Sheena tossed the bag right onto the desk in front of him. It landed on the keyboard and sent out a message that read 'jjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkklllllllllll;;;;;;' to Dagmar in Finland. Byron sighed and lifted it. There would be hell to pay if he ignored it.
The contents were tubes of cotton. Socks. Five pairs. Three black, one white, one blue.
"You know what this means, don't you?" she said as he lined them up beside the keyboard.
"You throw all of the old ones out."
He said, "Okay, I throw them out."
He typed brb to Dagmar. The war on the socks began. Smelly ones. Odd ones. Ones with big toe holes. There was even one with cat sick on it. All had to go.
By luck he spotted that sock of Amelia's between the pages of a paperback he had forgotten about.
He grabbed it. Sheena turned. The book toppled and he noticed its mate.
Sheena's fingers closed on it. "Ugh! Not even washed. I can't remember you wearing anything so gaudy."
That's because you have no imagination, he thought silently. But perhaps a woman with no imagination was better, safer than one with too much of one.
He felt the pair being split. The one in Sheena's possession went, along with the rest of the heap, straight into the bin.
He bunched its partner up inside his fist. The sock was a broken promise, mainly to himself. He could not let go of it. So he wedged it into the bottom drawer of his work desk and forgot about it. For the next six years....
He said, "Once upon a time there was a girl called A-me-lia'
Kaylene said, "She hasn't got a face."
He said, "That's because you got to make it up in your own mind. What Amelia looks like."
"Daddy, it's just sock. It smells."
"Just a sock! Young lady, you have no imagination. This is one of the citizens of the city of Sockingburg, capital of Sockana!"
"Wait, I know, your imagination has gone to bed early. Perhaps you'd better go and join it."
"No, it hasn't, Daddy!"
"What a pity. Think of all the fun we could have had tonight, you, me and our imaginations, but it's no good now."
"DADDY! I said it hasn't!"
"Are you sure?"
"Then, can you tell me what Amelia, from Sockingburg looks like?"
She scrunched up her nose. "She has brown hair... like me..."
"Yes?" He tried not to sound disappointed.
"No, wait, Daddy, it's not like me, but lots darker, almost black, like Snow White, I think, she looks like a princess, not like me..."
"Hey, Kaylene, you're Daddy's little princess." He exhaled. She did get it right. "And her eyes?"
Hers closed in concentration.
After a minute, he asked. "Do you think they could be green?"
She opened her eyes. "Yes, Daddy, they're green."
"And when she laughs, it startles you."
"Not like Mommy."
"When she walks she takes very long steps. Her shoes are hiking boots, and she wears it with her skirt and shawl. It would look weird on anyone else, but somehow she manages to pull it off..."
They settled into the roles of storyteller and listener. His words flowed from his tongue even as the thoughts stuttered and staggered in a completely different direction. Why couldn't he have made it work and given her a happy ending?
He kept talking long after Kaylene fell asleep, telling the story as much to himself to her. When he heard Sheena's car angling into the driveway, he scrunched up the sock and returned it to the bottom drawer of his work desk.
They were in his study, poring over the science project printout list and had covered most bases.
"A magnet," said Kaylene.
"Better check the desk. Start at the drawer."
She did the checking and they found things that had long lost their meaning. The last item to emerge was a flash of purple that jolted him with a pang of guilt. He had forgotten.
Kaylene laughed. "The sock puppet. I haven't seen her for ages."
"Amelia," he said.
His daughter's eyes lit up. "Dad, you remembered her name! Wow! I used to dream about her sometimes."
"You never said."
"I dunno - it felt silly. In the dreams she was a real person, not just an old sock and she looked just the way you described her."
He took a breath. "What did you dream about her? Do you remember any of those dreams?"
She frowned. "Only vaguely. Look, Dad, it was just a couple of times. It was long ago."
"What do you remember?"
She tried to avoid his eyes. "The last dream I had, was at the Two Palms Mall. We were buying shoes and this lady kept following us around asking us to help her, please help her or the cracks would suck her in. I knew at once in the dream that she was Amelia the sock lady. I wanted to turn around, but you know how it is in dreams, where you keep going in the wrong direction, unable to turn around..."
He said, "Yes, I know."
A car hooted. She said, "That's Dylan's mom. Have to go. Bye, dad."
It was her study date. He thought back to the days when Amelia was fun. When she was magical. Before the scars and the trembling and the eyes brimming over either with pain or not enough person left inside.
He could not help himself. Whenever he went to the mall or the park or a bus station and caught sight of a bag lady shuffling along, he would imagine her looking up with a spark of recognition.
He always wondered. Why did you lose it? Did I do that to you?
The sock was still there, the whiff of scent of long ago clinging to it. Perhaps she had overdosed long ago and that was all that was left of her. Maybe she will die if he throws it out. Or come back. Or be well. Or whatever...
(cover image by Jack Sparrow. http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=56342&picture=socks-on-the-rocks)