You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #39 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.
The prompt for this podcast is “I was walking on the white sands at Magens Bay in St Thomas when…”
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I was walking on the white sands at Magens Bay in St Thomas when an object about fifty feet away caught my eye. Reflecting the setting sun’s rays, the shiny surface of the mystery item lured me toward it. Looking to the ocean, I saw the next wave rolling in. I quickened my pace, then sprinted, dropping my flip-flops along the way, swishing up sand between my toes.
I snatched the object from the beach just as a wave rushed over my feet. Foamy salt water and seaweed swirled around my ankles. The crimson orb was dipping below the horizon. Soon night would drape over the Bay like a wizard’s cape.
I examined the silver locket while walking back to where I left my sandals. No bigger than the size of a quarter, it sat with the weight of a heavy stone in my palm. Fine swirls of engraving adorned the border of the heart-shaped pendant. The ornament’s front featured a single letter in cursive font—the initial “S.” I turned over the locket and brushed away sand residue, saw three rows of text. Some of the etching had faded, but it was still legible.
The lines read:
Forever in my heart
The deserted beach offered privacy as I walked back to my hotel with only my thoughts to keep me company. Somebody had lost a person precious to them. Now it seemed, this keepsake was lost as well.
The “S” probably stood for the name of the person who died. Was it a husband or a wife? A lover? A child?
I inserted my round fingertip into the indent of the locket, wished I had not clipped my fingernails this morning. I struggled to open it, even tried jamming the corner of my pinky into it. No luck. I would have to wait until I returned to my hotel room before I discovered what was inside.
The locket reminded me of my own tragedy. Steve and I were married here in St. Thomas a year ago. It was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives, and it was. With twenty of our closest friends and family, we celebrated until the morning hours. The weather could not have been more perfect.
Along with Steve’s best man and his wife, and my maid of honor and her boyfriend, we rented a three-bedroom villa. Our private bedroom was on the second floor with a huge wrap-around patio that overlooked the ocean. On our second night together, we watched the sunset on the deck. I was with the man of my dreams. We were the happiest couple in the world. Who could have predicted it would end only two hours later?
It was dinnertime. Steve was hamming it up. That was my husband. I married him because he taught me not to be so serious. He promised he would make me laugh everyday of our lives, and he would have. I know it. That’s why no one took particular notice when he fell off his chair and thrashed about on the floor.
Oh … that’s just Steve, we thought. He was joking again … but no.
A jagged chicken bone had lodged in his throat. Chaos ensued before the ambulance arrived, but in my heart, I already knew he was gone. The doctor later told me he died from a punctured esophagus. It was a horrible accident.
In two days, I had gone from being a happy bride to a distraught widow.
And so here I was, back in St. Thomas. I returned to try and recapture the joy Steve had taught me. He would have hated to know I had been grieving the past year, not even cracked a smile since he died.
Finding the locket did not help either. I had hoped instead for a happy sign.
Upon entering my room, I rummaged in my luggage for my multi-tool Swiss Army Knife, the one I always packed for emergencies, but never had to use.
Sitting cross-legged on the bed, I turned on the table lamp to its brightest setting. I retrieved the pendant from the side pocket of my beach bag. Holding the smooth red handle of my knife, I flipped out the small blade, inserted the tip into the space between the two halves of the locket. A gentle twist popped the hinge of the ornamental case.
I cracked open the locket and saw a man’s face staring back at me. He looked in his mid-thirties, kind eyes, a huge smile. He even reminded me of Steve, which only caused me greater sadness. Tears welled up behind my eyes.
What happened to this man? Had he died some tragic death like my husband? Was his young widow as unhappy as I was?
I ran the blade along the border of the picture to catch an edge. After several unsuccessful tries, I plucked out a small piece of the picture from under the ridge. I pressed the blade back into the handle and pried out the tweezers. Holding my breath, I gently pulled out the picture. The photograph lifted easily.
I turned it over to see if anything was written on the back, something sentimental, a date perhaps, any clue that could lead me to who this man was.
With my heart in my throat, I read the words, and then I burst out laughing.
Oh, Steve … you did send me sign after all.
The words read: Sample only. Not for resale.
Thank you for reading. ♥
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You can find more stories in my book of flash fiction and poetry, Hot Flash.
My mystery novel is due out Summer 2014, and I will announce all details leading up to it here.
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Thank you. ;)