The bell hanging over the door jingled as Anna forced her way through the thick, musty air and into the antique shop. Many people went out of their way to avoid this place, as the constant murmurings of long-forgotten items made them uncomfortable or downright annoyed, but Anna loved it there. She was fascinated by the tales of coats’ past owners and the houses in which old tables had once stood.

“Hey, Ms. Jensen! Sure is cold out today, huh?” she said, pulling off her gloves.

Ms. Jensen, the shop owner, glared up at her over her horn-rimmed glasses, then quickly returned to her crossword puzzle.

Anna rolled her eyes and headed toward the stairs leading to her favorite part of the store, the basement, where the oldest things were kept. Dust clouded up around her boots as they landed on the creaking steps. Anna was sure no one else, including Ms. Jensen, had been down there in years. The basement was where all the things deemed too worn or broken to be purchased were sent to whisper the stories of their pasts with no one to hear them. She tiptoed through the narrow spaces between rotting wooden bookshelves, trunks filled with moth infested wool blankets, silks, and furs. She carefully sat on the one chair that still had all its legs. Next to her, a doll was repeating a story about the little girl who had left her on a train so many years ago. This was one of Anna’s favorite reminiscences.
After listening for a short time, she picked a silk dress that was far too big for her out of one of the trunks beside her. She pulled off her coat and slipped the dress over her sweater, listening carefully as it spoke in a soft, muffled voice about the grand parties it had attended in its youth. Anna closed her eyes and pictured the things the dress described.

“…a ballroom filled with people dancing in elegant clothes, the tables are filled with more food than my wearer has ever seen in one place. She looks between the swinging dresses of the dancers and the guests standing off to the sides who are gossiping and laughing. She sees no one she knows. She stands for many minutes, rubbing the edge of a crisp white tablecloth between her fingers. Finally, she joins the others on the dancefloor, and as she—”

“Anna…Anna…” A hoarse voice whispered. Upon hearing her name, Anna snapped out of the dress’s tale and whipped her head around, her eyes wide.

“Anna runs up the stairs…Her shoelaces…she…she hits the floor and…”

Anna made her way toward the disjointed voice, a glint or silver catching her eye. Placed at exactly eye level on a shelf, there was a thin bracelet. She picked it up and stared at it, coiled in her hand like a snake. It was silent for a moment.

“Anna! Anna!”

Anna jerked her hand away, letting the bracelet fall to the floor with a clink that echoed through the basement like a firecracker in an alley. She turned and sprinted between the crumbling bookshelves and up the stairs, leaving her coat in the darkness, but as she tried to lift her foot over the final step, she felt it being pulled down. She fell, crashing onto the dusty carpeted floor. She pulled herself up, shaking, and looked down at her boots.

Anna took a sharp breath. Her laces were untied.

—By Jaimie H., 15, Seattle