Read Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts Online

Authors: Talli Roland

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Short Stories & Anthologies, #Short Stories, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #Romantic Comedy, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Single Authors

Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts (3 page)

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
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Wow.’ I survey
ed the forest of boxes. All this had been collected by one woman? ‘So you left your job to set up the museum?’ Double wow.

Heath nodded. ‘Yes. S
he’d done so much for me . . .’ That same pained expression crossed his face, and he shrugged. ‘Once everything is good to go and the museum has been open for a while, I’ll hand things over to someone and go back to the City. There are always jobs for lawyers,’ he added wryly. ‘This is just a necessary detour.’


Right.’ My heart jumped. If Heath returned
to the City, did that mean I might be promoted to curator one day? One day soon, all things being well? Already I was picturing myself sitting upstairs in the office.
Oh, hello, yes, I’m the curator at London’s hottest new museum,
I’d say to all the cool people I’d meet at . . . well, wherever the cool people hung out.

I looked at the boxes in front of me with deter
mination. I’d work around the clock to get everything whipped into shape. This museum would be more than ready to open by the fifteenth of December. It would be there with bells on! Given that it was Christmas, it probably
would
have bells. And garland and holly . . . and maybe I could even throw in a bit of mistletoe. Sure, it was the Museum of Broken Hearts, but even bad relationships responded to seasonal greenery, right?

Gareth used to love mistletoe. Our first Christmas together, he’d covered almost every surface of the flat with it, and we’d kissed nonstop for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Secretly, I’d renamed it the Twelve Days of Chapped Lips, since he’d been a tad overenthusiastic. But that was romance, and I was hardly complaining.


I’ll just grab my coat,’ I said hastily, aware t
hat for the second time today, I’d drifted off into my own thoughts. After heading upstairs, I threw on my jacket – practically melting with relief at its cozy confines – then carefully made my way back down the narrow cellar steps. The last thing I needed was to fall over and break a leg.

As I
eased into the dimly lit room, I noticed Heath staring intently at a gold locket dangling on a chain from his fingers. With the shadows falling across his face, I couldn’t make out his expression, but I could tell by the rigid set of his shoulders and the way the chain was threaded through his fingers that it meant something to him. Could
this
have something to do with his negativity toward love and relationships? Who had that locket belonged to?


Um, hi,’ I said quietly, wanting to alert him to my presence. It felt like I was intruding on a private moment.

Heath jerked at the sound of my voice. The chain slithered from his fingers and the locket plopped into a large box on the floor. He kicked it into a corner, then set another box on top of it. ‘Sorry, just examining the, er, artefacts.’


Okay.’
Obviously there was way more to it, but Heath’s face had that shuttered look I was rapidly becoming familiar with. Maybe I could probe more later, when – if – I got to know him better. ‘So, I’ll just start cataloguing everything. Once I’ve finished, we can see what we’ve got and how to organise it all.’ It was going to be a big job, but I couldn’t wait to begin.


Fine.’ Heath glanced at his watch. ‘I’ve got some paperwork to do, then a meeting with the council at eleven. Help yourself to coffee and tea in the kitchen. I’ll leave you to it.’

I watched him disappear up the stairs, then rubbed my hands together for warmth, and plunged in.

 

Several hours later, I was knee-deep in objects, including chopsticks from a couple’s “Last Supper”, a pair of red Y-fronts (from the pair’s final romp . . . thank goodness for plastic gloves), and a raggedy stuffed toy poodle that had belonged to a terminally ill patient. If it wasn’t for the accompanying letters Heath’s grandmother had neatly bagged with each item, the artefacts would be better suited to a jumble sale than a museum. But each yellowed note detailed the object’s story, giving it an inescapable pathos.

No description
I could write would top the little vignettes the owners had scrawled, so I planned to suggest to Heath we display the letters alongside the items. Seeing the senders’ actual handwriting – and reading their tragic tales – made me feel connected to them. I was sure our visitors would experience the same emotion.

