I sat on the park bench with my eyes closed. As I heard the kids laughing and running around. It was a much-needed distraction from my search for Jennifer. The woman from the carnival, the women that got away from me. It had been one month since that unforgettable night with her. And I knew she was the one for me. The only problem I faced was simply finding her.
“Thinking about her again, I see,” said the old woman sitting on the bench next to me
I snapped out of my thoughts and looked at the woman, “I’m sorry?” I asked.
“I said you were thinking about her again,” she repeated.
“What makes you think that, ma’am?” I asked.
“You’ve been coming to this park every day and sat on that same bench. Twirling with that locket around your neck. That’s all I need to know,” explained the old lady.
The old lady was right. Truth be told, I thought she wasn’t paying attention. Because every time I saw her she would either be reading a book or watching her dogs roam free in the park.
“Well, if you must know, I was ma’am. I met her last month at a carnival and I forgot to get her number and her last name,” I stated.
The lady gave me a confused look, “If you like her so much, how come you didn’t get her number?” she questioned.
“I got caught up in the moment. I won her this prize snake, then her friend came and rushed her off. I tried to catch her, but I wasn’t fast enough,” I said shamelessly.
“I see, and you haven’t given up looking for her?” asked the old lady.
“No ma’am, I just know her first name, which is Jennifer. But I didn’t get her last name. But I have been searching the internet hoping I can find her,” I explained.
The old lady gave me a half-hearted smile and sat up a little bit. “You remind me of my husband. He never gave up on looking for me either. He too, ‘searched’ the world looking for me. Telling me we were meant for each other and other nonsense,” explained the old lady.
“Why did you married him, if he spoke nonsense?” I asked.
“Because he came after me, just like you’re going after that Jennifer girl,” She replied.
I looked back down at the locket and opened up to see her beautiful smile. She was someone I would go to the ends of the earth for. Someone that I would fight for in a gladiator arena just to have her love. To father her children, to be the man that will keep her safe throughout her life. No need to worry about anything or do anything, but to stand there and make my day.
“Mind if I see?” Asked the old lady.
I quickly snapped out of my trance and looked back at the old lady. Who was, in turn, waiting for me to respond. I looked back at the locket, thinking to myself if I should close it and put it back down my shirt. But I decided against it and walked up to her, taking a seat next to her.
“Yes, of course,” I replied.
I removed the locket from my neck and opened it to reveal the picture of Jennifer. The lady took a deep breath and looked at me with amusement in her eyes. “I can see why you’re so obsessed. She’s beautiful, and who is this young lady next to her? Her mother?” asked the old lady.
“I think so, they almost look the same. Possibly twins,” I responded.
“Nonsense, this locket is the gift of a mother, not of a sister,” said the old lady.
“How do you know?” I asked.
She reached into her shirt to reveal a gold heart-shaped locket of her own. She took my hand and laid it into my hand. This one had no engraving, but once I opened it I noticed two pictures inside of it. On the right, a curly black hair woman, giving a half-hearted smile. And on the left an older lady leaning on what seemed to be a tree log. “Is this you on the left?” I asked looking back at her.
“Yes, and the one on the right is my mother. My family has a tradition of maintaining a connection to our children once were gone. I had one specially made for my daughter. We did something like the one you have here of Jennifer,” she explained.
“That’s wonderful, Mrs.…”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mary. Mary Jefferson,” said Mary.
“Samuel Wilson, but my friends call me Sam,” I replied while extending my hand toward her.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Sam Wilson,” said Mary.
We shook hands as well as return our respective lockets back to one another. I put Jennifer’s back around my neck, so I won’t lose it. And Mary puts hers back on as well. “So, tell me, Mary. How long have you been married?” I asked.
“An amazing forty years,” she responded.
“How old were you when you got married?” I asked.
“I was eighteen. You could consider us high school sweethearts, but that was a dying thing when I was growing up,” she responded.
“You said your husband came after you?” I asked again.
“Yes, six months after we graduated. I had to move because my father got a new job. He wanted to ask me before we left, but it was too late. So, he spent six months making his way to me, just to ask me that one question. My father admired his love for me and gave him his blessing. Soon after that, we were happily married,” explained Mary.
“And your husband’s name?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, who?” she asked back.
“Your husband’s name. The one that came and got you?” I asked confused.
“Oh yes, his name was Nate,” she responded.
