Jenna quietly slipped unnoticed from the living room, into the kitchen, towards the back stairs, away from the gathering of friends, family. So many friends. So much laughter. Yet another “do-you-remember-the-time-when-Sid…” story faded as she climbed the steep stairs. A smirk curled the left corner of her lips as the threadbare steps began playing their ancient melody.
Her aunt’s voice rose above the others. “Does anyone want more coffee?”
A chorus of cheering voices.
“And all the people said, ‘Amen.’”
It had been years since Jenna stood in this house, in this doorway. Uncle Sidney’s library remained the same, its compact quarters still stuffed to the gunwales with books, magazines, maps. It reminded her of the man himself. Comfortably neglected. He always seemed to have a button loose or missing, mismatched socks.
She squared the jumble of newspapers decorating the armchair, dropped them on the footstool and sank into the familiar comfort of the worn chocolate-brown velvet icon. Leaning her cheek against the wing of the chair, she could still smell his cologne. Wood. Spice. And of course, cognac.
On the oak table next to her, partially covering a water stain, rested a copy of “William,” the Conqueror! [I.E. W. E. Gladstone.] a Jubilant Jubilee [In Verse]. by “Jove.”.
A yellowed page of her uncle’s stationary fell onto her lap as she opened the book. Puzzled, she turned it over. A child’s printing. A poem.
It was the first poem that Uncle Sidney had made her memorize.
“If you’re cold, Tea will warm you.
If you’re too heated, it will cool you.
If you’re depressed it will cheer you.
If you’re excited it will calm you.”
The paper blurred.
He’d kept it.
What a dear, sweet man.