Ms. Claire August leaned forward on her cane and carefully stepped around the junk that was piled on the floor. She was unfamiliar with the layout of the antique store, having never been in it before. She couldn’t get around as easily as she used to, but her vision was still sharp, her mind was clear, and she was grateful to be alive. Every Monday, she took the senior citizens’ bus into the center of town and walked around, going in and out of the little shops there. The bus schedule only allowed for an hour’s worth of time on each trip, so she usually just had time for a little window shopping and a nice lunch at one of the cafés with her best friend Melanie. Today Melanie hadn’t been feeling well. Claire had not wanted to go on her own, but Melanie insisted.
“You need to go,” she had said.” Just because my old bones are tired today and I have a nasty cold doesn’t mean you should miss the outing. I know how much you enjoy it. Maybe you can strike up a friendship with one of the men in the group. You know Albert Hampton has been asking me about you. Maybe you could have lunch with him.”
“Melanie,” Claire and replied. “You know I’m not interested in him.”
“Claire, I know we’ve talked about this a million times. I know how much you loved Michael. I know how special he was. But that was so long ago! How old were you – thirty-five? You’re over seventy years old. He’s been dead for 40 years! And all this time, you haven’t even looked at another man. Do you really think he would want you to spend the rest of your life alone?”
“I don’t expect you to understand,” said Claire. “No one does. It’s not that I’m holding myself back on purpoes. I just never found anyone like him. He was everything to me. When he died, it broke my heart. He gave me fifteen wonderful years – the best years of my life. Every day I miss him. And I know he would be perfectly fine with me finding someone new. But no one will ever take his place. Not now, not ever.”
“Well, I know by now I can’t change your mind. You are honestly the most stubborn person I’ve ever known. Still, you should go into town. You know you would enjoy a nice lunch and a change of scenery. I really want you to go.”
Claire had finally given in. And now she was walking slowly around an antique store that she had walked past many times but never entered before. She wasn’t really hungry, and did not relish eating alone, so she had decided to kill time looking at antiques. She really didn’t plan on buying anything, but as she wandered through the narrow aisles packed with everything from old furniture, hardbound books, boxes of memorabilia, and old photographs, something caught her eye.
It was a golden bracelet with a charm on it. The charm was in the shape of an angel, wings outstretched. It was thrown in a large box of filled with looked like costume jewelry. The charm didn’t look valuable, but Claire was drawn to it as soon as she saw it. There was something about it that appealed to her. She wasn’t sure exactly what. When she picked it up, it felt somehow comforting. She slipped it on her wrist. She immediately felt a sense of peace. It felt like this little bracelet had been destined for her. She had such a strong desire to bring it home. She smiled to herself. “What a silly thing,” she thought. “I must be getting funny in the head. It’s just a piece of junk.” She put the bracelet down and prepared to leave the store. But as she was walking out the door, she thought again about the bracelet. She went back and picked it up. She didn’t have much money, but there was no harm in asking how much it cost.
She walked up to the girl behind the counter, who was reading a magazine and looking bored. She looked up as Claire approached the register.
“How much is this bracelet?” Claire asked.
“Everything in that box is two dollars. Cash or credit?”
Claire fumbled in her pocketbook and pulled out her wallet. She paid for the bracelet and the girl asked her if she wanted it wrapped.
“No,” she said. “I’ll just wear it home.”
While riding back on the bus, she fiddled with the bracelet. It was obviously not a valuable piece of jewelry, but she liked it very much. She was looking forward to showing it to Melanie.
When she got home, she sat in an armchair and rested, picking up a book from the end table. As she read, she absentmindedly rubbed the angel charm.
All of a sudden, she noticed the smell of roses. She looked up, confused, to see that a cloud of mist had appeared in the center of the room. As she watched, the mist slowly solidified into a figure. A beautiful woman stood before her.
“I’ve gone crazy,” she thought. “I’ve gone absolutely batty.” But when she blinked her eyes, the figure was still there.
The woman was dressed in a beautiful flowing robe decorated with various shapes and colors. She had long flowing jet black hair and looked Middle Eastern.
