn’t sure what they had died of because she had been at boarding school at the time. Pulling into the car park, Sasha let Celia have a moment and then they walked up to the grave. She helped open the urn and tip the ashes out on to the turned up soil and between the dying flowers.
‘Do you want to keep the urn?’ Celia asked her, after they had silently prayed.
‘I’m not sure,’ Sasha replied.
‘I don’t want it. Please take it.’
Nodding, she accepted it back and they turned to go. A soft laughter tickled her ear and Sasha glanced over her shoulder, standing under a pine tree at the end of the headstone row with two children. Sasha stopped and fully turned, but they had vanished.