From: My Grandmothers Pearls, a fictional work by Stacey Brown
Tawny yawned loudly as she stretched before her desk in the morning light. It was Sunday and she was determined to make the best of her morning by getting her resume updated and ready to hand out on Monday morning. She had made a quick trip to the coffee shop on the street rather than attempt another disastrous brew of her own before stopping at Molly's for her wallet and now she was determined to get to work.
She sat down at the large desk and began opening files on her laptop computer. There were other files as well in the large drawers of the antique desk and before long, she was swimming in paperwork, newspaper and ad copy examples. In her quickness to reach for a file folder, Tay spilled the remains of her paper coffee cup, barely missing the open keyboard of her computer.
"Ahh!" she yelled into the quiet of the early afternoon as she dashed to the kitchen for a roll of paper towels. Shaking coffee droplets from the mess and alternately daubing up the wet she started as she shoved a box onto the floor with a loud thump. "What the..." She stooped below the desk to find the box her mother had left her spilled partially open, her grandmother's pearls hanging precariously out of one side. To her dismay, it looked as if the strand had been broken, only a sad yellowing string trailing off in the mess she'd created with the spilled liquid.
"No, no, no," she muttered desperately as she grabbed at the box, pulling it to her. It was suspiciously heavier than it should be and she recalled her earlier impression that it must have held more than just the necklace. Sitting in the floor, Tay opened the weathered box from her grandmother for the first time.
Inside she was shocked to find the necklace, obviously broken and missing pearls, was paired with a worn leather journal. She put the box containing the necklace in her lap and held the book in her hands. It was bound by dark oiled leather and had obviously been through years of wear and tear. It was held closed with a leather thong and in between the thong and the cover was a piece of stationary, Tawny's name printed meticulously in her Nana's hand. She looked again at the broken strand of pearls and scanned the litter below her desk for the remaining beads.
The wet paper and dirtied towels blocked her view and she began to gather them as far as she could reach, finding nothing of the stray beads that had to have fallen from the box when she carelessly knocked it to the ground. And then it hit her. How could it have broken? It was in the box, not pulled from a neck or otherwise traumatized. It should not be broken at all.
Tay pulled the strand from the box and examined the unfinished end closer. There was an almost imperceptible knot in the end, holding the finely drilled pearl in place. No beads lay in the box bottom and no clasp was in sight. The strand seemed eerily unfinished. She turned to the worn journal again and slid the note from beneath the thong.
You can stop fretting immediately! The strand is not a finished strand and you have not broken or ruined anything. I have left you this simple strand as my gift to you.
You are the most like me of any of this crazy family and I have cherished you for years. Independent and willful, your joi de vive has always inspired me to live each of my days to the fullest, even to the end.
As you are reading this now, you know that I have passed. As I write this now, I know you were not at my funeral nor at the reading of my last will and testament. I do not hold it against you, I would have done the same, given certain circumstances. But dear Tay, it is time for you to grow up. Time for you to take stock of all you have and all you are. There are people in your life that truly love you and want the best for you, even though they may be bothersome in their delivery. Try to understand your mother, she means well and loves you more than you will ever know even if she doesn't seem to know you as well as I did. Forgive your father his failings as well. He desires only those things to make you comfortable and forgot that a girl needs her Daddy most of all. I know he never meant to disappoint you. I only wish he had showed you his heart as well as his industrious drive.
My journal should be in this package with the strand. It was started years ago, too many to count it seems now. Before you roll those beautiful green eyes of yours, it is not a mundane accounting of my days, nor a collection of odd secret family recipes. It is an explanation of sorts. The strand is a part of the book, keep them together as you read it. They will explain each other, if you are patient enough to read it all.
Even now I miss you, Tay Dear. Always in motion, you are a tornado of "doing." I sit here alone, writing to you in hopes that I am not too late. I know that it may be years before you even open this box. Whatever has caused you to pause, know I am grateful you are reading this. It is my last love letter to you and it is my deepest hope that you can take my life story and find love and peace enough to continue the strand.
