“Wow,” I gawked.
“More than that,” I offered. My eyes fixated on it, unmoving and undistracted.
“It’s the only one of its kind. And now it’s yours.” My grandfather handed me the rainbow-colored pearl.
“Grandfather, I couldn’t. It’s too much.”
“Nonsense. It’s your sixteenth birthday, Felice. Today deserves something special.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Grandfather.” I cupped the pearl delicately. I watched it roll around in my hands as I made my way down the creaky stairs, out of the dusty attic, and into the clean air of the third level in my grandparents’ mansion.
The cerulean paint was peeling off the walls that were covered in photos of years passed and musket guns from the Civil War. My grandmother’s antique china-vase sat at the end of the hallway. Even the chandelier at the top of the grand staircase was entrancing. But my hand clutched the spherical gift. Nothing could compare.
Dinnertime rolled around, and in the few hours I had had before then, I managed to dig out a band from my grandmother’s jewelry bureau in which to perfectly set my pearl. I placed the ring on my finger with pride and made my way to the kitchen table. Although my stomach growled, I ignored the mountains of croissants, the juicy, sweet-smelling honey-ham, the green bean casserole, the fresh garden salad, the creamy corn, and my favorite garlic-mashed potatoes before me all in the name of excitement…and patience.
“Grandmother, look what I got today!” I beamed as I flashed the pearl in her direction.
“My, would you look at that? That’s lovely, Felice. Where did it come from?”
“I was treasure-hunting in the attic and happened upon it, and Grandfather told me a magical story about how it has powers. He said it was mine now,” I explained.
“Powers, hmm? Your grandfather sure is a nutty one,” she giggled into her kitchen towel.
“I think he just wanted it to be a more memorable occasion and gift. Either way, I enjoyed the story, powers or not.”
“Or not?” My grandfather limped around the corner, leaning heavily on his cane until he could get to his chair at the head of the table. “It definitely possesses them, Felice.”
“Oh, of course, it does!” I winked at Grandmother who smiled at me reassuringly.
“So,” Grandmother started as she began setting plates in front of us, “what kinds of powers does this thing contain, then, exactly?”
“Well, for one, dreams…vivid ones. They’re even said to come true. And it provides strong wisdom like a sixth sense.”
“Sounds like a lot of responsibility, Thomas,” Grandmother countered.
“It can be. But honestly, the pearl chooses upon whom it bestows its abilities. It might not be Felice after all. Only time will tell.”
We enjoyed the feast, taking our time with each savory bite. I watched as my grandparents lovingly held each other’s hands, using their other ones to shovel potatoes into their mouths. They must have practiced eating this way a million times just so that they could touch each other. Wrinkles crawled up and down their skin, but their love and the way they looked at each other were timeless.
I tried to help Grandmother clear dishes, but she ushered me into the living room to sit by the bright, crackling fire with Grandfather. I sat down on the hearth and warmed my fingers, allowing the glow of the flames to dance on my rainbow pearl. A weight wrapped around my shoulders, and I realized Grandfather had put one of Grandmother’s hand-stitched quilts on me. It was the one I liked the most out of her collection: the love-birds sitting on a branch.
“Thank you,” I softly whispered.
“Would you like some cocoa?”
“I would love some, yes.” He passed me the mug that waited in his hand because he already knew I wouldn’t be able to resist, much like I wasn’t able to resist asking more about the pearl despite my skepticism. “How will I know if the pearl chooses me, Grandfather?”
“You mustn’t worry your pretty head over it, Felice. You will know when it comes time if it’s meant to be you.”
“I’ll try not to spend too much time wondering. It’s just that I suppose I want to be just as special as the pearl itself.”
“You’re my granddaughter and my princess, and to me, that’s the most special thing of all. We’ll always have that strong connection and bond.” His expression radiated joy and kindness, and I stood to hug him tightly.
After finishing my cocoa and kissing my grandparents goodnight, I climbed my way to the second floor and changed into my nightgown. Once I was comfortable, I cascaded into my bed, curling up in thick, silky sheets under a canopy of stars that twinkled through my sky-light. I saw a shooting star streak across the heavens. Please, let it be me. Let the pearl choose me. I watched as the rainbow-colored pearl began to gleam, and I couldn’t believe it. I stared intensely at it until my eyes gave out, and I fell fast asleep.