I smiled, but it soon went away. As Mary looked off to the distance where her dogs were running around. She sat there in complete silence for a few minutes until I tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped up and looked at me with fear in her eyes. But quickly calmed down once she recognized me.
“Oh! I see you wanted to keep this old woman company,” said Mary.
“I’m sorry?” I asked.
“You’re usually sitting across from me. Why the sudden change, young man?” asked Mary.
I looked around the park to make sure I wasn’t being pranked by my sister or friends. But there was barely anyone left in the park. Just me, Mary, and her two dogs. As well as a few parents talking while their kids climbed inside their cars. I looked back at Mary and watched as she hummed an unfamiliar tune, rocking back and forth to the rhythm of the song.
“Mary are you ok?” I asked.
“Why yes, I am…I’m sorry I don’t think I got your name,” said Mary.
I looked at Mary and grabbed her hand and caressed it gently. She smiled and went back to looking at her dogs run around the park. They would come occasionally, and get treats from Mary, for being good dogs. But they would come almost every few minutes and her repeating the phrase “This is your first treat for the day.” Along with us talking about Jennifer and her husband repeatedly.
A few hours later I was alerted to the sound of a car coming to a complete stop. I turned around to see two people getting out of the car running towards my direction. I figured it was someone she knew and were worried about her whereabouts.
“Mother! There you are,” said the Woman.
The woman was slightly taller than me with short black hair wearing business attire clothing. She gave me a suspicious look then turned back towards her mother and knelt to meet eye contact with her.
“Mom, where have you been? Everyone is worried about you?” asked the woman.
Mary looked at her with a confused look on her face. She turned her head to see a tall man walking up to the woman. He stopped right behind her and glanced at me for a few seconds.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” asked Mary.
“Yes! It’s me Leah, your daughter,” She cried.
I could hear the sorrow of Leah cries as she shoved her face into her mother chest. At the time I was thinking about the Locket that was underneath her shirt and wanted to resume our conversation. But I guess I got enough of a lesson today.
“How long has she been out here?” He asked
I looked at Mary for a moment while she caressed the top of Leah’s head. Who was still sobbing over her mother’s disappearance. I guess I can’t blame her, with Mary’s condition I would be worried sick if that was my own mother that went missing, I was just glad that I stayed for as long as I did. There was no telling if something would’ve happened to her if I had left.
“I saw her since this afternoon like I usually do,” I replied.
“Like you usually do?” Questioned the man.
“Yeah, I see her here every day around that time,” I responded.
Leah quickly snapped her head at me with fire in her eyes. She rose up from the ground and quickly walked towards me. I was ready for an ass kicking, but instead, I got a hug from her.
“Thank you so much. How can we ever repay you?” asked Leah.
“Oh, no need for that. I’m just glad that I stayed with her for as long as I did,” I replied.
Leah released me from her bear hug and fixed her hair and pressed her dress shirt. She walked back to Mary and gently grabbed her arm and helped her out of the bench. They slowly approached me with Mary looking into the abyss again.
“Mother tell this nice gentleman thank you for looking after you,” said Leah.
“Oh, of course, thank you, child. You’re a good boy. Next time don’t be afraid to speak to me when you see me tomorrow,” said Mary.
“Yes, Ma’am,” I said with a smile on my face.
“Can we give you a ride home?” asked the man.
“No that’s fine, I live up the street from here. I can walk,” I replied.
The man nodded his head and walked towards the car. Leah and Mary soon followed taking each step slowly. She begins to hum that tune again, but this time I recognized it.
“Fly me to the moon. Let me gaze amongst the stars. Let me see what life is like on…Jupiter and Mars,” I sang.
Mary stopped and turned around and smiled at me for a second. And continued to walk back to the car. I looked around my immediate area and noticed that her dogs were not around.
“Hey! What about her dogs!” I shouted.
“I’m sorry?” asked Leah.
“Her dogs, she had two dogs with her,” I replied.
Leah looked at the man with confusion and proceeded to look around the park. “I’m sorry, she doesn’t own any dogs.”
I looked around and noticed that the dogs were completely gone. I tried calling for them a few times, but nothing came out of the shadows. I looked back at Leah and the man as they waited for me to explain myself.
“Sorry, thought the dogs were hers,” I said.
They both walked back to the car, as I walked in the opposite direction. I was hoping to see those dogs, so I can prove that I wasn’t going insane. But I never saw them on the way home. But I also never saw Mary again. I would go to the park every day at the same time and sit on the same bench. But she was never there, neither were the dogs.