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My Former Sanctuary

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The formal living room of my great uncle’s estate was never really what most would call a “living” room. It was quiet, eerie, and gracefully deserted, but maybe that was what had me gravitating toward it even subconsciously. The formal Afghani rug and Pier 1 couches weren’t really my family’s style, and to them, the fireplace was rendered useless and boring in any season other than winter. I was the only one who saw that fireplace for what it really was; a symbol for the warmth and light that were always waiting within reach. A beacon of hope. Anything but “just a fireplace.” That fireplace meant something to me.  
?It was my great uncle’s piano, however, that subsequently captured my heart. It was an antique; nearly two-hundred years old, and looked it. The wood was likely once a polished dark cherry color, but had faded into a deep almost-caramel brown, and the keys had traded their flawless ivory-white for an aged yellow. I couldn’t help but marvel over it every time my footsteps carried me past that room. With every gaze, I imagined my uncle—tall, lanky but graceful, with a cloudy grey beard and a stature that spoke elegance and sophistication—leaning over those keys as if the notes that danced at the command of his fingers had somehow tied around his heart and pulled him closer. With every gaze, the pain of missing him and wishing he were still alive slightly subsided.
?My parents and I moved into the estate shortly after my great uncle’s death. Being the only surviving relative, my father inherited the castle-like abode, and we moved in only two weeks after the heart attack. The entire building could confidently fit three of our former houses and still have room enough left over. Needless to say, the transition from cluttered urban chaos to the rural and royal fifteen acres my great uncle owned was not entirely easy to manage.
?That room, that wonderful piano, made me feel more comfortable walking a dead man’s halls. I never did gather the courage to enter. I watched from afar; admired from the threshold, but never crossed over. I could sense the jagged texture of those dark maroon walls, the black veins of the hardwood floor, and the soft velvet of the chocolate-brown curtains surely enough, but nevertheless, it all seemed so surreal. I was deathly afraid that by stepping inside I would shatter the tranquility that hovered like fog in that room. I never conquered that fear. Maybe I would have eventually, but I will never know. That room is gone. Those curtains are gone. That piano is gone, gone, gone.
?Less than a year after the death of my great uncle, his home went up in flames. They never did figure out what started the fire. All I remember is the merciless shrieking of an alarm startling me from my slumber, the haunting smoke that clogged the air, and watching the flames devour every forsaken wall, every abandoned piece of furniture, everything down to nearly the last square foot. The roaring of the fire was all I heard that night, and the piano was all I really saw. Perhaps it was selfish of me, but the unbearable sorrow I felt that night was not over the disintegration of my new home—it was picturing that beautiful piano, now scorched and engulfed in a merciless flame, that tore my heart apart.
?When the fire finally exhausted itself, only one thing was left standing among the ash. Only I could have felt the true impact of seeing the sooty stone remnants of my great uncle’s fireplace existing there, perpetually undefeated. At the close of one of the darkest chapters of my life, I clutched onto my symbol of warmth and light, my beacon of hope. It held everything now. My great uncle’s spirit—floating in the melodies of the piano he poured his heart into, and the perfect serenity of the room he played them in—is preserved in a stone haven, among a sea of ashes.
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