‘Rub it between your teeth. Gently!’
‘It feels grainy.’
‘That’s how you know it’s a real pearl.’ Tom said.
Jenny smiled. It was her only valuable possession. Her apartment was furnished with hand-me-downs and cheap knockoffs, making it a hodgepodge of non-décor in the spotless apartment.
Tom hugged her, she was amazing and he wished he could give her everything his heart desired for her. Christmas was next week and he had almost enough savings to get her a delicate silver chain for her pearl.
Jenny smiled at the man she adored. He was her first and only love. They didn’t have much more than each other and neither had great prospects. They worked at the local abattoir which is where they met. It took Tom months to ask her out he was so shy, but once he had, she decided that waiting wasn’t an option. At 29 she was the oldest virgin she knew! But they remedied that situation.
They wouldn’t live together until they married and they were saving for that too. Their first Christmas would be special together and they had everything planned. Until fate interfered.
Tom’s job was to ensure that the abattoir was cleaned in accordance to the law and he did his job well. A week before Christmas he was checking the drain system, if it clogged up they would be in trouble and have to close the factory until it was cleared. He slipped, cracking his elbow on the cement floor. That night a pale and sore Tom ate using one hand and feeling sad. He had to pay for the x-rays, bandaging and pills, his savings were gone. He wouldn’t have enough money for the necklace and felt horrible.
‘Why so sad? Are you in pain?’ Jenny was concerned.
‘A little.’ She lovingly took his hand hoping to comfort.
‘Oh no! You’ve ripped the strap on your grandfather’s watch.’ Tom was horrified, he loved his watch. It was decades old and inlaid with ivory and pure silver. Taking it off his eyes filled with tears as he checked the damage. Jenny felt horrible for him and hugged him tight.
Christmas morning was crisp and chilly. Jenny couldn’t wait for Tom to get there. The roast [compliments of the abattoir – each staff member got one] was on, buttered green beans and potato was simmering. There wasn’t much left for dessert so she baked a bread and butter pudding. It was an excellent way to use up the stale bread. But it was the present under the tree that excited her.
Tom was early and stamped his feet to get rid of the rain, but even the weather couldn’t get them down. Her flushed face showed her excitement and Tom’s heart filled with love for his woman.
‘Come and open your present.’ She bubbled over with excitement. It was the only one under her decorated shrub and she didn’t care, she was so happy.
‘I have something for you too.’ Her eyes shone.
‘Open yours first Tom.’
‘No you first!’
‘Let’s open them together.’ The sound of ripping paper and Jenny’s giggles warmed his heart and he wished the moment wouldn’t end. Ever.
‘It’s beautiful.’ She whispered. The delicate silver chain poured softly through her fingers.
Tom went quiet.
‘Do you like it? It’s a new strap for your watch. Put it on, it’s quite easy they showed me in the shop…’ Something about Tom’s face worried her.
‘What is it?’ she held her breath. Tom looked down. ‘I…I don’t have the watch anymore.’
‘WHAT? Where is it?’
‘I sold it to buy your chain. Now you can wear your pearl.’ Jenny went quiet.
‘You shouldn’t have done that. Your grandfather…’
‘Would have understood.’ He interrupted her. ‘Go and get your pearl, I can’t wait to see how lovely it looks on you.’
Jenny burst in tears.
‘No don’t worry Jen’ he snuggled her in his arms. ‘I wanted to. You are more important to me than anything in the world, I want to see you happy. Please get the pearl and let’s put it on.’
‘I can’t’ she sobbed. ‘I sold it to buy your watch strap.’
It was a tough Christmas.