Take
this note, for example, written in a shaky, spidery script, and tucked in with a tarnished salt shaker:

My husband Wilfred and I received this
salt shaker on our wedding day. Ever since, it has stood on our kitchen table. Mornings, for Wilfred’s poached eggs. Teatime, for his chips. And late at night, because I was too tired to clear it away. Every day when I saw that salt shaker, I’d think of how happy I was. Fifty-six years later, I was still as happy and in love as that new bride. But now Wilfred is gone. I don’t want to think of that any longer. Remembering my joy makes my sadness grow stronger. Without my Wilfred, nothing is right.

Be
fore I could wipe them away, my tears splashed onto the lined paper. Crap! I pressed the fabric of my coat against the paper quickly, noting the ink already showed the splatter of liquid. God, what kind of assistant curator was I, ruining items by sobbing all over them?

Pull yourself together, Rose, I told myself firmly.
This old woman had fifty-six years of happiness and love. And maybe she’d managed to find happiness and love again – along with a new salt shaker to adorn her table.

As much as I wanted to put an optimistic spin on everything, though, I had to admit the tales of heartache and woe
were
bringing down my love-a-happy-ending mentality. That was to be expected, I guessed, until I managed some professional distance. Even the arrowheads had seemed interesting when I’d first started at the British Museum, but that had soon faded. By the end of this week, I fully expected to be back on my game.

Glancing at my watch, my eyes popped when I noticed it was already past five. Down in the cellar, I’d lost all track of time. After peeling off the plastic gloves, I smoothed my hair and climbed the stairs to the ground floor, blinking at the bright overhead light. Outside, darkness had fallen, and I could hear the pitter-patter of people rushing past on their way home.


Heath?’ I
called, listening for any sign of movement. But the house was silent and still, so I clutched my coat even tighter around me and headed into the cold, misty night.

 

CHAPTER
FOUR

 

 


How
was the first day? Fixed any broken hearts yet?’ Mel leaned forward to slurp from an over-full martini glass, eyes peeping up at me under her thick blunt fringe.

I snorted. Yeah, right. I’d need to be a miracle worker to rectify some of the tales of woe I’d read earlier. Melancholy still rested on me like a weight, so I threw Mel a bright grin – and took a big sip of wine – to cheer myself up. Thank goodness my friend had been free tonight. If I’d had to go back to just Beano, well . . . it might have taken more than my favourite film to see the bright side of life. A whole bottle of Tesco’s Finest red, probably.


As first days go, it was
quite good. It’s nice to be in charge of something, you know?’ I remembered Heath’s words about going back to the City eventually, and a glimmer of hope shot through me.


What about this boss of yours?
Sounds like he’s going to be a slave driver.’ I’d told Mel about the fast-approaching opening deadline and how busy I was going to be up until mid-December.


Well, he’s . . .’ My cheeks flushed as I pictured Heath’s dark eyes and the way he filled out the blue sweater. ‘He’s nice,’ I finished lamely.


Nice?’
Mel quirked an eyebrow. ‘Right-o. Nice. You know, judging by the way you’re blushing, I reckon someone’s got a little crush on Mr Bossman.’


Mel
! Of course not. He’s, like, some kind of City
lawyer
.’ I knew what Mel thought of people who worked in the City. Filthy money-grubbing heartless swines, or something along those lines. ‘Anyway, you know I’m in love with Gareth. Did I tell you about his postcard? He even put four x’s.’ I met her eyes triumphantly. And here she was saying he’d never come back to me.

Mel
rolled her eyes. ‘He’s probably had enough of poverty and sees you as a free ride to come home to. Once he has his life set up again, I reckon you’ll see the back of him faster than he can say
konichiwa
.’

