A story for all those who, at some time in their lives, have experienced unrequited love. In other words, all of us...
It twinkled like a bright star in the north sky; sunshine bouncing off metal as if calling to her from the deep spring grass. Charlene knew this object, knew the one who wore it, knew the sadness she would feel at its disappearance, but as her hand closed around the locket’s warm, smooth surface, she also knew she would never give it back.
Charlene Woods had loved Richard Daniels since childhood. They had climbed trees together and raced each other across this same field. In fifth grade, when a virus nearly took him from her then, she had brought his school work and sat with him every day until he was well. He had taken her to their eighth grade graduation dance where they shared their first real kiss and his hand had lightly (accidentally?) brushed against the bodice of her dress. But high school had changed everything and now it was Lauren who was on his arm and in his heart.
Charlene’s fingertip lightly traced the delicate etching: “Richard and Lauren forever.” She could see that the clasp on the locket was broken and imagined it slipping from Lauren’s neck as the two of them embraced under the cool moon in just that place the night before. Tucking it into her pocket now, she felt no remorse.
Once home, Charlene gently opened the locket and gazed at the two tiny pictures inside. She slipped a fingernail under Lauren’s photo, which popped out easily; so much for “forever,” she thought. Then she opened the high school year book to her own photo, carefully cutting around the edges until it was of the same oval shape and size, and placed it inside the locket next to Richard where she knew she was meant to be, and believed with all her heart that one day he would know that, too.
And so she waited, spurning the attentions of others until they ceased altogether and she was alone, while Richard and Lauren only seemed to grow closer. It was no surprise to any of their friends when the couple announced their engagement after college. Charlene was invited to the wedding by Richard who told her that, as his oldest and dearest friend, he could not imagine the day without her. “Of course, I’ll be there,” she had replied, smiling while the locket under her blouse burned a hole in her heart.
The years passed quickly. Richard and Lauren had children and then grandchildren, and Charlene, who had never married, was always included in their family festivities. Lauren often told her that she was the sister she had always wanted and, despite her best attempts to resist, Charlene developed a growing fondness for Lauren, as well.
Richard’s death came after a long and debilitating illness that had required the total devotion of both women to meet his needs. Charlene watched as Lauren held Richard’s hand and he looked into his wife’s eyes one last time. “Forever…” he whispered. As if of its own accord, Charlene’s hand moved to touch the finely-linked chain around her neck…
“… And that’s where the locket was found upon her death the very next morning,” Lauren told her eldest granddaughter, as she opened it up and showed her the photos inside.
“I don’t understand. Why do you still keep her picture there next to Grandpa’s?” the girl asked.
Lauren’s hand closed around the locket and she held it to her heart, “Because I knew that I had taken from her much more than she had ever taken from me.”