Swirls and vibrant shapes and colors came into my view as my eyes adjusted to the sunlight outside. I inched my way down the highway where my grandfather makes his trek to work every morning. My boots slipped on little icy patches, and snow spun around me getting caught in my long, brown, curly hair. I saw his pickup truck approaching, and I tried waving him down.
“Grandfather!” I bellowed. He couldn’t hear me over the sound of his engine. “Grandfather!” He zoomed passed me. I noticed his windows were rolled up, too, and he was singing to the radio. It was no use calling for him. I watched as his truck picked up momentum, and I saw a semi approaching from the opposite direction.
There must have been black ice. The driver must not have been able to see through the increasing snow-storm. Because he swerved across the road just as my grandfather landed in the adjacent spot over in the next lane. My grandfather’s truck crunched under the squealing wheels, and the explosion left me briefly sightless.
“No!” I screamed. “No!” I knew that was it. He was gone. Forever.
No…no… “No!” I woke myself up screaming, and I felt tears freely flowing down my cheeks. I was in my room, and the clock glowed 7:33 a.m. I was clutching the covers. I threw them off and raced down the hallway to the sitting room where I knew Grandmother would be sewing or knitting.
“My dear girl,” Grandmother began as I burst through the double doors, “what on Earth is the fuss about?” She examined my face, noting tears and puffy eyes. My hair was probably also a mess because she soothed it down once I reached her easy-chair.
“I – I had a nightmare,” I whimpered.
“Well, it’s all over now, dear. Don’t fret. I’ll make you some hot tea to help you relax. Your grandfather will be home around nine, and then we can make blueberry pancakes for breakfast.”
“Will be home? It’s Saturday. He didn’t have to work today. Where did he go?”
“He got a call from one of his clients stating that his clock stopped working and demanded a refund because he just got it fixed the other day. Your grandfather argued that it wasn’t broken and promised to come in for a while to repair it for free.”
“That was nice of him,” I suggested.
“Yes, you know him. Always such an honest-working man.”
“Definitely,” I agreed. I waltzed over to the window and saw a canvas of white. Then, all of the sudden, my heart sank as the sight before me registered. “Grandmother!” I shrieked.
“What is it, Felice?” Her voice grew nervous.
“I have to get to him – to Grandfather!” I ran back to my room and shoved on my boots. Then, I snatched my coat, throwing it on as I clomped down the stairs to the front door.
“Felice! Felice, darling!” Grandmother shot down after me, but I had already passed the driveway and was speed-walking through the street. “Where are you going?” I could hear her growing frightened.
“I have to save him!” I sobbed through gritted teeth.
“Honey, please! Come back inside before you catch a cold. We will talk about your nightmare. That’s all it was: a nightmare.”
“You don’t understand. We have to get to him,” I shouted over my shoulder as I hurried in the direction of the highway. I didn’t get very far when Grandmother’s car pulled up beside me. “I’m not turning around! I won’t!” I defiantly stomped my foot.
“I’m not asking you to go back with me. I’m coming with you. We’ll drive there faster than you can walk there.” I relented, telling her to go as fast as the snow and ice would let her.
We reached the edge of the highway that was in my nightmare, and I told Grandmother to pull off on the side of the road. She did as instructed, and I got out, searching the horizons for my grandfather’s pickup.
“There,” I said, pointing to the left. “He’s coming. Help me get his attention! Hurry!” She joined me without hesitation or question, and we began flagging him down. He slowed as he got closer to us, and he pulled off the highway to park beside Grandmother’s car and stretch his legs.
“Now, where are you two lovely ladies going? I was just headed back to my lovely wife and granddaughter when I saw two damsels in distress. And I must say, you both resemble them awfully closely.” His lips drew up in a smirk. In just that moment, the semi came around the bend, and in an instant, it was sliding into the other lane where Grandfather would have been driving. The semi screeched to a halt in time before colliding with the wall, and I let out a shudder-sigh.
“That was almost you,” I wailed as I threw my arms around his neck.
Eyes wide, Grandfather pulled Grandmother and me close to him, letting out a few “Thank you, God” comments between huffs of relief.
“This was my nightmare!” I exclaimed to Grandmother. “This is what I was scared about earlier. It must have been the powers of the pearl that showed me the nightmare.”
“The powers gave you a nightmare?” Grandfather’s eyebrows raised in suspicion.
“Yes, the powers. It helped me save you! I fell asleep wearing it.” I looked down. “The pearl – it – it…”
But the rainbow-colored pearl was no longer on my finger.
Written for Creative Writing: Fiction at Emmanuel College, GA (2015)
Featured Image by Flickr