The following writing sample is an excerpt from “The Pearl,” a fiction story I wrote many years ago.
Daniel sat in the chair in the hollow room gripping the pearl in his hand until he felt the fingers begin to numb. He could hardly breathe. But if he loosened his grasp for even a moment every corpuscle, every cell in his body might fragment into infinite particles. Or something worse. His memories—all his years with her—might be erased as if they never happened.
He sat by Alicia’s bedside—for how long? Was it a moment or a lifetime ago that she told him her story and handed him the pearl? The pearl that had been the only secret that came between them, the only part of her life she hadn’t shared until the end.
She had asked him to turn down the morphine drip so that she could think clearly. He saw how excruciating the pain was this morning, but reluctantly he did as she asked.
“I have something to tell you, my love, and I can’t say it when my mind is clouded,” Alicia said. “I need to tell you the story of the pearl.” She grasped the pendant around her neck, the locket that remained ever closed and always with her.
“I know you’ve wondered all these years about the contents of my locket. Thank you for asking me only once and understanding my answer.”
How well he remembered. In truth, he hadn’t understood but did his best to live with her vague response that it was a gift from her mother that they alone could share.
“I wanted to tell you long ago, but. . . . Maybe once you know the whole story, you’ll understand, Daniel.”
She paused for a moment and caught her breath doing her best to avoid visibly wincing. But she could never hide from him. He’d been forced to watch with all too much awareness while the disease swallowed her once beautiful body inch by inch. Her pain had finally become another living breathing being who shared their home and their lives.
“You see, mi amor,” she said, clutching the locket that hung just below her thin, pale neck, “My mother gave me this when I was just five years old—old enough to comprehend but young enough to believe. When you’re very young, you’re open to a world of possibilities, and it’s easy to accept things that adults might not find plausible. So I warn you, Daniel,” she said, smiling up at him. “What I’m going to say may sound a little loco to you.”
© 1995 Lillian D. Henderson