HER MOTHER'S GIFT
Tony was just waking up from his afternoon nap when his girlfriend, Valerie, walked in their small apartment. She took off her coat, hung it on the rack, and sat down beside him.
“So, how’d the funeral go?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Oh, it went great,” Valerie said matter-of-factly. “There were enough crocodile tears to fill an Olympic swimming pool.”
Tony realized he’d opened a Pandora’s box, but there was no closing it now. “I still don’t know why you went,” he said. “If you and your mother didn’t get along…”
“Because I had to. What would the rest of my family think of me if I hadn’t shown up?”
“Do you really care?”
Valerie shook her head. “No, I guess not. Still…”
Tony put his arm around her and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Well, at least that part of it’s over now. Do you think she left you anything in her will?”
“My aunt Carol, her sister, came up to me after the funeral and said she didn’t have a will, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with the house or anything else. But she did say my mom wanted me have this.”
She reached in her purse and pulled out a fine braided necklace. At the end of it was a large gold locket, one of those old ones that usually held a picture of a loved one. “Is there a picture of your mother in there?” he asked.
Val pushed the tiny button on the side of it for the umpteenth time since her aunt gave it to her. “Probably, but I can’t get it open.” She handed it to Tony. After a few unsuccessful attempts of his own he tried to pry it open with his pocket knife, but the locket stubbornly remained closed.
“Huh. Well, I’ll get some WD-40 tomorrow and spray it if you really want to know.”
Valerie reached over and took the locket back. She rolled it in her hand a couple of times, studying it. “Let me think about it.”
“No problem, babe. And if you decide you don’t want to, you can always sell it. There’s probably at least a couple hundred dollars of gold there.”
She put the locket back in her purse and zipped it up. “Like I said, let me think about it. Now, what’s for lunch?”
~ ~ ~
Even before she went to bed that night, Valerie Dixon knew she wouldn’t sleep very well. That damn locket had been on her mind all day and she was sure it would follow her into her dreams. Why? Why had her mother left it for her? Was it an act of contrition? Not likely.
Like a lot of dreams, this one seemed to blend from one dream into another. In the first part she was in the living room where she grew up, and she was looking at her mother. Or at least she thought it was her mother, because she couldn’t see the face. She was asking ‘Mom’ why the kids at school kept calling her by her initials and laughing at her, but her ‘mother’ didn’t answer. She was wearing the locket around her neck, and she opened it up for Valerie to see what was inside. But there was nothing there.
The dream continued to the next page. She was still in the living room, and this time it was a man she was looking at, and like the first one, this person also was faceless. But for some reason he still seemed familiar, almost fatherly. But she never had a father. According to her mother he left them when she was only a month old. In the dream her faceless mother came into the room and the two of them started arguing. She was still wearing the locket, and when she opened it up, the man ripped it from her throat and walked out of the room.
In the final page of the dream there were no faceless ‘parents’. She was by herself, sitting on her own couch in her own house. She was holding the locket, trying to pry it open with a knife just like Tony had tried, but the locket refused to reveal its secret.
~ ~ ~
Valerie opened her eyes and sat up in bed. Tony was sound asleep beside her, but she could tell the sun was about to come up.
This is nuts, she thought. She donned her bathrobe and went out to the living room. Her purse was still sitting on the coffee table where she’d left it. She unzipped it and pulled out the locket.
“Open, damn it!” she cursed as she repeatedly pushed on the small button. “Show me what you’re hiding!”
Five seconds went by.
She was hardly even aware of the tears that welled up in her eyes and flowed down her cheeks. Tears of frustration? Anger? Sadness?
Suddenly the locket snapped open, and Valerie was staring at a picture of herself when she was five years old. But where the eyes should have been were only two holes.
And the tears that rolled down her cheeks and stained her white bathrobe were red.
The early morning solitude was abruptly shattered by Valerie’s screams as the room grew darker,
until it was gone…