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The Mystery of the Music Box

There was nothing Aria hated more than being in the attic.
It was old and dusty, with cobwebs hanging from beam to beam. Boxes upon boxes were stacked
on top of one another, threatening to topple over at any second. A single light bulb hung from the
center of the ceiling, its metal chain clinking against the glass casing for minutes after being
pulled. Aria hated that sound, and she hated the way the light from the bulb only stretched so far,
casting ghastly shadows from the floor all the way up the walls and towards the ceiling.
Really, why does he need a toolbox? Ive never seen him work on anything besides a
sandwich.
Aria had been sent up there by her uncle in search of a toolbox, which he apparently needed to
fix the railing on the creaky front porch. Shed already been searching for the toolbox for about
an hour now, and so far had found absolutely nothing but junk: empty picture frames with the
glass cracked, old cookbooks with yellowed pages, and small plastic bags filled with loose
buttons and spools of thread. They were all so random and useless. Perhaps at one point in time
they had been practical, before the glass was cracked and the ink had faded and the buttons and
thread were all unorganized. But at this point in time, they were good for nothing besides being
clutter.
Beads of sweat were forming on Arias forehead as she dug through what felt like the millionth
box. The attic was hot and stuffy, and the task at hand was not exactly enjoyable.
This is going to take the rest of my life, Aria groaned, draping her arms over the edge of the
box and lowering her head.

She rested for only a few seconds before digging through the box once again, determined to find
the toolbox just so she could get out of the attic. Beneath an old, straggly blanket stuffed in the
corner of the cardboard box, a small glimmer caught Arias attention and piqued her interest.
Picking her head up, Aria stuck her arms in the box and grabbed the blanket, flinging it
carelessly over her shoulder. Eyes widening, Aria lifted the treasure shed found out of the box,
settling the object in her lap for further examination.
It was a rectangular box made of white porcelain and bordered by an intricate brass design,
dotted with tiny pearls on the sides and front. That same brass overlay continued onto the top,
and sticking out of the boxs left side was a metal arm with an attached wooden handle.
I wonder if theres anything inside, Aria mused.
As Aria lifted the top of the box, a porcelain ballerina figure rose from the inside. Her skin was
pure white, the leotard and tutu she wore painted a light pink. Her right leg was positioned
behind her in attitude, while her right arm arched high above her brown painted head. Laying
delicate fingers on the wood of the handle, Aria began to crank it, not expecting anything to
happen.
But something did.
Whimsical music emerged from deep within the box, reverberating off the wooden walls and
floor of the old attic. As the melody trilled, the ballerina figure spun in a perfect circle, backed by
the burgundy velvet that lined the inside of the open top.

Aria quickly removed her fingers from the handle, eyes still wide and mouth still hanging open.
The music died immediately, and the ballerina stopped spinning. Everything was quiet and still
once again.
A smile quickly grew on the girls face. Closing the top of the music box, Aria jumped back to
her feet. Clutching the newfound treasure against her chest, she spun around on her toes and
charged out of the attic, right down the rickety wooden stairs, through the second floor, and then
down the steadier staircase to the kitchen.
Aunt Kate! Aria blurted, bursting into the room.
A plump woman gasped and whipped around, hazel eyes wide with surprise as auburn hair swept
against her cheeks.
Aria, she breathed. Dont sneak up on me like that! You just about scared the daylights out of
me!
Im sorry, Aria apologized in a rushed fashion, running over to the breakfast bar and taking a
seat in one of the tall chairs. But I just had to show you this amazing thing I found up in the
attic!
Something amazing? From the attic? Aunt Kate asked in disbelief. No, theres nothing good
up in that old place! Just a bunch of broken old junk and dust bunnies.
But this isnt junk! Aria cried, carefully placing the music box on the counter. Look at how
beautiful it is!
Aunt Kate twisted her mouth into an odd shape as she examined the music box from afar. You
know, that looks awfully familiar to me.
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At this, Arias jaw dropped. Really? Youve seen it before?


