The Locket

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2014

Elia Smith
The Locket girl showing her locket

“Do you like my locket?”

One warm summer evening, when the sun was just beginning to set over the sea, a single bird chirped melodiously. His fellows one by one joined in, each singing a different melody and pitch, but somehow all truly going together. The soft, sad song of the cricket gently burst through the birdsong at random intervals, yet sounded perfectly orchestrated. A cool breeze swooshed the long panoramic grass in perfect time to the melody. This was the best serenade to ever be possibly heard by human ears, a song created by nature. And in that precise moment, when the music was its peak, a baby girl was born. Her cheeks were flushed from the moment she was born, and the puffiness that swelled around the eyes of other babies was completely absent. She had wide blue eyes, the color of the ocean, that looked curiously around the room. Then, as all other newborns do, she began to cry. But this was a different sort of cry, not a cry of surprise or sorrow, but a cry of joy that somehow fell into the melody of the crickets, and the birds, and the wind. She was named Chorus, for the chorus of nature.

*          *          *

Some ten years later, in the cool middle of autumn, Chorus woke up in the early morning. Even with her eyes closed, she could sense a bright light in front of her face. She figured it was just the sunlight reflecting in the small tortoiseshell mirror that was ever present on her bedside table. But when she partially opened her eyes, she saw it was not. The mirror had fallen to the ground next to her bed, face down, and the curtains were closed. It was a golden locket sitting on her bed, on the small, decorative quilted pillow that often plopped to the floor during the late hours. Its golden sheen glowed even in the near blackness of her room. She leaned over to the bedside table and flicked on a little lamp so as to see it better. Gently, Chorus picked the locket up by its thin gold chain and turned it over and over again in her fingers. It seemed to emit a warmth, flowing through Chorus’s fingers pleasantly, fully waking her up. “This isn’t mine…” she wondered aloud. “So whose is it? And where did it come from?” She began to study the two smooth faces of the locket. They were completely blank. Or so it seemed. When she looked at the front side for the third time, tiny words were scrawled on it, in seamless, perfect cursive. This belongs to you, Chorus… for now. She shivered.

What did it mean, “for now”? How did it know her name? And how did that writing appear? Chorus shook her head, blond curls whipping her cheeks. “It was there all along. I just didn’t see them at first.” She did not quite believe herself, because deep down she knew it definitely wasn’t there before. But she started to get ready for school, and after she brushed her hair and got dressed, she paused to grab the locket and close the clasps around her neck.

Downstairs, her little sister, Lavender, was already sitting at the table, munching a piece of toast with way too much butter. Lavender was in first grade and thought she knew everything. This was completely off, Chorus thought. Lavender could hardly read the word umbrella. She always said “umbella,” but maybe that was Lavender’s speech, not reading skills. No one could be sure.

“Hello, Chorus! Good morning! Welcome!” (Lavender loved greetings.)

“Yes, hello, Chorus honey!” Their mom gave Chorus a quick kiss. “Now hurry up and eat. We don’t want to be late, do we?” Chorus sat down in a vacant chair, got up again, brushed all the crumbs onto the floor, and sat down with finality.

As she wolfed down her cereal, she asked her mother, “Do you like my locket?”

Her mom turned around. “What locket?”

Chorus gasped, and she touched her chest. But the locket still was present with the same heat as before under her hand. Puzzled, but unwilling to pursue the subject, Chorus finished her breakfast and tugged on her sneakers without bothering to re-tie the laces. When Chorus first got the shoes, she had tied one triple knot in them and never had to do so from that point on. In other words, she used lace-up shoes as slip-ons. She quickly checked her backpack for her lunchbox and her homework. Chorus then zipped the bag shut and slung it over her back. Taking hold of Lavender’s small hand, she gave her mother a hug and ran out the door to catch the bus.

When Chorus and Lavender were alone in the smooth leather back seat of the school bus, Lavender whispered, “I can see the locket.”

Chorus stopped staring out the window and turned to her little sister. “Can’t anyone?”

Lavender’s brown eyes widened. “I don’t think so. Mommy couldn’t. I could tell.”

Chorus wrinkled her brow and narrowed her eyes in concentration (and a tad of annoyance) and did not speak for the rest of the ride. When they arrived at school, Chorus suddenly addressed her sister. “Why couldn’t she?”

Lavender’s eyes sparkled. “Magic.”

The hands on the classroom clock seemed to be frozen in place, as clocks do when you stare at them waiting for something. Chorus counted down the minutes. The lesson on common and proper nouns was mind-numbing. It wasn’t usually, but today Chorus was anxious for language arts to end. Three… two…. one….

 Briiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! The bell’s chime thundered through the school. Chorus sprang up and dashed into the hallway. She nearly sprinted through the corridors and into the choir room, where she leaned against the wall, panting.

