“There are some promises you can never break,” he told me. “You must remember this.”
“Don’t worry,” I assured—rather confident that I wouldn’t forget. “I got this. You can trust me.”
He nodded. Then, handing me the rusted bronze key, he heaved a heavy sigh. “Don’t lose this.”
“I won’t,” I said. “I’ll keep it safe.”
He nodded once more—a hint of melancholy in his disposition as he ended his tenure. It had been forty years since the key was entrusted to him. Now way past his retirement age, it was time for someone new to bear the responsibility.
“Remember,” he repeated as he headed to the door. “Don’t ever forget.”
“I won’t ever forget,” I said. I had labelled the jars. I knew which were important—the promises I had to protect. So how could I ever forget? Alas, ten years later, I broke my only promise.
It was said that none of my predecessors had ever succeeded at their task—that there would come a time when a promise is broken. But as a confident young lad, I thought myself different. I believed, that unlike those before me, the promises would be safe under my care—that every father who promised to be home for the holidays would be singing Christmas carols with their families, that every friend who promised to stay in touch would be a phone call away despite the distance, and that every lover who promised to love forever would chose to fight even in the darkest of times. Unfortunately, some promises were meant to be broken… even if I remembered to keep them safe.
“I had no choice,” I consoled myself.
A new promise had arrived at my doorstep—it’s ethereal shimmer of silver and gold was enclosed in a mason jar. And within the streaks of twinkling light was a ghostly memory of when the promise was made—a promise of a sickly mother to her young child. Glimpsing what the jar bore, I knew that I had to keep it safe—that it was up to me to ensure that the fear-stricken girl wouldn’t lose her mother. So, I headed to the trove of promises down the hall. And with the click of the old bronze key, I unlocked the rickety cupboard.
One would think that a cupboard storing magical jars of promises would be magic itself. To my dismay, it was but an ordinary piece of furniture—one that had to be cleared should I ever need more space. Hence, I had to break promises—I had broken a few before. But often times, the broken promises were the ones long forgotten or were no longer of any value to the one who made it. This time, however, all the jars before me were labelled in white. It was the mark I gave to the promises that can never be broken—promises that would change lives forever.
“What do I do?” I asked myself—a question I repeated as I held the new promise in my hands. “I can’t.” Then, after a prolonged moment of hesitation, I reached for the jar on the lowest shelf.
The jar had been in the cupboard before I became the keeper of promises. It was a jar I promised to never break—a promise to the man who had once kept it safe. Alas, I didn’t have a choice. It was, after all, one of the oldest promises in the cupboard—the promise itself barely visible behind the crud and limescale. Placing the new jar where the old one once sat, I gave myself little room for second thoughts and headed to the backyard. And it was there that I broke a supposedly unbreakable promise.
“I had no choice,” I told myself. “It was old. It probably meant nothing.”
Indeed, I was young and naive. I thought that newer promises had more worth than promises that had been kept for years—I failed to see that they were the ones you can never break. It was only when I passed my duty to my successor that I understood.
“There are some promises you can never break,” I told her.
“Which ones?” she asked.
“The old ones,” I stated. “You must remember this.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep them safe,” she said.
I nodded. But with a sigh, I knew what was to come—the mother who had been fighting to stay alive, for the past twenty years, would someday break her promise. And unfortunately, it was a promise… that was meant to be broken.
Music Meets Story © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)