Well, I dont know for sure, Aunt Kate sighed. It just seems to be ringing a few bells is all.
Might not mean anything, though. It could just be my old imagination playing tricks on me.
Aria was tempted to ask her aunt if she actually had an imagination, but she decided that perhaps
asking such a question would be rude. After all, the last thing she needed to find herself in was
trouble.
I want to show this to Charlotte, Aria announced, her fingers idly tapping on the boxs top.
Could I go over to her house?
Aria, you know youre supposed to be looking for that old toolbox for your uncle, Aunt Kate
gently scolded. And all youve come down here with is a music box! Thats not going to help
him fix the porch railing, you know.
Cant Ben go up there and look for it? Aria whined. Hes not being very useful anyway. We
should teach him some responsibility.
Aria, Aunt Kate warned.
I cant spend all day looking for the toolbox! Aria argued. Ive got dance class in two hours
anyway, and Charlotte and I always go together. So I might as well head over there now, right?
You know how I feel about this nonsense, Aunt Kate grumbled.
What? Aria countered. Me teasing Ben?
No, Aunt Kate refuted. The dancing. Sooner or later its going to have to stop, Aria. And Id
like it be sooner rather than later.
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How can I give up dancing when Im going to become a professional ballerina? Aria reasoned.
Because Ive already told you that isnt a good enough career choice! Aunt Kate groaned. You
need to get a steady job somewhere. I know youre only twelve, so you dont understand.
But I do understand! Aria interjected. I love dance! Thats what I want to do for the rest of my
life! I dont want to end up hating my life. I want to do something that I love, something that will
make me happy!
No, you want to do it because thats what your mother did, Aunt Kate disputed, earning an
offended look from her adopted niece. I know how much you idolize her, Aria. And Im not
saying thats wrong! Im just trying to look out for you is all. And that means giving you
guidance.
Arias face twisted in an almost painful manner, her dark brown eyes misting over with tears. If
you really wanted to look out for me, youd respect my dreams and encourage me instead of
tearing me down.
Aunt Kate could only watch as Aria slid off of the chair and marched towards the back door,
opening it up and then slamming it behind her with one hand as she cradled the music box in the
other.
That girl will never learn.

Ben, you have to go up in the attic and look for the toolbox for Uncle James.

A ten year old boy with mussed brown hair looked up, in turn pointing his plastic, orange and
black gun directly at the girls face.
Put that down! Aria demanded, jabbing a finger at the offending object.
Calm down, its just a BB gun! Ben practically screamed defiantly. Its not gonna do anything
to you!
Those things can take out an eye, Aria stubbornly informed her younger cousin.
Nuh uh! Ben rebutted. I just use it to shoot at birds and squirrels is all! And youre just lame
and dont know what fun is.
Yeah, sure, whatever makes you feel better about your cruel little hobby, Aria scoffed.
Either way, you need to go look for the toolbox. Now.
That was your job, Ben grumbled.
Well, now its yours. Congratulations! Aria trilled in mock excitement.
Youre gonna pay, Ben whined, carelessly dropping his BB gun on the grass before flying past
Aria and into the house.
Oh yeah, Aria muttered beneath her breath, rolling her eyes. Im so afraid.

The first time Aria had ever worn pointe shoes, shed bled.
This, of course, was not unheard of. In fact, it was very common. But it was not something that
Aria had been expecting. The older girls at the studio had tried to warn her, as did the teachers.
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But Aria hadnt listened. She was too excited about becoming a real ballerina, just like her
mother had been.
Aria sighed sadly to herself as the thought of her mother popped into her head. She didnt really
have any clear memories of her. Arias father had died shortly before her second birthday, and
her mother just a few months later. It had all been very tragic, apparently, but Aria just couldnt
remember.
All she knew was that had her mother never died, shed be living in bustling, lively New York
City, instead of the dreary and seemingly dead woods of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.
The pained and bloodied toes had been enough to make Aria want to quit. Shed run right out of
the studio, tears streaming down her face as shed insisted over and over again that she never
wanted to wear the evil pink satin slippers ever again. And it wasnt her Aunt Kate or Uncle
James who had consoled her.
It was Charlotte, Arias best friend.
Youre going to be just like your mom, right? the young blonde had asked her sniveling friend
in a kind manner. I bet she would have never quit, even when her toes bled! I bet she just
worked through it. Thats what it sounds like to me, anyway! You make her sound really amazing,
you know. I think it would be great for you to be like her! But you cant ever give up, okay? Not
ever!
Youre actually early?

