Sarah, Fazire & Rebecca
Sarah read the telegram in her hand again and sighed.
She would only allow herself a sigh. No use worrying about what she didn’t know. Not yet anyway. That’s what Jim would tell her. She had enough to worry about today. She would allow herself to worry about it tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. Or maybe (she hoped) there was nothing to worry about at all.
She walked through the house Jim had built her with his own two hands, well most of it anyway. A sweet, somewhat rambling, Indiana limestone house surrounded by ten beautifully lush acres. Smack in the front yard there was a large pond. In each windowsill, even though the house was nowhere near grand enough to carry them off, were slabs of marble. Jim had wanted her to have something spectacular and elaborate. The only bit he could afford to make elaborate on his teacher’s salary were those Italian marble slabs and by damn, he got them for her.
She entered the back bedroom, walked to the crib and stared down at Rebecca who was taking her afternoon nap. Her baby lips were puckered into a sweet frown as if she too knew the contents of the telegram.
Sarah felt the tears crawl insidiously up her throat and she swallowed them down with determination.
Jim would not like it if she cried.
She would worry about it tomorrow.
* * * * *
The package came and it was battered so badly Sarah was certain whatever it carried would be broken and useless.
This upset her tremendously because it was from Jim.
Sarah thought the arrival of this package was a good sign even though the letter he’d written was from months and months ago, weeks before his plane had been shot down over Germany and he’d gone missing. They still didn’t know where he was, if he survived and was captured or if he was struggling to find a way home or if… something else.
To her surprise, the item in the package was safe and sound, a pretty, fragile-looking bottle made of swirly grape and turquoise-coloured glass. It was elegant, elaborate and spectacular. It had a full base, a thin stem that led to a wide bubble which went into another thin stem and up to another, smaller bubble then a slender neck on top of which was an extraordinary twirly stopper.
It was beautiful.
Jim wrote a letter to go with the bottle and told her he found it in a market somewhere in London and thought she simply had to have it.
Jim, as always, was right.
Sarah loved it.
However it could have been the most hideous piece of bric-a-brac on earth and Sarah would still have loved it.
She set it, pride of place, on the chest in the dining room.
Every time she cleaned, she’d carefully dust the beautiful, exotic, fragile bottle.
And she’d think of Jim.
And she’d hope he was all right and that soon, he’d come home.
* * * * *
The war was over and a lot of the boys were home.
Sarah waited but no word.
She phoned, still no word.
She wrote and no word.
She visited the War Office.
Jim, she feared, was gone.
She cried as she dusted the bottle, his last present to her, the last thing that he touched that she would also touch. Sarah had lost weight, her eyes were sunken in her head and deep, dark circles had moved in to stay underneath them.
Three year old Rebecca played on the floor in the dining room as blindly and not as carefully as normal, Sarah dusted the bottle. She rubbed it frantically, maybe a little madly, almost like she wanted to rub the colour right off of it.
The dust rag fell out of her hand and she didn’t notice it. She just kept rubbing the bottle with her hands, her fingers, rub, rub, rubbing it. She thought a little hysterically that she might just rub it forever.
The stopper fell out and she didn’t even notice.
Rebecca, seeing the pretty stopper, toddled over, grabbed it and immediately put it in her mouth.
But Sarah didn’t notice her daughter, she just kept rubbing.
And then she stopped rubbing because in a grand poof of grape and turquoise-coloured smoke that shot out of the neck of the bottle, a shape had formed.
The shape was a fat, jolly-looking man, wearing a grape-coloured fez with a little, turquoise tassel on the top. He had a bizarre outfit of turquoise and grape with an embroidered grape bolero vest and billowy turquoise trousers. The trousers ended in purple shoes that had little curls at the pointed toes. He had long gold bands affixed to his wrists that went up his forearms heavily embedded with blue and purple jewels and thick, gold hoops dangled from his ears. He had a shock of jet black hair and a jet black goatee pointed arrogantly from his chin. He had sparkly brown eyes that tilted up at the corners and looked like they were lined in black kohl.
He floated in the air, his arms and legs crossed, and he stared down at her from his place about two feet below the ceiling.
Sarah thought she’d finally gone mad. Perhaps she should have worried about Jim the minute that awful telegram came. Perhaps she should have quit wishing and hoping and thinking everything would be okay for Jim, for Rebecca and lastly, for Sarah. Maybe she should have come to terms with losing her dearest Jim, being alone, sleeping alone, eating alone and raising a child by herself on her own, single, teacher’s salary. Maybe, since she didn’t, it all crept over her through the years and made her insane.