There was something terribly wrong with that woman. I knew it from the moment I first laid eyes on her. Her complexion was opaque, and her eyes were glazed over. She was frail but perfectly competent. In fact, one might even wonder if her faculties weren’t far superior to the average human being. She appeared to look through you, as though to know your secret sins. I couldn’t help but connect her presence in my life to the events that were unfolding right before my eyes. It was midnight, and I had fallen asleep at nine o’clock in the evening. It wasn’t like me to turn in this early, but I was so sleepy and kept nodding off. But, at precisely 12:00 am, I was thrust awake by the sound of my closet door creaking. My eyes shot open, and I attempted to gain my composure. I stared at the door. It was ajar, but that wasn’t altogether uncommon. Countless times the hem of my bath-rob, which hangs on the inside of the closet, gets caught causing the door not to close properly. I closed my eyes and attempted to fall back to sleep. Creak. There it was again. Unmistakable. Something inside my closet was pushing the door from the inside. I sat up in my bed, my eyes glued to the shadowed doorway. The opening was gaping now, but I could not discern what was inside. Curiosity had its deep grips in me, but a greater fear was winning the fight. I crawled out of my bed and laid down on the floor; the bed between me and the door, all I could see was the closet from under the bed skirt. Creak. The door opened further. Any question of imagination fled from my mind, except that which recalled every horror movie that I had ever seen. I was still, frozen in place. Suddenly, I felt as though I wasn’t alone, as though some presence was sharing my air. I remained silent and listened. Then, a subtle, yet pronounced whisper tickled my ears. I couldn’t discern what it was saying, it spoke in some foreign, yet familiar tongue. Petrified, I placed my hand over my mouth to muffle the rush of sound that was inevitable to exit my throat. As I moved my hand toward my mouth, I brushed up against something heavy, dangling around my neck. I grabbed ahold of it and examined it. How did this get here? Where did it come from? When did it get placed around my neck? Suddenly I remembered where I had first seen it. It belongs to her. The woman. But not just any woman. This woman was my fiancèe’s grandmother, although, she looked old enough to be his great-grandmother. At least. I’ll never forget the first day that I met her. My fiancee, then my boyfriend, picked me up at my house and took me to his parent’s place. I walked in the door, greeted by my future in-laws. That’s when I first saw her. She was seated at the dinner table in the conjoining room, just staring at me. By her appearance and dress, she reminded me of one of those fortunetelling games that you might see at an arcade. I envisioned an old worn sign above her head that read, “The Great Zoltan.” She didn’t move, just sat and stared. I began to wonder if she was dead. As eerie as she was, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Trying my best not look at her for too long, but failing miserably.
“Nora!” My obviously annoyed boyfriend snapped.
“What?,“ I asked dazedly and confused.
“Are you going to give me your coat?” He asked.
“Oh yeah, here.” I removed my coat and gave it to his awaiting hand.
“I asked you like three times, what’s going on with you tonight.” He asked slightly concerned and completely agitated.
Admittedly I had been acting a bit unusual that evening. It wasn’t my fault though. Something inside me felt, off.
“What were you staring at?“ ”He looked at around the corner at into the room, which he couldn’t see from where he had been standing. “Oh, that’s just my grandmother, do you want to meet her.” I honestly wasn’t sure. But before I could answer, he took me by the hand and guided me to her.
“Bunica, aceasta este prietena mea Norei.” I didn’t understand him because he spoke to her in Romani chib, or Romanian, which was her native language.
She didn’t move. I feared that she might have died and no one had noticed. She certainly looked the part of a corpse.
He placed his hand on her back, “Bunica!” As if yelling louder would wake the dead. “Bunica!”
The third time must have been a charm because she snapped her head around to where we were standing and stared deep into my soul. Her breathing didn’t change, nor her position, only the direction of her smolder. It wasn’t until that moment that I noticed a beautiful ruby necklace dangling down her chest. I couldn’t help but gaze at it as it glimmered in the light of the room. I was no stranger to gems and Jewlery, but something about this particular piece was unique. It was a deep red, almost like the tent of fresh blood. He tried again, “aceasta este prietena mea Norei.” which I assume meant something about who I was and why I was there.
She reached out, grabbed my hand and held it in hers. Her hands were old, cold, and clammy. After a few seconds, which seemed like ten or fifteen minutes, she spoke, “ceea ce este în mine, acum trec la voi.”
I jumped. It was as if her words were somehow inside of me. I shot a look my boyfriend; I needed to know what she had said to me. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “She’s a crazy old bat, who knows what she’s rabbling on about half the time.”
I quickly relieved my hand from her grip, and she returned to her previous focal point. Dead ahead. Emphasis on dead. My boyfriend and I left the room and enjoyed an evening with his parents over dinner. We ate in the kitchen and, surprisingly, his grandmother didn’t join us. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see much more of her after that night. She was around, but no one really interacted with her much. On the car ride home I asked my boyfriend about her.
“To be honest, I don’t know a lot about her. I know that she use to be a circus performer or something. I think she read people’s fortunes.”
“That’s so funny! I thought she looked the part.”
“Yeah, my dad’s family were all from Romania. I vaguely remember him telling me stories about how people would come from all around to have their palms read and speak to their dead relatives or something like that. Personally, I don’t buy into all of that, but its a pretty big deal with my family’s culture.”
“Well, I think its cool. I’d love to talk to her more about it.” I was genuinely interested.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t recommend that.” He said hesitantly.
“She’s kind of crazy now; my parents say that she talks to people who aren’t there and is always rambling on about things that make my parents very uncomfortable. She’s kind of a burden on my folks. She’s really old, and they don’t totally know what to do with her.” He said concentrating on the road, wet from the pouring rain.
“Why don’t they put her in a home?” I asked with concern.
“Yeah, Romani’s don’t really do that. Families take a lot of pride in taking care of one another, its just kind of the way that we are.”
“Well, that’s sweet. What was up with that Rudy necklace around her neck? That thing must have cost a fortune.” I asked, awaiting some exciting story about a beloved family heirloom.
He looked at me puzzled, “What necklace?”
“The Ruby necklace that she was wearing. You couldn’t have missed it, that thing was huge!” I asked, very confused by his question.
“She wasn’t wearing a necklace. She can’t afford jewelry, especially not like what you just described.”
“I know what I saw! She was definitely wearing a ruby necklace. It was beautiful.” I saw insistently.
“Okay, whatever you say babe.” He said with a condescending tone that I had come to loathe.
That was three years ago. I didn’t think much about the necklace since then. In that time we became engaged and began planning our wedding. My career as a stock-broker took off, and I had received several promotions. My partners all said that I seemed to have an uncanny knack for predicting price fluctuations, they said it was like nothing that they had ever seen before. Tomorrow is my wedding, and I opted out of the traditional night before wedding bachelorette party. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t done that. Now here I lay, a ruby around my neck, and this thing haunting my bedroom. What is it? Why is it here? And what does it have to do with this gift: the ruby necklace?
Submitted to theprose.com
Long ago, one winter’s night,
there came about a mystic sight.
In the midst of dark despair,
a shining beacon, beyond compare.
It spoke of hope and peace to all;
all those who answer its fair call.
Pointing toward a stable manger;
housing Christ, the infant stranger.
The luminous grace of that great star gave way to His forthcoming scar. And with the sound of life's first cry; that star above did surely die.
Now each and every Christmas season lights are strung for one great reason. To remind us of that Holy night; when all our souls were made upright.
All Rights Reserved. © 2018 Devin Peterson