Aria looked up and smiled. Standing just a few feet away from her was none other than her best
friend, with stick straight honey blonde hair down to her shoulders, piercing hazel eyes, and a
teasing smirk plastered on her face.
Nice to see you too, Charlotte, Aria quipped.
Did your aunt keep you back? Charlotte asked.
Of course she did, Aria grumbled. You know Aunt Kate.
Come on, Aria, you know that she loves you, Charlotte tried.
I guess, Aria grumbled.
Deep down, Aria knew that both her aunt and uncle did care for her. But at times like these, when
she and her aunt were head to head, she couldnt help but to think they had only adopted her after
her mothers death because there was no other family who could take her. It was a terrible
thought, and Aria knew it, but she just couldnt help herself.
Well, now weve got plenty of time before we have to go to the studio, Charlotte sighed,
leaning against the white picket fence of her home. What do you want to do?
I have to show you something! Aria replied, eyes brightening.
Charlotte furrowed her brow and leaned over the fence to watch Aria dig through the pink and
black duffel bag shed just placed on the ground.
What do you have to show me? Charlotte questioned. New jazz shoes?
No, Aria sighed.

No?! Charlotte repeated with a laugh. Come on, Aria! Both of yours have holes in them!
I know, I just havent had any time to get new ones, Aria said. A smile quickly appearing on
her face, Aria jumped back up, this time with the music box in her hands.
What is that? Charlotte asked, pointing at the unfamiliar object.
An old music box, Aria replied. I found it up in the attic while I was looking for my uncles
toolbox.
It sure is beautiful, Charlotte commented. Ive never seen anything like that before!
Really? Aria asked skeptically, glancing behind Charlotte. I find that hard to believe.
Just because my family has money doesnt mean Im some kind of spoiled brat, Charlotte
sighed. You know that.
I never said you were spoiled, Aria commented simply. But come on. Youve had to have seen
beautiful things like this before! Ive been inside of your house, Charlotte. Its full of gorgeous
things.
Yeah, but I can tell that you think that music box is something special, Charlotte countered.
Do you?
Kind of, Aria sheepishly admitted. Maybe Ive just been reading too many mystery novels
lately. But I feel almost like I was meant to find this music box!
Well, if nothing else, it will make for a beautiful decoration in your room! Charlotte trilled.
Good point, Aria murmured.

Come on, lets go inside for a little while, Charlotte beckoned, opening the front gate for Aria.
I need to get changed for dance anyway.
Aria followed Charlotte up the walkway and inside of the massive brick house. Just as she was
accustomed to, Aria put her duffel bag down by the front door, gently placing the music box on
top of it. She then followed Charlotte upstairs, to where the blondes bedroom was.
By the time the music boxs handle began to turn all on its own, both girls were long out of
earshot.

It was after a long day of dance classes, eating dinner, and finishing homework that Aria was
finally able to go to sleep. After changing into her pink and white pajamas, Aria carefully placed
the music box on her dresser, smiling down at her newly found treasure. It looked absolutely
perfect in her room, as though it had belonged there all along.
With the music box set in place, Aria turned off the lights and climbed into bed, slipping under
the covers and closing her eyes. It felt like she had only been asleep for a matter of minutes when
she heard the familiar melody of the music box.
Groaning, Aria sat up as she rubbed her eyes, trying to make out her room in the dark. After a
few moments, her eyes adjusted, and she was just able to see the music box. Still blinking her
eyes, Aria slid out of bed and walked towards her vanity. She could see that the top of the box
was closed, but that the handle was just finished turning. As soon as she took another step,
however, it stopped.

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For a short while, Aria began to think that it was all a dream. Something that she was just making
up in her still hazy mind. With another exhausted groan, Aria turned back around and began
moving towards her bed.
And then she heard the music once again.
This time, Arias eyes were fully open. She whipped around quickly, and saw the handle make a
full turn before stopping once again. Biting her lower lip, Aria slowly approached the vanity,
reaching out and gently touching the top of the box.
What is going on here?
The sound of a creaking door broke Aria out of her trance and sent another chill up her spine.
Looking out her door, Aria could see someones shadow stretching across the moonlight
enshrouded hall. And thats when it hit her.
Ben.
Narrowing her eyes, Aria stormed out of her room, right across the hall and into Bens. The
young boys back was to her, so he hadnt seen her come in, and Aria couldnt see his face. But
she knew for sure what he was up to, and she wasnt about to let him get away with it.
BEN!
The boy gasped and whipped around, horror evident in his dark brown eyes.
Aria! He growled. Get outta my room!
Ill get out of your room until you learn to stay out of mine!

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Whatre you talking about?!


