Authors: T. L. Ingham
Tags: #loss, #mystery, #life, #cancer, #death, #magic, #family, #dreams, #secrets, #retirement, #escape, #loneliness, #old age, #locket, #dreamworld
By T. L. Ingham
For my grandmother, who gave me an insight
into the world and the people in it, far beyond whatever natural
capacity I may have gained on my own.
Published by T. L. Ingham at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Tammy L. Ingham.
This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
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Table of Contents
Gil, never Gilly, only Gilda or Gilda Jean if you must; toyed with
the locket that dangled from the thick chain wound around her neck.
The chain, which had been a separate purchase from the locket
itself, was another strike on her already very tight budget. Her
monthly widow’s pension and social security check barely covered
the household expenses, such as they were. She lived quite modestly
in a tiny house that she and her husband had purchased over fifty
years before. They had struggled over the next thirty years to keep
up with the monthly mortgage payments, worrying each month as the
next due date rapidly approached, but somehow they had managed to
squeeze each payment out just in time, and eventually, they had
owned the property free and clear.
The neighborhood had changed quite a lot over
those years. When they had first signed the mortgage, their
neighbors had been young couples not unlike themselves.
Twenty-something’s buying their first homes, places that would
inevitably be a stop along the way until their careers took off and
they could afford something better; eventually relocating to the
bi-level homes in the new neighborhood being constructed on the
other side of town. Only a few of the originals had stayed behind,
inevitably leaving their homes to less than deserving children or
in some cases grandchildren, who lived a much less motivated
lifestyle. Instead, these twenty-something’s existed paycheck to
paycheck, investing their earnings on less essential things.
High-end technologies were more important these days, and each of
these small cracker-box homes housed more than their fair share of
high-end computers, cell phones, flat screen televisions, and
surround sounds. Gilda would venture a guess that if each of her
neighbors set aside the funds they had used on all the frivolous
purchases they could easily have afforded better homes. But that
was none of her business. And it certainly had not been the case
with Eldon and herself.
They had both worked most all of their lives,
but neither having a college degree or being licensed in any trade,
they had been forced to accept the paltry weekly paycheck that
seemed to be the only thing they had a right to expect. Eldon had
worked most of his life in the local grocery store, working his way
up the ladder to produce manager. Not very exciting, but it paid
the bills. She herself had worked a bevy of odd jobs, everything
from cleaning lady to keeping the books for a local doctor. Eldon,
being older than she, had retired only a few years before his
death, so they never had really gotten to enjoy those so-called
Not long after her official retirement, also
known as finally old enough to receive a social security check, she
had taken a job at the local library. It was a job she enjoyed, not
terribly demanding, and the quiet unrushed atmosphere was a perfect
for a lady of her advanced years.
Her birthday had been the week before;
turning seventy-five had seemed more exciting for her co-workers
than it ever had been for her. All the same she feigned delight at
the surprise party they had held in the small room behind the
checkout counter of the library. Fully equipped with paper
streamers and pink-iced cupcakes (thank God none of those awful
party hats- she had some dignity after all), the party had been a
pleasant diversion to the normal work day.
It may have been because of the party
atmosphere still lingering in her brain, that after she had left
the library that day, instead of going straight home which was
normally her habit, she had instead made a right hand turn onto
Bradley Street and found she was pulling up in front of the
consignment shop. She loved the dim little shop, but rarely if ever
did more than peer in the windows when passing by. The temptations
were too great for someone like her on such a strict budget. Her
library money was her only “mad money,” but it also had to pad a
rapidly dwindling savings account. With taxes rising every time you
turned around, and the cost of electric and gas going up as well,
it wouldn’t be long before her combined checks wouldn’t be enough
to cover the bills. And she wasn’t sure what she would do then. A
bridge she would have to cross when she got to it.
At any rate, that day she did more than peer
in the windows. She went inside the dim little shop and waited a
moment for her eyes to adjust to the lack of light, then began
wending her way down the tight little aisles, admiring all the
little knick-knacks on the shelves. All the gleaming silverware and
delicate china dishes, the little porcelain dolls, the hand-tatted
lace doilies; many of the things from a bygone era that it seemed
only she and others her age could appreciate. She had been about to
leave, proud of herself for not spending so much as a dime, when a
flash of silver from inside a glass case caught her eye.
She made her way to the case hesitantly and
then peered inside. There it was. It. The thing. The most
magnificent thing she had ever laid eyes on. A beautiful silver
locket, highly etched with an entwining rose pattern, complete with
thorns (she had noticed those only after she had put on her reading
glasses), and complete with a simple clasp and silver loop at the
top through which you could thread a chain. It was magnificent and
she hardly dared to breathe.
The man working the shop instantly noticed
her interest and hustled over to assist. Gilda couldn’t remember
much if any of the conversation. She barely recalled allowing the
shopkeeper to extract the locket, barely recalled handling the
piece as if testing the weight, barely remembered opening the clasp
to look inside, it was empty, no pictures at all, but it seemed to
call out to her to fulfill its purpose and put some lovely picture
into its interior, bringing it to its ultimately intended
Oh, how breath taken she was, how mesmerized.