“Look who’s here first! Hello, Chorus!” Miss Macintosh, the singing teacher, hurried towards her, her floaty sky-blue dress swooshing around her ankles. However, when she neared Chorus, she stopped and frowned. “Have you been running?” Chorus gave a guilty smile. Miss Macintosh waggled a finger in her face sternly but jokingly. “No running in the halls. You know that, or you should.” Chorus half shrugged.

When all the kids in the choir class had gathered in the classroom, chattering and giggling, Miss Macintosh cleared her throat. The babble of talk froze like a cup of water in a freezer. “Before we start today, I have something important to say.” Chorus leaned forward. “We’ll be having a concert! Here’s the best part.” (Miss Macintosh was nearly jumping up and down.) “All of you will have solos!” Chorus slumped in her chair. Her stomach felt like a million butterflies were beating their tiny wings on her insides. She loved to sing. It was her favorite thing in all the world. But the most amount of people she ever sang to solo was three. Her mom, her dad, and Lavender. Was she ready for this? Chorus felt a lump in her throat. She thought she knew.

The Locket music concert

When she opened her mouth, it was the most beautiful music ever

Later that day after school, Chorus paced her room. “Maybe I’ll not sing. I’ll just… uh, tell Miss Macintosh I’m scared. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.” Convincing herself about this matter was as easy as attempting to persuade a room of cats not to eat mice. “Oh, what should I do? I really want to, yet I don’t all the same!” she wailed in desperation. Suddenly, her chest burned. “Youch!” Chorus leapt up and put her hand to her rib cage. There she felt the source of heat. The locket.

She reached behind her ponytail to feel for the clasps. Chorus carefully unlatched them. She held the locket in front of her face, and nearly dropped it. There was more writing.

 Do it. It’s best, girl.

She really did drop it then.

Chorus had made up her mind. Or, so to speak, it had been made up for her. That night, as she stood in the warm downpour of the shower to think, her mind suddenly had an interesting thought. Bravery had an enemy. Not the thing to be brave against, but bravery itself. Its name was and forevermore will be fear. “Being fearless is not as simple as it seems,” said Chorus aloud as she stepped out of the shower. “It might even be impossible. I wonder if it is.” She brushed her teeth for two minutes and tugged on her pajamas. Then she crawled into bed, the idea that being fearless was impossible haunting her thoughts as she drifted off to sleep.

At the next choir class, Chorus noticed Miss Macintosh was not her bouncy, bright self. She seemed subdued. After class, Chorus thought she ought to ask what was the matter. “Is there any trouble, Miss Macintosh? You seem awfully quiet today.” Miss Macintosh sighed.

“Nothing too important, Chorus. It doesn’t matter.”

“Something is wrong, Miss Macintosh. Please tell me what it is. Maybe I can help.”

“I’m afraid to answer a question.”

Chorus was confused. “Why?”

“It’s a very important question. One my life might actually depend on. I know what I want to say, but is it right?”

“What is the very important question?”

“Will you marry me.” She said it like she didn’t know whether it was a compliment or an insult. Chorus was all agog.

“Don’t you want to, Miss Macintosh? You said so yourself. That’s wonderful!” Chorus patted her singing teacher’s shoulder. “You’ve gotta do what you think is right. Believe, Miss Macintosh, believe.” When she said it, she felt a heat around the place where the locket was dangling.

All too soon, even though it was almost three weeks later, it was the day of the concert. Chorus’s chest heaved up and down from nerves (and hyperventilation.) She clutched the dark crimson skirt of her dress and watched as one by one the choir members went on stage and sang. About three minutes before her turn, Chorus grabbed the locket for consolation. There was a creak under her hands. The locket was opening. Inside, there was a single word engraved. Believe. When she stood onstage a few moments later, she had one thought only. To believe. When she opened her mouth, it was the most beautiful music ever, almost to rival the nature serenade. In the audience, Lavender listened in rapture. She had one thought only as well. I want to sing like Chorus.

*          *          *

EPILOGUE

Three years later, Chorus once again stood behind the curtains of a stage, waiting for someone’s turn to sing. But not her own. She, this time, was not waiting in agitation, but in excitement. And she no longer wore the locket around her neck. Lavender did. She watched through Miss Macintosh’s (I should say Mrs. Macintosh’s) announcement about upcoming events, and some kids’ singing. Then it was Lavender’s turn to perform. Chorus’s little sister looked down in the direction of the floor. Only she and Chorus could see the thing she was really looking at. The locket. Then Lavender smiled and began to sing in nearly the same quality as Chorus had three years previously. The locket had said the same thing that was said to Chorus before. Believe.

The Locket Elia Smith

Elia Smith, 9
Santa Monica, California

The Locket Ester Luna

Ester Luna, 11
Washington, DC

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