I hear Daniel’s sobbing, all the way across the ocean, and I know at once. My heart plummets like an unsecured anchor into the black depths of the Atlantic. “I found Robert’s letters. All of them.” And then Mary’s delicate, anxious voice is on the line, a voice much too young to be saying what she is saying.
“Mom, I’m scared. Dad’s weird. What’s going on, Mom? Can you come home?”
I want to run to my child. I want to tell her that nothing has changed. “Mary, Mary, it’s all right! It’s all right!” I repeat the words over and over like a magical incantation that will somehow make things right.
But the life we had
has veered off course like a ship lost in the vast expanse of the ocean,
and from now on, everything, but everything, will be different.
At the very moment when Mary, submerged, struggles to come up for air, I have nothing – nothing I believe in – to reassure my grieving child. I landed in The Hague five hours ago. I start working tomorrow.
Years later in The Hague, Robert tells me over dinner: “Helga thinks I’m in Germany. This time I can stay a week.” Every few months, he flies over for a short stay and then takes a transatlantic flight back to his wife.
We huddle against the chill of the southwest wind lashing the Hague coastline. The North Sea, cold and menacing, merges with the grey skyline. But Robert is warmth. Robert is security. Robert is love. It’s the two of us, and there’s no room for anyone else. I am where I’m supposed to be.
Robert is buying me a gift. A strand of blue pearls with specks of green and black nestles in my hands as if to say: “It was meant to be – take us.” They are the color of Robert’s warm, wise eyes. “Pearls from the South Seas,” the shop manager says in admiration. “Just beautiful,” I say and turn to bask in the warmth of Robert’s kind smile.
Blue pearls speak a symbolic language. “We are confidence, loyalty, calm, dependability, and courage,” they say. I have none of these attributes, loyalty least of all.
But nothing is free.
You pay for happiness with sorrow.
After the divorce, Mary’s love tiptoes away.
The pearls, unworn, curl up for warmth in the bottom drawer where I keep things I no longer want.
Anita Lekic has lived in many countries, including Brazil and Egypt, before settling down in Portugal. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her articles have been published in Counterpunch among other journals, and her short stories in Streetlight Magazine, Cagibi, and Wanderlust.