”I am Gia. She said. I am the spirit who is bound to the bracelet you are wearing. I can grant you one wish.”
Claire shook her head. She must be dreaming. But she felt wide-awake. Or was this some kind of joke? But there was no way a person could’ve gotten in without her noticing, and how could she explain the mist? She glanced around the room, almost expecting someone to be hiding behind a piece of furniture with a camera. But there was no one there but her and the mysterious woman.
Gia smiled a sweet smile. Her eyes were kind. “Only certain people have the power to summon me,” she said. “Only a person with a pure and innocent heart can call me forth. I can grant you any one wish. Think about it carefully, because it cannot be undone.”
Claire didn’t have to think about it. “I want my husband back,” she said. “I want Michael back, happy and alive, the way he was the last day that I saw him. That is what I want. That is the only thing I want.”
Gia looked sad. “I’m afraid I can’t do that,” she said. “The bracelet is powerful, but it cannot reverse the passage of time. It cannot bring back the dead.”
“Then I want nothing. I’ll give the bracelet away to someone who needs it more. Some person who is poor, or sick, or who has a serious need.”
Gia spoke again. “Hold onto the bracelet. It is not within my power to grant your wish. But I will return from where I came from and petition on your behalf.”
The figure of Gia dissolved. Claire was left sitting alone in her small living room. She shook her head and wondered if it had all really happened. Maybe she should talk to a doctor. Maybe she was starting to become senile. Troubled, she took off the bracelet off and placed it on the end table, then started making lunch.
Several hours later, just as she was getting ready to go to bed, there was a knock at the door. She was surprised. She wasn’t expecting company. Maybe Melanie had dropped over to say hello. But that was unusual – it seemed odd that she would come without calling first.
She opened the door looked into Michael’s eyes. He looked exactly as he had the day he left home, an hour before he was fatally struck by a car. He smiled. His smile was just is beautiful as she’d remembered. She stared for a minute, frozen. Then he reached out and she was in his arms. She held him tightly. She cried. She thanked God for bringing them back to her. For a while, they held onto each other, neither one wanting to let go.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she said. “So very very much.”
“I am so glad to be back,” he whispered.
She started to lead him into the house, but then she stopped. She looked at him, his young, unlined face. She looked down at her hands, liver spotted and arthritic. A feeling of terrible sadness welled up within her.
“You can’t stay with me,” she said.
“What do you mean? I came back for you.”
“I know. But you can’t stay with me. You’re a young man. You have your whole life ahead of you. I’m an old woman. You can’t be with me. It wouldn’t be fair to you. I can’t keep you here. Go. Go make a new life for yourself and find someone you can love.”
“I’m not leaving,” he said. “I don’t want someone else. I don’t care.”
“I’m asking you to go. I don’t want you to stay. Please, if you care about me, go on your way and take care of yourself. Here. Take this as a gift. It’s a very special bracelet.”
She put it in his hand. He kept refusing to leave, but she was insistent. She ushered him out the door, closed it, and locked it. He knocked on the door for over a minute. She sat down and put her head in her hands, weeping. Finally the knocking stopped.
The long, dismal night passed. She missed him, she cried, but she knew she had done the right thing. She felt joy that he was alive, that he had a second chance at life, a chance that been denied him. That made her grateful, that alone was worth it. She would know that he was out there somewhere, living life, being happy. At least that was a comfort.
In the morning, she heard a knock on the door. She sighed. She decided not to get the door. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. And what it was if it was him, what if he was back? She couldn’t let him in.
But the person knocking did not go away. They knocked and knocked, and finally she realized whoever it was did not intend to leave. With a deep sigh, she opened the door.
On the threshold stood an elderly man. His hair was white, and he was stooped a little. But she knew his face.
Michael looked into her eyes. He took her hand in his, and slipped the bracelet back on her wrist.
“I had one wish,” he said. “I wished for us to be together.”
They walked together into the house, with the future spread out before them, full of promise.
This story was originally published in the webzine, Daly Love