And it wasn’t long until she had purchased the thing, and it had
been boxed and bagged, and there she was, exiting the store with
what amounted to two months worth of library paychecks dangling in
an eight inch bag.
She should have regretted the purchase
immediately, though she couldn’t say that she did. True, she was
worried about pulling so much out of the savings all at once,
savings that would take more than two months to acquire again no
doubt. But still, she did not regret the decision. There was
something about this locket that called to her. It was as if it
sought her as much as she did it.
Once home, she had removed it from the bag
and placed it gently into her mostly empty jewelry box where it had
stayed the whole weekend. Sunday, she had purchased the chain for
it, a thick chain that wouldn’t break; she was taking no chances.
But even then she did not lift the lid on the jewelry box; instead
she laid the chain on top. It wasn’t until this morning, after she
had cleaned up and dressed for work, that she had removed the
locket, beautiful as ever, (she could just hear the compliments
now), and threaded the chain through before slipping it over her
gray head. Now, she stood admiring it in the mirror, turning it
this way and that, caressing it between her aged fingers.
It wasn’t until she had been at work and one
of her co-workers, (a young mother, pleasant girl but not terribly
bright), noticed her new jewelry and commented on it, asking if she
had a picture of her husband inside, that it had dawned on Gilda
that she had neglected to do just that. She quickly explained it
away saying she had been far too busy over the weekend to get out
all the old albums and that she had wanted to choose just the right
picture. She was determined to do exactly that as soon as she got
It was nearly bedtime by the time Gilda had
returned from work, cooked something for her dinner and cleaned up.
But she kept her silent vow and took the time to dig out some of
the old photo albums. As she sat in the threadbare armchair, she
slowly turned the pages, illuminated only by the low wattage of the
small table lamp beside her. It surprised her to realize she had
not looked in any of these old albums in years. Certainly not since
Eldon had died, and likely not for years before. He had been so ill
the last few years that all her time was taken up in taking care of
him and trying to maintain a somewhat normal home atmosphere amid
the hospital bed that took up half the living room, and the IV
stands and monitors that kept a constant droning beep going day and
night. No, there definitely hadn’t been any time for reminiscing,
even if she’d had a mind to.
The first album, simply out of fate rather
than design, was the most recent, showing Eldon and Gilda in their
latter years. The pictures had been taken maybe fifteen years
before and consisted mostly of pictures of their tiny little
vegetable garden they had attempted to plant that year. While it
couldn’t have been considered a complete failure, it wasn’t what
you could call a roaring success either. Whoever had suggested old
ladies were good at gardening had never met Gilda. At any rate, the
garden that year had yielded countless zucchini, (she felt no sense
of accomplishment there, growing zucchini was the act of a
simpleton, she would have felt more success if it had failed, after
all, who had ever been unable to grow squash as prolific as it
was?) Aside from that, that had managed to squeeze out two of the
most pitiful peppers she had ever laid eyes on, and one rather good
tomato. It would have been simpler, and cheaper, to go to the
market. But, as Eldon constantly reminded her, they didn’t know
until they tried. It was the last time they tried.
The next pictures in the album were from
Christmas of that year. Just the two of them as usual. They hadn’t
seen Scott in years. He was far too busy to travel home for
holidays; though he always made mention of dropping by for a visit
sometime during his travels, it never seemed to come to pass. Even
when his father had been dying, he had far too much on his schedule
to take time out for anything more than the funeral. Gilda hadn’t
seen him since then. Had only talked to him a dozen times maybe.
Her heart panged at the thought. Then she quickly shook her head
and put her mind to the task at hand. It was getting late, and she
was going to have to be getting off to bed.
Finally, after turning a few more pages
forward, then a few back, then a few forward again, she decided on
a picture. It wasn’t perfect maybe, but considering the lateness of
the hour it would have to do. Sliding the picture out of the album,
she admired it once again before heading to the kitchen for the
scissors. It was the picture of Eldon she had taken over Christmas.
She’d made him sit in the armchair right beside the little round
end table. The table lamp had been replaced with a miniature
Christmas tree. The tree, an artificial one they’d had for years;
not unlike them, was showing its age. The once six-foot tree had
been reduced to about two and a half feet of its original stature,
Eldon having trimmed it down to what he called a more ‘manageable
size’. He had said people their age didn’t need all the excitement
of dragging a six-footer out of the garage each year, wrestling it
into the house, rearranging furniture, and then going to all the
trouble of stringing the lights and tinsel. Not when he could trim
it to two and a half feet, decorate it once, then slip a garbage
bag over it, set it in the garage as a whole, then pull it out
easily the next year. She could see the practicality in it. She had
only wished they’d had someone nearby who would be willing to help
them go to all the trouble she had for so many years. Fully
decorating the house, turning out a winter wonderland to be proud
of. It had cost them little to nothing since she was far better at
crafts than she ever would be gardening, and between her trusty
sewing machine, and a bottle of decent glue, she had put together
some of the best decorations you would ever lay eyes on. She missed