“Sophie…Sophie…come here, before I spank you!”, screamed a bespectacled young lady. A cherubic pig-tailed little girl ran and came crashing into her.
“Look what I found on the beach. A gold chain. And the pendant has your picture on it!!”
“Here, let me see it”, said the lady, and grabbed the pendant.
She peered into it. The likeness was undeniable. She smiled, intrigued. She carried the pendant casually, and hurried back to their hotel before the sun set.
Suddenly, the pendant slipped to the ground. Oliver picked it up quickly, and tucked it safely into his pocket. He walked with slow, heavy steps. Someone patted his shoulder. Oliver turned around. “Mother!” he exclaimed softly, and fell onto her frail shoulder. “Everything is going to be fine, Oliver”, she tried to console him.
As they walked back, an open door on the right showed him a lovely little infant sleeping tucked into a bed that was too big for her, and clutching a brown teddy bear. “God bless the little girl!”, he prayed silently. He shook his head, and entered Jenny’s room.
The room was very quiet, and very dark. He squinted, his eyes trying to adjust themselves to the darkness. The flowers their friends had brought her were fading. Oliver walked towards the bed. There was no movement. The room was empty.
It was infact a very bare room. Cheap, whitewashed walls. No pictures. No curtains even. But this was the only room they could afford. But then, she had already promised Sophie a nice vacation that summer. So here they were, on the sandy beaches of Goa, enjoying the beautiful hues of sunrise, the golden sunset, the cool, blue waves, the soft white sand, in short, Life itself. Nothing seemed to matter, so long as they were together.
They held hands.
“Thank you, Ollie. Go home now”, said Jenny as she closed her eyes. She was tired…her soft hand dropped down to the side of the bed.
Oliver looked down at the pale face, closed his eyes momentarily, and walked away quickly towards the door, his emotions threatening to burst aflame. He walked out onto the porch and looked up at the gray sky, took in a breath of cold air, and closed his eyes again. Jenny’s face came before his eyes, the small mousy face hidden behind the glasses, and he smiled for one moment, then cried the next, almost reaching out his hand to touch her. “No…this can’t be happening!” he thought aloud. “It’ll be Ok”, he thought “She’s responding to the new drug. She will return home”.
But that night, was the great fire at the hospital. Oliver returned home, alone.
He had never felt lonelier. Oliver walked very slowly. He didn’t once look up at sky that was awash with gold. When he had covered the entire length, he dusted the sand off his feet. At a distance, he saw two people walking towards him. The smaller of them was actually, running, no, capering.
“Where HAVE you girls been????”, he screamed.
“Oh Daddy, there were so many castles on the beach, and so many crabs!!”, Sophie said excitedly.
“Jenny! Couldn’t you have called me once? I was worried!”
“Come on Ollie. Don’t be a jerk”, Jenny said affectionately, and tousled his hair. He hated it. No, actually he loved it.
They walked back towards the hotel.
“Ollie, aren’t you missing something?” asked Jenny.
“Nothing in particular”, he replied. “Hmm..on second thoughts, yes, I’ve missed you all day!”.
Jenny gave a strange smile.
Oliver studied her face. He knew there was something. He casually put his hand into his pocket. It wasn’t there. He raised his eyebrows, quite involuntarily.
Jenny smiled. She had won that round (as always!).
Oliver looked a little forlorn. The pendant had always been with him. Since the day he had gotten to know about Jenny’s sickness. It was his most private, most valuable possession. Nobody knew about it, not even Jenny! But now, it was gone! “We should have never booked that cheap hotel!” he cursed.
Jenny stopped walking, and turned to face Oliver.
“Look Ollie, we survived the fire, and everything else! Let’s just be happy about that, Okay?”. She held out both her hands. Oliver caught hold of them, and gently kissed the folded fists.
Jenny opened out her fist. The pendant glistened in the last few rays of golden sunlight.
“Thank you, Ollie”. And they kissed.
Until Sophie called out, “Mamma, I’m hungry!!”
P.s.: This was probably very predictable and a little confusing (the travelling in time), but it was an experiment. And I’ve always felt awful at Jenny dying, so this was my very humble offering to Ollie and Jenny.