NOTHING can upset me today. I’m still not packed for our holiday, my desk is a tip, and my garden is in tatters after the granddaddy of all hail storms, but all is right in this best of all possible worlds and I feel as if it always will be, because this morning I found something I thought I’d never see again — not ever in a blue moon.
When my husband and I first started going out, he bought me a little gold locket with a gold chain. It cost the equivalent of a month’s salary in those not-so-good old days. The jeweler thought we’d come to buy an engagement ring (so did I), but over the years that chain became even more special than the sapphire ring we finally bought together five long years later.
I have a big brother I’ve always hero-worshiped. We seldom communicate apart from an exchange of emails on a birthday. My husband calls him my “ex-brother”, but in my eyes he can do no wrong. You see, he was a surfer in that endless summer of my childhood at the coast, he had an austin-healey sprite, then a combi, then an alpha romeo … you get the picture. When I was almost killed in a car accident at 21 he was away at sea, but he wrote to me every single day for three weeks. I often wish I’d kept those letters. Since then, there’s not been so much as a birthday card. Later, when his children were young, they lived in Namibia, one of the jewelboxes of the world. You can literally pick up garnets on the beaches. One day he unexpectedly arrived at my flat with a box of gemstones and told me to take my pick. I chose a pink tourmaline, which I had faceted by a friend.
Several years ago my husband and I went to a wedding in Oudtshoorn. That is a story all on its own. Let’s just say the wedding took place on a mountain beside a waterfall on one of the most treacherous mountain passes in South Africa and leave it at that. Anyway, I wore my pink tourmaline on my gold chain. I slept in it, I showered in it, I never took it off, just in case. We were away about ten days in all. On the way home we stopped overnight at Colesberg and in the morning I had a bath and, because we were only a few hours from home, I FINALLY took off my chain…
That was the last I saw of it. I was convinced I’d put it in a safe place — my purse, a pocket, somewhere safe. But when we got home it was gone. I searched and searched frantically. I (secretly) rang the hotel. I turned my luggage inside out. I spring-cleaned the car, the house, the cupboards.
I never told my husband. I bought one shoddy chain after another. None could possibly replace the one I’d lost. Every time the seasons changed and I took out my winter jackets I searched the pockets again, hoping there was one I’d missed. Over the years I never gave up. One day it would turn up, I told myself. But secretly I despaired. The couple whose wedding we attended had one baby, and then another. Whenever I had news from them I remembered that hotel room and that bath and a little knot of regret tightened inside me.
This morning, searching for a sleeping bag liner I’d squirreled away after our whale trail trip last year, I came across two little bags I’d bought in Kathmandu. You know the kind of thing — a little bigger than a cellphone, embroidered with elephants and princesses. They looked as if they’d never been used — perhaps I could give them away. Then just to make sure, I felt the corners. There seemed to be some seeds inside one of them … no, not seeds, but a tarnished gold chain and a little pink tourmaline pendant. How? Why? I have no blinking winking idea. I gave up the search for the sleeping bag liner and went out and bought a cheap and nasty new one instead.
I’m still wearing my chain right now, tucked away under my jersey, pink tourmaline and all. By tomorrow the tarnish will have worn off and it will look exactly like it did in that dingy little jewelery shop all those years ago when it was the most expensive thing anyone had ever bought me. I still haven’t told my husband and I probably never will. But I told my mother (who’s ninety-three in November). And now I’m telling you.