Stung by
my friend’s harsh words, I dropped my head to examine my wine. There was no point arguing; she’d see the truth when Gareth stuck. ‘I think
konichiwa
is Japanese. Gareth’s in Vietnam.’ I pushed back my chair. ‘I’d better get going. I’ve got to make an early start tomorrow.’


I’m sorry.’
Mel looked repentant. ‘It’s just, I don’t want to see you hurt again.’

I sighed as a wave of exhaustion swept over me
. The cold and the endless shifting of heavy boxes packed with detritus from people’s pasts were making my body, head, and soul ache. ‘I know. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.’

I shuffled out into the street, thankful it was just a ten-minute walk home. The misty night had turned into one of those rainy, chilly evenings where everything smelled of wet wool, and my knuckles turned ruddy red from the cold as I clutched the umbrella.

As people pushed past, I wondered if they all had stories of heartache and woe similar to what I’d read today. Well, sure, probably, I told myself. Everyone had some trouble in their life. But that didn’t mean it had to define you, or colour your future. The most important bit was keeping your head up and staying positive.

When I got back to the flat
, I was going to do just that. Finish watching
An Affair to Remember
, pour myself another large red, curl up with Beano, and dream of the moment when Gareth would walk through my door.

 

CHAPTER
FIVE

 

 

The next
two weeks passed in a blur as the museum opening loomed closer. Slowly but surely, I was making my way through the boxes, organising like a demon now that I had my system down pat. Ten days remained until the grand opening, and I still had five large boxes to get through – not to mention setting up the rooms. But as I’d opened the boxes, I’d managed to map out everything in my head. I was going to lay out each room as if someone still lived there: with the salt shaker on the kitchen table; the pants in the bedroom; the broken mirror in the living area. A mounted frame with a scan of the item’s original letter would accompany every artefact. This would be a living, breathing house of heartache, and even the thought made me cringe.

Luckily, for every tale I’d read, I’d managed to construct an alternate reality. That broken mirror? Smashed by a flailing limb during a particularly energetic bout of sex. The glossy violin? Its owner had decided he preferred the clarinet. I knew I shouldn’t be sullying the items’ historical accuracy, even in my head. But if I didn’t, I’d have probably dropped dead of depression by now. How did people deal with such sad stories?

Once I’d
created my own little way of coping, I was actually enjoying the job. The hours flew by and before I knew it, it would be six and time to head back to Beano. I loved the feeling of ownership and responsibility, and I’d give anything to make a success of my position and be up for promotion. Things had been so crazy I’d barely seen Heath, except to run my ideas by him which, thankfully, he’d loved.

After setting as
ide the last item in a box – an old, worn bunny that put me in mind of the Velveteen Rabbit – I scrambled to my feet and stretched. Every muscle in my body throbbed, and my eyes itched from the dust. Yawning, I pushed my hair behind my ears and trudged up the cellar steps.


Oh, hello.’ Heath emerged from the kitchen as I reached the top. ‘On your way home?’


Yes. Just a few boxes left until we can start setting up, if you can believe that.’ I was proud of how much I’d done so quickly. If I kept it up, surely he’d have to give me the curator post, right? It would be terrible if he brought in someone new after I’d worked so hard.


I can’t believe it, actually. That’s brilliant, Rose.’ I basked in Heath’s impressed expression. ‘Look, I’ve hardly seen you since you started here. Why don’t you let me take you out for a bite? You’ve been locked in that cellar for weeks now. It’s the least I can do.’

A flash of nerves hit as I pictured us sitti
ng across from each other in a cozy restaurant, candles flickering in Heath’s dark eyes. Despite my hesitation, though, I knew this would be a great opportunity to elaborate on my skills.
Museum
skills, of course. ‘Um, okay.’


Great. Just let me grab
my coat and I’ll be with you in a second.’

I nodded
as he dashed up to his office. This would give me a chance to get to know Heath on a personal level, too. After all, he was hardly going to appoint me curator if we barely had a relationship.

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
3.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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