Of the several things that lay strewn under the Christmas tree the week after the holiday, the most inconspicuous was the small cardboard box.
“I know we’re over,” he had said way back in the summer when she had ended their relationship, “But I found this and it reminded me of you.”
For months, she had held onto it. Set it on her shelf and admired the festive paper, letting the curiosity eat at her, and the regret of her decisions.
It was the first present she put under the tree as soon as it was up. The small box had been tormenting her for months with its unknown contents and she swore she would open it as soon as she could, even if it was just a reminder of what she used to be, but wasn’t anymore.
When Christmas morning did arrive, the tree was so laden with presents that the small box was nearly forgotten until she began cleaning up the wrapping paper from all of the other gifts.
Christmas morning, she had gotten as far as tearing off the festive wrapping paper before the fear froze her. What if whatever the box contained changed everything?
She stared at it, under the tree for the entire week, the fear enough to eat her from the inside out. As it got closer to the new year, she told herself she would open it on New Year’s Eve and decide if it was something she wanted to keep in the new year or chuck away with the old, but as New Year’s Eve arrived she found herself pulled away to a New Year’s Party.
New Year’s Day, when she awoke, it was still under the tree.
She looked at the tree, slowly starting to dry out, and the other boxes that she had left in the rush of plans after Christmas and grabbed a trash bag. A new year meant it was time to move on.
The next hour or so, she spent breaking down boxes and crumpling up wrapping paper and tape. For the first time in a week she picked up the small cardboard box.
It was heavy in her hand for the size of the box and the memories she was sure it contained. She knew she could spend minutes, hours, days, weeks trying to figure out what was inside.
She already had.
Instead, she dropped it from her hand into the nearly full garbage bag.
Some things were better left unopened.