BY: MADISON ALLWORTH
Jessica’s world has taken a sharp turn. Her much loved and important part of her life, her grandmother, has passed away.
Tasked with taking care of the estate, Jessica discovers that Darla has left behind her heirloom charm bracelet. Jess recalls with fondness that each charm had a story and special memory that represents various stages of Darla’s life. As Jessica clears out Darla’s home, she remembers the stories and begins to connect some the secrets of Darla’s life to each charm.
With the exception of one.
Darla never revealed the story behind one specific charm. Even when directly questioned, Darla remained aloof and redirected any inquiries.
There are only two people, including Jessica’s mother, who know the secret behind that charm. They want it to continue to be a secret. The length they will go to, to keep that secret, turns out to be Jessica’s problem.
Jess issued a prayer, “Please, please, make it not true. Make it a dream—a very bad dream.” With every stitch of hope in her body, and every ounce of faith, she slowly opened her eyes…to an empty, quiet, kitchen. As she looked to the ceiling, her shoulders sagged as she realized the answer to the prayer was a resounding “Sorry, kiddo, it’s True with a capital “T” and she wasn’t quite certain if the “Sorry” part was sincere. Her grandmother was gone. She stood cemented in place and let those memories arrive. Her senses took everything in. Each inhale captured the oatmeal-cookie aroma that was baked into the kitchen wallpaper. Her eyes met the faded grape juice stain on the dining room rug that echoed the responsibility lecture from years ago and even now, twenty years later, the stomach-acid-guilt churned. The warp in the hardwood floor stood prominently taunting her to, once again, sacrifice a tooth or knee-skin—and the shine from the “diamond” doorknobs reminded her of the lengthy discussions regarding what could be bought with a diamond that big. She did not fight the onslaught of emotions. She simply honored their presence in respect. Jess was pulled back into reality as a shadow drifted across the floor, ripping her from her sensory overflow. Startled, Jess could only watch as a figure quickly slipped into a car and began to speed away. She opened the front door and called out as the car rounded the corner and disappeared from view. Jess stared for a moment then turned to close the front door when she noticed something in the rose bushes. Between the pink blossoms she found a black and white photo of her grandmother, Darla waving and smiling at whomever was taking the picture. On the back of the photo was a signed message, “All my love, T.H.”
As she closed the front door and placed the photo on the writing desk, making a mental note to inquire about the initials T.H., the phone rang. Mystic Thrift Store could drop by tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to pick up any clothing or bedding that could be donated. With a deadline, Jess’ lack of ambition became forced. She retrieved a supply of garbage bags and boxes and headed for Darla’s bedroom closets. She had every intention of tearing apart the bedroom and linen closets that moment, but as she entered, an envelope, glaring her name, rested on Darla’s pillow. Jess dropped down on the bed and ripped it open. Darla’s charm bracelet fell into her hands with a scrawled note “This is for you…all my secrets.” As Jess held the charm bracelet in the palm of her hand, tears cascading down her cheeks, she cried for her grandmother, her confidant, her friend—now gone.
The sun was beginning to set by the time Jess had the energy to get up from the bed. She hadn’t eaten since yesterday and a hunger headache was pounding in Morse code. She trudged to the kitchen in search of a snack. Since the cancer took over a month to produce a successful result, Darla had plenty of time to plan her death. As a consequence, and of course, convenience to others, the pantry wasn’t well stocked. At once, Jess envied the way her mother could turn a can of tuna and a few pantry items into a gourmet meal, but not being her mother, she settled on a warm soda and some peanut butter crackers. As she pulled the cupboard open to retrieve a glass, a tower of colored metal cups clattered to floor.
“I call the pink one, I get the pink one,” Jess excitedly chanted as she jumped in place.
“Pink for Jessica the ballerina, blue for Gavin the cowboy and gold for Meggie and her pet gold finches,” Darla said as she doled out the tall, metallic cups and poured milk into each. Her three grandchildren stood in the kitchen awaiting part two of the afternoon snack that their parents would never lend approval to.
“I’ve got six injuns tied up in the forsissya out back, Grandma,” Gavin proudly announced. “I’ll need six cookies to feed them!”
“Forsythia,” Darla corrected, handing Gavin three cookies as he ran out the door, “Have your captives share.”
Meggie’s whisper was barely audible, “Can I have the crumbs for the birds, Grandma?”
Darla crumbled a cookie in a napkin and handed it to Meggie, “Have they hatched yet?”
“Not yet,” Meggie tiptoed back to the window overlooking the goldfinch nest, “but soon.”
“And you, Ms. Jessica, better stop jumping around like a Mexican jumping bean!” Darla commented.
“Oh Grandma, I’m too excited. Tomorrow night, at the recital, I’m the fairy princess. My dress is all sparkly,” rambled a spinning Jess. As she came to a stop her left ankle found the corner of the stove and a torrent of tears erupted.