With deepest love, warmest hugs and one small kiss,
Tay sat in stunned silence, tears forming in her eyes, clouding the pristine print of her Nana. A tiny droplet fell onto the hand made stationary, causing a blot in the ink to spread slowly. Tay sniffed, quickly wiping her face and blotted at the droplet with a piece of the paper towel she still held. She hadn't realized how much she missed that wiry old woman until just now, sitting beneath her desk in the floor of her lonely apartment. It made her heart hurt so much it was hard to breathe. She shifted the contents of the box to one side as she wept openly, careful not to smudge any more of the precious letter.
She cursed her selfishness for not going to say goodbye one last time. She had been so despondent when she learned of Nana's illness that she'd not gone to see her in the hospital. She had been so afraid that someone would ask her to speak for her Nana that she had not gone to the funeral. Now it seemed so glaringly selfish and hurtful and there was nothing she could do to rectify it. It was done. There was no more.
No more phone calls, no more hugs, no more laughter shared, no more glances shared and eyes rolled at one of her mother's ridiculous events. No more. How she longed for the feel of her Nana's strong wiry arms wrapped around her shoulders... What she would give for just one more hour! Her unfinished resume forgotten, Tay crawled to the window, the box clutched tightly to her chest, and wrapped the quilt around her shoulders. It was the closest thing to her grandmother's hug she would ever feel again and she cried herself to sleep in it as she dreamed of the lilting laughter and warm smile of one gone from this world.
Tay had been staring at the worn leather book for long minutes now. She had awoken, spent from her emotions to gaze into the night skies outside the window bay. Tawny was still wrapped in the quilt as she fingered the tough leather thong, turning it over and over to reveal the shiny slickness had turned it almost perfectly round, worn from ages of untying and retying. Wrapped in her Nana's quilt like a hug from beyond and holding the journal she felt as if she held her Nana's smooth soft freckled hand.
Something kept her from opening that volume just yet. There was a desire filling her to hear, at least in her own ears, the voice of her Grandmother and still she knew that it would break her into tiny shards, like shattered crystal on Saltillo tile. The thought of that much emotion pouring through her like water through a broken pail was beyond antithetical. Was she strong enough to read the diary? Was she worthy of such a gift after her selfish, abhorrent behavior toward her own flesh and blood?
She reread the letter. "But Dear Tay, it is time for you to grow up." The words stung her again and again. She knew she had led an incredibly sheltered and privileged life. Like her Nana, she had often bucked traditions and expectations, and like so many before her in Southern society, she had embarrassed her family with her outbursts. Tay had railed at the confines wealth put upon her. She hadn't asked to be born into it, she just was. She could no more change it than she could change the bow of her strong legs or the odd way her pinky toe twisted outward defiantly. She counted it just as much a deformity as the other quirks in her physical existence, and just as misunderstood.
Tawny slid from beneath the blanket and walked slowly to the kitchen still holding the tome close to her chest. Her resume long forgotten, she opened the refrigerator and surveyed the contents with disinterest. She knew she needed to eat, but her mouth tasted of sawdust and stale sleep. There was a half gallon of orange juice and a partially drunk bottle of Sprite in the door and setting the journal on the countertop, she poured herself a Mom-mosa. It was what her mother called the brunch favorite of Tawny's when she was a child. The fizz from the soda tickled her nose as she sipped slowly, not lowering the glass as she swallowed and breathed foggy breath back into the glass.
The journal stared back at her expectantly as she sipped and breathed, sipped and breathed. It was as if it was daring her to look inside, to find out the answers to all of her problems, to truly come to terms with Tawny. It was not a light undertaking. It was frightening. It was time.
Just like that, Tay snatched up the book and headed back into the living room of her home. She avoided the window seat this time, but did stop long enough to retrieve the quilt. Her body sank into the large leather couch as it pushed the air out of the cushions with a hiss. She set the glass on a coaster and began untying the thong, "Ready or not, Nana, here I come..."