The eyes of darkened ruby which held one of the best and simultaneously one of the worse memories of my young adult life stared back at me from the tiny white box. These, unlike my own eyes, were protected from the sight of the future I had accepted yet no longer desired. They saw only the white cotton which nestled them softly in the memories they sparked. Had it not been for its contents, the small box would have been hidden among the trinkets of Charlie Grace’s over-sized wooden desk. It was from her. There wasn’t a card or any tangible evidence she had been the one who sent it, but there was little to no doubt the gift was from Sam. Gift. Such an odd word for the object I couldn’t take my eyes from nor tear my thoughts away from since the moment I had found it. Had she meant it to be a gift? Surely not, as this was the day of Charlie Grace’s long-awaited engagement party. The social event of her one and only daughter’s engagement. The very engagement which ended contact between Sam and I in December.
“Dear, staring out the window at your guests doesn’t exactly count as attending the party.” Charlie Grace had entered the room without my notice. “You do actually have plans of leaving this room and joining us, don’t you?”
“Of course, Mother,” I said. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
Charlie Grace turned to leave but stopped shy of the doorway. “See that you do, dear . . . See that you do.”
She looked over her shoulder but didn’t turn around to face me. “Hmmmm?”
“Did I get a package in the mail yesterday?”
“It’s your engagement party. You’ve gotten many packages this week. I can hardly keep up with all of them.” She waved her hand as if dismissing the entire topic altogether. Although we both knew she would have been highly offended if the presents hadn’t arrived by the dozen the weeks before the party.
I walked from behind the desk to face her and held up the tiny white box. “This box? Did I get this one in the mail yesterday?”
“Oh, dear Lord, that thing is hideous. Who on earth sent this to you?” She ran her finger over the jewelry fashioned as a cicada.
I followed her finger and looked down at the charm shaped like a tiny cicada. The reflection of the sun streaming in through the window reflected off of the gold, making it look as if it glowed. I suppose on some plane it could be called gaudy. Although the meaning behind it made it the most beautiful piece of jewelry I had ever seen. Even though my heart ached for the loss of Sam in my life, my mind soaked up every bit of the memories of her lips upon mine as we listened to the cicada’s song sitting on the bayou’s dock so many moonlights ago. This charm took me back to a time when I dreamed of a different life. A life not held to the conformities of the life I was now facing. I felt a glimmer of once-felt happiness stir inside of me. I turned my attention back to Charlie Grace before I let those feelings gain strength in me. This is what I had. This day is what I had.
“I don’t know who sent it,” I finally said.
“Well, dear. Do make sure you never wear it in public or around me.” Mother turned her back to me and left the room.
“I’ll see you downstairs, Mother,” I mumbled under my breath.
I had grown tired of our conversation. Truth be told, I had grown tired of most of our conversations. Without Memaw, Charlie Grace and I began to unravel at the seams. Apparently she had always been the glue to our relationship as Memaw had been more of a mother to me than Charlie Grace. We were strangers to each other now. Strangers who had absolutely no common ground to build a relationship on. Sure Mother thought my engagement to Grant brought us closer together. She believed my wishes to let her plan everything in relation to the wedding was a sign we had grown closer. Little did she know, or even care, that it was merely a way to disassociate myself from the inescapable event. If I had my wish, I would sleep through the whole damn thing including the honeymoon . . . most importantly the honeymoon.
I walked back to the large window behind the desk. Looking out at the setting in front of me, I realized Charlie Grace had her perfect day. Yes, she would finally get her long-awaited wish. In her eyes, a good southern woman was nothing without the gold band that attached her to a fine southern man. It was as if a woman was defined by the type of man she was lucky enough to snatch as a husband. For me the man was Grant Thibodeaux and he was the epitome of her dream son-in-law.
I had known Grant throughout grade school. Growing up in a small town, we didn’t have the school diversity most of the larger cities had. Therefore you pretty much stayed with the same kids, attending grades together year after year. It wasn’t until Grant came home for the summer after his undergraduate years that our relationship took a path all of its own. Charlie Grace worked her matchmaker skills the night of my graduation party and had Grant arrive as the main event for the evening. Of course, she tried to masquerade it as him delivering the Jeep she had gotten me but I saw beyond the diversion. She had tried for years to attach me to a young man of an influential family but I had always managed to dodge the connection. Grant was different. He was easy to be around. He never pressured me or tried to make our relationship be more than it truly was at heart. More importantly he loved our town as much as I did. Looking back, I realize this was one of key elements in my relationship with him. We had common dreams—common goals to connect us to each other. I could be with him and never change what I wanted in life. He slipped in under my radar.
I stood watching him as he mingled among the crowd. The last months of residency had been taxing on both of us, leaving little time for anything beyond rotations much less time to find our footing after Sam had come in and out of my life. The proposal had been a huge surprise to me. It came out of nowhere and was unlike anything we had planned. Grant and I had always agreed we would make no plans to marry or even get engaged until after we had completed our residencies. We both felt our education was the key focus in our lives. Or so I thought we did. It was changes like these that I had noticed in him over the last several months. I suppose we all change a little when we grow. I know I had.
I looked down at the charm now in the palm of my hand. A cicada. Nearly a year had slipped by since the night at the cabin. The night I answered my longing to feel Sam’s kiss. Had we been lost in the song of the thirteen-year cicadas? The strength of the male’s serenade drowned out nearly every other sound that night, including the sound of my fears and hesitations screaming through me.
It wasn’t until I felt my body give itself over to her that my fears returned. I couldn’t unravel the depths of what it meant to be so lost in the passion of her touch so I did what I always do—I ran. I stopped her and then felt the pining for her weeks after as I watched our friendship return to its acceptable boundaries. That was until the moment I could deny myself no longer.
I straightened my back, my body stiffened, and I shook off the tears forming in my eyes. No, I wouldn’t let my thoughts travel any further down that road. That was then, this is now. Besides, she was the one who had cut off all contact with me. I turned from the window, readying myself to join the party out on the lawn.
“Hi,” Sam said.
I stared at her, frozen.
Her voice was meek and her body’s expression was drawn inwardly. She leaned against the doorjamb as if making a stand not to enter the room.
“Hey,” I finally squeaked out.