You know exactly what Im talking about! Aria hissed. You snuck into my room and messed
around with my music box just to freak me out!
What? No I didnt!
Youre such a liar! I know it was you!
Oh yeah? Then prove it!
Youre still mad about before, when I sent you to find Uncle James toolbox, Aria replied.
You told me before, out in the backyard, that I was going to pay. I got woken up by the music,
and then it went off. But as soon as I turned my back, it started again! And as soon as the handle
stopped moving, I saw your shadow out in the hall. Id say Ive got you red handed!
Yeah, except I didnt touch your dumb music box! Ben argued. You know I hate your girly
room! All I did was go downstairs to get a drink of water!
How am I supposed to believe that? Aria growled.
Yeah, but with something better than just me touching your stupid box, Ben grumbled.
Aria opened her mouth, ready to fire off some more insults and accusations at her younger
cousin, but she was cut off by a quiet, haunting melody.
Whats that? Ben asked as the color drained from Arias face.
The music box

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Aria and Ben ran back into her room, stopping by the side of Arias vanity. They both saw the
boxs handle turning all on its own, and this time, it didnt stop. It just kept going, the music
actually seeming to get louder as it carried on.
Wh-what Aria breathed. B-butit was youyou were the one messing with it!
I told you it wasnt me! Ben cried. Somethings wrong with that thing!
Isis it broken? Aria stammered.
No! Ben argued. Its haunted!
By who?! Aria demanded.
I dont know! Ben hissed. A ghost or something!
Thats just ridiculous, Aria muttered. Theres no such thing as ghosts. The music box cant be
haunted.
Its got to be! Ben cried. No one touched it, and the handle is moving! Its a ghost!
And how am I supposed to prove that? Aria asked.
Go and open it!
That wont prove anything! Aria bit. Its not like a ghost is going to pop out of it! And even if
one did, we wouldnt be able to see it!
You just told me there was no such thing as ghosts! Ben gasped. You liar! You do believe in
them!

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I do not! Aria hissed. You know what? Fine. Ill go and open up the music box, just to prove
to you that theres nothing in there, and youre being crazy!
She stomped over towards the vanity, her heart pounding away in her chest. She kept a calm
composure, just to show Ben up, but inside, she was terrified.
Reaching out with shaky hands, Aria grabbed the box. Even in her grasp, the music kept on
playing. Fingers still trembling, Aria gripped the boxs top and pulled it back with much more
force than necessary. The ballerina figure inside sprung up, spinning along to the music for only
about two seconds before everything stopped. The music died down almost instantly, the handle
halting along with it.
Itstopped? Ben wondered aloud. Just like that?
Aria scoffed and rolled her eyes. I told you there was no such thing as ghosts!
Just because it stopped doesnt mean its not haunted! Ben argued.
Youre unbelievable! Aria snapped, leaning forward. As she did, the burgundy velvet bottom
beneath the ballerina suddenly fell out, drifting down to the floor. Gasping softly, Aria stood
upright and looked into the now open space. Stuffed in one of the boxs corners was a small,
folded up piece of paper that looked fairly aged. Reaching inside, Aria picked up the note
between two fingers and held it there.
Whats that? Ben asked.
I dont know, Aria breathed.
Wellopen it and find out!

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Turning around, Aria placed the box back on the vanity. Unfolding the piece of paper, Aria held
it between both hands, scanning the beautifully scripted words with her dark brown eyes. The
further down she got, the bigger the smile on her face grew.
I knew it, she muttered.
Whats going on in here?!
Aria and Ben both looked towards the doorway. Aunt Kate was standing there, her arms folded
and brow deeply furrowed.
Aria and I were just having fun was all, Ben muttered.
This late at night?!
Umyes?
Ben, go back to your room, Aunt Kate sighed. Ben silently nodded and left the room, leaving
Aunt Kate alone to stare down Aria.
All of a sudden you and Ben want to play nice? She asked.
I guess, Aria replied. But Im glad he came in here. I wouldnt have found this otherwise.
Aria held up the piece of paper, watching as Aunt Kate squinted her eyes.
What in the world is that?
Its a letter that I found inside of the music box, Aria murmured, walking towards her aunt with
the paper still held out in front of her. She decided to leave out the part about the music box
playing on its own. Read it.
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Aunt Kate still looked hesitant, but nevertheless took the letter from Aria and began to read it. As
she got towards the bottom, Aunt Kates eyes widened, and her mouth dropped ever so slightly.
This letter Aunt Kate murmured. Its
Aria shuffled her feet and smiled sheepishly at the stunned woman standing before her. Its from
my mother. And its addressed to me.

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