Darla gathered her in her arms with a soothing command to sit. “Let me look. Put your foot up here.” A quick inspection determined no broken bone, no blood and probably no bruise. Darla pushed the pink cup, now cold from the milk, up against Jess’ ankle and soothed the tears with an additional cookie. “You know I was a fairy princess in my first recital and my dress was sparkly too.”
Jess’ eyes lit up with excitement, “You were a ballerina?”
“Hard to believe, I know,” mumbled Darla placing her hands on her now wide hips, “but yes, I was a ballerina. It was 1912. I was six.”
“Darla, stand still! I’ll get more pins in you than the dress if you keep jiggling,” June commanded.
“Sorry mama,” pouted Darla, “I like all these sparkles you put on my dress. I’ve got more on mine then Mary has on hers!”
“Gloating is for goats, Missy,” chastised June, “now hop down and spin.” Darla needed no encouragement. “You’ll be the prettiest fairy princess in all of Mystic. I’m just sorry your baby brother won’t be able to see you but, it looks like he’s found a comfortable spot.”
Darla stopped spinning long enough to touch the outline of her mother’s prominent stomach.
“Now go take that off before you spin all the sparkles off,” June said lowering herself gingerly to the couch, “and be careful.”
Darla spun herself into her bedroom oblivious to the flash of pain and flush that broke out on her mother’s face. June knew something was wrong; most would say overwork, pushing herself, but she knew it was more than that, Darla’s baby brother didn’t feel right.
At 5:45 p.m. that evening, as Martin stepped through the door of their small apartment Darla grabbed his hand and pulled. His gold watch chain caught on the corner of the kitchen table and each link scattered across the floor. As Martin tugged from Darla to show her the results of her rushed actions, she pleaded to him, “Come on Papa, hurry, Mama’s sick, come!”
Martin dropped his lunch pail on the table and ran to the bedroom. Normally he could expect a harsh brow beating for walking on the rug with his shoes, but he knew at one glance that June was in no condition for yelling. She was pale and glistened with sweat. The room held a heavy scent of sickness. He knelt next to June and grabbed her hand, “is it the…”
Before he could finish June dug her fingernails into the palm of his hand and looked at him, whispering, “Don’t scare Darla! Tonight’s her recital. Get her ready and call Mrs. Burton across the hall to take her, and, yes, Martin, it’s the baby.”
Martin briefly fumbled at the urgent tone of his wife’s commands but quickly caught himself, “Darla, come. Let’s get you ready for that recital and allow your Mama to get some rest.”
Darla was reluctant to leave her mother’s room but a stern look from Martin was enough to get her moving. As she changed into her costume with extra care, she heard her father requesting Mrs. Burton’s help. Darla slipped back into her mother’s room when she was dressed. June bit back her pain motioning for Darla to come closer, “Don’t worry, Darla, Papa will come to your recital as soon as he can. He won’t miss much. Besides, you can give Papa, me, and your new baby brother a personal recital in a few days. Be the best fairy princess you can be tonight.”
With a weak hug from June, Darla and Mrs. Burton were off. Martin was surprised at the change in his wife, the moment Darla disappeared from view. June’s little coloring drained, the pain became evident in her brow and a look of defeat came to the surface. “I’ve called Doc Horlish, he’s on his way.”
“Too late, Martin, it’s too late. Your son hasn’t moved in hours and the pains have just increased,” June panted, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Martin had no time to say anything. June was unconscious. He ran down the stairs to the front stoop to rush Doc Horlish who couldn’t run fast enough for Martin, practically dragging him up the stairs.
Doc Horlish worked feverishly around June. “She’s got a weak pulse but we can move her to Johnson Memorial. Did she say anything?”
Martin felt worthless, unable to assist, “She said she hadn’t felt the baby move in hours. She was just holding it together for Darla.”
Doc Horlish and Martin began to wrap her in the bed’s quilt when they finally noticed the blood. June had been hemorrhaging for quite some time. “She’s lost a lot of blood,” Doc Horlish said worriedly, “I’ll get my car.”
Martin cautiously carried his wife to the car, cradling her as Doc Horlish drove to the hospital.
Darla kept an eye on the auditorium door wishing that Papa’s large silhouette would appear. His presence would mean that Mama was all right and that he could see her dance. Mrs. Burton stayed in the audience and kept waving to Darla. She had promised to come back stage if she heard anything. Marilyn, the dance instructor, began herding the girls into lines to prepare for their entrance. Darla stayed by the curtain for as long as Marilyn would allow with no Papa in sight.
At 8:04 p.m. the debut of Ms. Darla Lockurt, fairy princess, gracefully entered, pirouetted and sparkled a standing ovation from all those present.
At 8:04 p.m. Doc Horlish pronounced Mrs. Martin Lockurt and baby boy, Peter, dead.