Jessie walked up the stairs of the old Victorian house, carrying the sticky chocolate cake her mother had made. Jessie had met Ms. Pushkin quite a few times, but always accompanied by her mother. Now that she was twelve, her mother had decided that it would be better if she went alone. She was only there, Jessie reminded herself, to deliver a Christmas cake for their elderly neighbor. Still, what if she wasn’t home or something went wrong? Reaching the door at last, Jessie gripped the brass doorknocker that was shaped in a lion’s head and knocked three times. She waited, no answer. She knocked again, still no answer. Jessie was about to consider leaving the cake on the steps when the door creaked open. There in the doorway stood a frail old lady in a silken nightgown and a pair of yellow slippers.
“Hello, Ms. Pushkin,” Jessie said tentatively.
“Who’s there?” she asked, rather confused.
“Ms. Pushkin, it’s me, Jessie, from next door.”
The old woman was silent for a minute, and then, as though she had just remembered who Jessie was, she said, “Oh, Jessie, come in, come in.” Jessie entered the house, remembering her mother telling her it was the polite thing to do. Ms. Pushkin led her into a cozy sitting room with a roaring fire.
“Come, sit down,” Ms. Pushkin pointed at the empty armchair. Jessie sat down and then, remembering why she was there, she said, “Merry Christmas, Ms. Pushkin, I have a cake for you.” Jessie held out the cake, which was in a pink cardboard box.
“Oh thank you, dear, do me a favor, just put it in the kitchen,” she waved a hand toward a small doorway. Jessie got up and, doing as the old woman had said, she entered the small kitchen and set the cake down on the green tiled counter. Returning to the sitting room, Jessie sat back down in the armchair. It was then that she noticed them. Sitting on the large mantle over the fireplace were seven or eight intricately designed snow globes. They were all different sizes and looked as though they would have been rather expensive. Ms. Pushkin sipped a cup of tea that had been sitting on a large glass coffee table. The two were silent, just taking in each other’s presence.
“You like my snow globe collection?” Ms. Pushkin asked Jessie, who was still gazing at them.
“Yes ma’am, they’re very beautiful,” Jessie answered as she finally tore her gaze from them.
“That first one on the right, yes that one, that was given to me on my seventh birthday,” Ms. Pushkin said. “And to think that I still have it.” The old woman gave a snicker. “Now that second one I was given as a present for joining the circus.”
“You were in the circus?” Jessie blurted out before she could stop herself.
“Oh yes, I lived in Russia my entire childhood, you see,” Ms. Pushkin went on. “Moscow to be more exact. I had it all, the big tents and the face make-up that takes forever to get off. I was a juggler for my group. On stage I would juggle anything from potatoes to flaming torches of fire. It was the time of my life!” As Jessie listened to the woman’s story, she could see a gleam in her eye. “But,” she said solemnly, “all good times must come to an end..../more