Once upon a time, there was a penguin. A tall penguin. And this tall penguin wrote. A lot. And she wanted somewhere pretty to store her writing, somewhere much prettier than the plastic Rubbermaid tub that had housed her journals and poetry for as long as she could remember.
One day, when she was but a teenager, she happened upon a gorgeous, mahogany-colored carved wood chest, imported from China. It had a beautiful scene of birds and flowers and a golden latch. It was the perfect home for her writing. She wanted it. It wanted her. It wasn't expensive by any standard of expensive, but it was still too much for her to spend at the time. So, she let it go, hoping that one day, when she had the money, she would be able to find something like it again.
But, she didn't. For many years she looked and looked. Sure, there were carved wood chests in every little Chinese furniture shop she looked in. But not like the one she had seen in her teens. They'd have flowers but no birds. Or birds but no flowers. Or too much of one and not enough of the other. Or it would have no birds or flowers, but instead, a whole lot of dragons. And she wasn't a dragon sort of girl.
So, she waited. And looked. And looked. And waited. Until, one day, in her early 30's, she stumbled upon a chest, a mahogany-colored carved wood chest, with the most perfect scene of birds and flowers. And a golden latch. And she had the money to buy it. But she didn't have a car to bring it home.
So the tall penguin went to the shopkeeper and paid for the chest, making him promise to keep it until the next day when she would return with her car to pick it up. He took the money, put a SOLD sign on the chest and promised it would be there upon her return. She didn't sleep the whole night. She prayed to the carved wood chest gods that no one would sneak in and steal it, that no one would offer the shopkeeper more money for it, nor any other possible events that would keep the chest from becoming hers.
The next morning she returned to the store and the chest was still there. She squealed with delight. She pulled her car around the back of the shop and the shopkeeper squished the chest into the backseat. She drove home with a smile, at peace with the knowledge that finally, after all these years, she would have somewhere pretty, somewhere deserving, to house her treasured writings.
She pulled her car into the parking lot of her apartment building and realized that she hadn't thought about how she would get it up to her third floor apartment, since it was large and awkward to carry, and there was no elevator in the building. So, she called her evil boyfriend (well, he wasn't evil yet, but he would be eventually) and he told her to just leave the chest in the car until he came home later that night, when he would bring it upstairs himself. But that just wouldn't do. She knew that he would be very late (he was always working late, which eventually became part of his evilness) and there was no way she was going to leave her beloved chest in the car all day where some covetous neighbour might decide that they wanted a mahogany-colored carved wood chest of their very own. No, that would not do.
So, she pulled the chest out of the backseat of the car and, extending her arms to their full breadth, she hugged the chest to her and slowly made her way up the three flights of stairs to their apartment. Panting, sweating and swearing obscenities under her breath, she made it into the apartment and placed the chest in the center of the room. And then, she promptly sat down on the couch and cried. Finally, it was hers.
The chest housed her writing for two years, until the day that the evil boyfriend broke up with her and subsequently told her that she and her belongings would have to vacate the premises by the end of the month. The end of the month! (He had now fully earned the evil title.)
In the following weeks, she packed her things, emptied the carved wood chest and prepared it for travel. The evil boyfriend came home one night, and, realizing that the carved wood chest would be leaving along with the tall penguin, groaned and lamented, "But it goes with the rest of the decor. Can't you just leave it here?"
And the tall penguin, who was already leaving behind her heart in a million shattered pieces, shrugged her shoulders and sighed, figuring it didn't really matter if the carved wood chest she loved so much got left behind as well. And so, she let the evil boyfriend keep the chest.
(Grief makes people do stupid things.)
And she regretted it every day thereafter. Some days she missed the carved wood chest more than she missed him. But there was nothing more to be done. She moved on with her life sans chest, and swore she would never buy another. It just could not be replaced.
Two years later, the evil boyfriend returned. Called the tall penguin up and invited her out to coffee, whereby he sincerely apologized for his previous evilness (and whereby she did as well...because evilness runs both ways in any relationship). And they, from that moment on, once again, were friends.
In time, she was invited over to see his new apartment. He had been through a few apartments in the two years they were apart (and as many girlfriends) and he had sold most of the furniture they had shared. But one thing he had kept. She entered the living room of his new apartment, and there it was, the carved wood chest. She went over and stroked the birds and the flowers and the golden latch.
"You kept it," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Yes," he said, smiling at her, "There's no way I could have sold it. I know how much it meant to you."
She hugged him. And cried on his shoulder.
She allowed the chest to stay in his possession for a year. She knew it was safe there and she could visit it whenever she wanted. And she also knew that one day, at just the right time, it would return to her.
Four days ago, boyfriend-turned-friend, preparing his move out of the country, called the tall penguin and said it was time to return the carved wood box to her. He rented a car, squished it into the backseat as the tall penguin had done some five years before, and drove it over to her apartment. She met him in the parking lot of her building and smiled as he struggled to get it out of the car and up the three flights of stairs to her apartment.
She just laughed, saying, "It's your turn."
They reached her apartment and he put the chest down on the floor at the end of her bed. It was the perfect spot. They hugged and he left.
And then, she promptly sat down on the couch and cried. Finally...finally...it was hers. And she would never, never let it go again.