The small, ugly trunk sat squatly defensive in front of me, bound with tattered leather straps and a rusty lock. About the size of my modern carry-on luggage, the splitting wood of the battered chest dared me to brave its dark interior. What was hidden inside? I was the latest in a maternal line of ancestors to receive the gift, though it didn’t look like anyone had peered inside for decades if not a century or more.
I held an ornate key, in odd contrast to the unprepossessing trunk, in trembling fingers. A coarse braided-hair string straggled from the end of the key. Hesitating, I then heard a voice from the ether of distant time whisper open and read. So I did.
My name is Damaris. They say my mother killed my sister. They hanged her for the crime of murder. But she didn’t do it. I was there. I was two years old and I saw what happened. But my own life would have been forfeit had I spoken. I knew enough to be silent. The Plymouth colonies in 1648 were not safe for outspoken women, least of all for a girl child. Before I die, though, someone needs to know what happened. Mama said to me our last touch, “Pray remember me.”