By, Susan Sage
Auburn hair fell over her face as she reached across the aged oak table and placed her hand on the jewelry. Beads, baubles, chains, and pearls spread across the wood. Some tarnished, some turning green, others reflecting the light from the candle-like fixture hanging from the ceiling. All aged by use and time.
“These were my grandmother’s?” she asked.
“Some were. Most belonged to my grandmother,” Sharon said, hoping to see some reaction in her daughter’s face. Maybe this moment would break through the barricade of closed doors in her daughter’s lost memory.
“Does anything look familiar?” Sharon asked, watching her daughter move the jewelry as if searching for a missing puzzle piece.
With a light gasp, the young woman reached for the heart-shaped locket and carefully opened the old clasp. Her body trembled as she dropped the necklace onto the table. Her breathing quickened as she rubbed her hands up and down her arms and then grasped her neckline.
Sharon held her breath. She wanted to intervene, but knew she couldn’t disturb the moment.
Releasing her grip, Sharon’s daughter wiped her hand across her face. She picked up the glass next to her; moved it to her lips and sipped the contents. Taking a deep breath, she rolled her shoulders, and slowly released the air she’d held as she replaced the glass.
With shaking hands, she lifted the locket again and opened it fully. For more time than Sharon could almost stand, her daughter stared at the picture.
“And, the other girl? I have a twin?”
“Yes,” Sharon said slowly as she moved her hand up covering her mouth after she spoke.
“My name is Kristen,” she said as fact rather than a question.
“Yes,” Sharon smiled slightly, blinking to keep the tears from falling.
“And hers? Hers is, was, is. . . Danielle.”
The answer came as a breath. “Yes.”
“I’m here and she’s not.”
“Yes,” her mother said softly.
“And you are . . . my . . . my mother.”
As Sharon reached for her daughter’s hand, Kristen turned towards her. Sharon wrapped her arms around Kristen tentatively.
“We’ll get through this together,” Sharon said rubbing her hand down her daughter’s auburn hair and patting her back as she used to when the girls were young.
Kristen pulled away, and looked into the eyes of the one she’d acknowledged as her mother. Her brow furrowed as her head tilted slightly. She looked at Sharon’s hairline. Reaching up, she drew her forefinger down the bridge of Sharon’s nose and then touched her own with her other hand.
“Was my nose like yours?”
“No, Danielle’s nose resembled mine. Yours was rounded like your father’s,” Sharon responded.
“And my chin?”
“When you are stronger, when your body heals a bit more, I will answer more of your questions,” her mother said as she began picking up the jewelry.
Kristen clinched the locket in her palm and pulled it to her heart.
“May I keep this?”
“Yes, I think it’s time for you to have it,” Sharon said.
“How long?” Kristen asked as a whisper.
“How long, what?” Sharon answered, her eyes darting around the room trying to avoid looking into the hollowness of Kristen’s eyes. She clutched her hands pushing them against her legs.
“How long has she, Danielle, been . . . gone?”
Sharon lowered her head and drew in a breath. Lifting her chin, she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue before continuing.
“I don’t know if you’re ready,” Sharon said and then paused. “I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about what happened yet,” She reached out with upturned palms across the table.
Kristen jumped from her chair, turned and ran for the sliding glass door. She drew it open and raced for the beach. With each stride, she put distance between her and this woman and the secrets she held. Finally, out of breath and energy, she sank onto the damp dirt. She opened her fist, the locket still safe on her palm.
“Why her? Why not me? I don’t even remember her,” Kristen’s cries erupted out of her like a volcano. When no more tears fell, she lifted her head and looked at the sun settling into the water, the orange and yellow mixing like dancing flames.
Sharon watched from her deck struggling to breathe. “Oh God, help her. She’s come so far in these few months. Please keep opening windows of memory for her.”
Both women remained unmoving for several more minutes before Sharon turned back toward her dining room.
Still on the dank beach, Kristen stood, dusted off her shorts, and put the locket in her pocket. She turned and walked slowly back to the house, her feet sinking into the dirt.
Sharon, now back at the old table, glanced up as Kristen pulled open the sliding door, brushed her feet on the towel on the roughhewn deck, and stepped onto the wooden cedar floor. Sharon wiped her eyes with the tissue in her hand and blew her nose. She patted her puffy eyes with another tissue and handed one toward her daughter.
Kristen stepped slowly, her feet cold against the floor. She took the tissue, scrunching it in her hand, and sat again. She reached out, placing her hands in her mother’s while holding eye contact.
“Will I ever be strong enough?”
Sharon’s eyes traced Kristen’s face, seeing the scarred lines with tears trickling down those healing scars. Sharon reached for her daughter, now her only daughter. They hugged, neither hurrying to let go. Finally pulling back, Kristen hesitated, lines creasing across her brow as her lower lip trembled.
“Do you mind if we pray? It’s what I do when I need help,” Sharon said, not waiting for Kristen’s response. “Father, we’re both afraid and weak. Help us. Give us Your power, we pray,” Sharon whispered.
“Why did you do that? Why did you say you’re afraid?”
“Because I am. You’ve been through so much. You’ve come a long way but have far to go. When I feel afraid or weak or unsure, God’s strong enough for me, for both of us, . . . for all of us,” Sharon said.
“And does He hear you?”
“He hears me even when I don’t know what to say. Does that make sense?”
“Maybe,” Kristen responded. She closed her eyes. Taking a slow, ragged breath, she said, “Um, I’m scared. Would you help me, too?” As she lifted her eyes, she smiled.
Sharon saw the muscles around Kristen’s eyes relax, those eyes just moments ago bottomless and empty, now with a hint of light returning.
“I don’t need to know all the details today. Maybe I need to be strong enough to wait. Today, it’s enough to know she’s gone, you’re here, and I’m your daughter,” Kristen said as her eyes scanned the blue and yellow quilt on the couch and the pictures on the cream-colored walls. “But right now, I think I’m hungry. What do I like to eat?” Kristen asked, a smile breaking through the tears. She touched the locket in her pocket. “Someday, I’ll remember. Someday.”
Susan, thank you for sharing this flash fiction story with us today. I look forward to reading your next contribution to Pandora's Box.
Thank you to everyone for stopping by. Feel free to leave a comment for Susan below.
About the Author
Susan Sage is from N. California where she lives with her husband, son, and very energetic golden retriever. She writes a weekly blog, found at Susan Sage where she uses every day circumstances to encourage women in their faith walk with God. Susan enjoys reading in many genres, teaching women’s Bible studies, and spending time with friends at every opportunity. Susan speaks for women’s retreats, luncheons, and other engagements. Her topic of choice involves helping women find their identity in God’s love. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.