The Pendant

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I pick it up, stare at it and try. To forget what I had lost. To let go. It wasn't easy but I knew I could not hold onto something that wasn't there anymore. It all began a long time back. A time when life was much simpler.
It was 24th December. Christmas eve for many but for me it was special because it was Preeti's birthday.
You don't know how unfortunate you are that you never met her. She was so full of life that it was enough compensation for my lack of enthusiasm. She made me realise that there's more to life than studies, games, food, girls and movies. She taught me that looking at stars in the night can be as interesting as Star Wars. She taught me that lying on the grass silently could be better than playing football. She taught me that visiting an old age home could be much more fun than going to a mall. However, most importantly she taught me that anything could be great as long as she was with me. I loved her and I wasn't afraid to admit it. Fortunately, she loved me too and she wasn't afraid to admit it either. There is so much you don't know about her but maybe it's better this way.
Any way, it was her birthday and I had, after months of careful and hard work, made a pendant for her. She loved handmade stuff and I knew that the pendant with its imperfections was what she would love. She didn't like things which were perfect because that meant that they hadn't been through anything. “Without a few scars, you couldn't be anything but dull.” she often said. It was our last year in school and I wanted her to cherish every moment of it.
I had finished the pendant on the 20th but I couldn't stop myself from tweaking it here and there until the last day. That's when it happened. I came back from school and I was excited because I'd be going to her place at midnight to surprise her. I went into my room, opened my cupboard and took out the wooden box my grandma had given me. It was an antique mahogany box with 2 butterflies carved onto it and smelled of grass. It was more beautiful than I can ever put in words and with its chipped end, I knew Preeti would love it to bits. I kept it on my table and opened my drawer to put the pendant in the box. Surprisingly, the pendant wasn't there. I looked in the other drawers but it wasn't there either. I checked my cupboard, under the bed and in my school bag. Within half an hour I was panicking like a crazed human who had lost his last supply of oxygen in space. I couldn't remember where I'd put it. I heard my brother watching TV in his room.
"Rajat, have you seen a pendant?" I asked hoping that maybe he had hidden it somewhere and would return it to me now.
"The what?” he gave me a bewildered look.
"A pendant. It was this small, it had a bluish stone in the center. Have you seen it?"
"You mean the rattler?"
"The what?" This ten year old was getting on my nerves but he seemed to have some idea.
"The rattler. It rattles." and with that he ran out and returned holding a vase in his hand. It was a yellow vase with coloured glass on it and had a narrow opening.
"This is a vase, not a pendant you doofus." but that's when it hit me. The pendant was inside. I snatched it from his hand and shook it. It rattled. I looked inside but it was too dark to see anything. "You dropped the pendant into the vase? ARE YOU CRAZY?" I shouted at him but I knew it wasn't his fault. He was a kid, it was me who had kept the pendant lying around.
"I'm sorry. I thought it would come out but it isn't." he pleaded but I didn't want to believe him. I spent 2 hours trying to get the pendant out but by 10 o'clock I had given up hope. I would have to break the vase but I couldn't break the last thing my mother had given to me before she died. I just couldn't. There were tears in my eyes when I realised the entirety of the situation. I felt suffocated, I couldn't breathe well, I thought I was going to pass out.
Then I had the best idea I'd ever had. I loved Preeti. I loved my mother. What better way to let Preeti know how much she meant to me than to give her the vase? I trusted her and I knew she would care for it as much as I did. I placed the vase in the box, grabbed my keys and was on my way to Preeti's.
"Arijit, you'll do well." I heard a strange whisper and turned round but there was no one in my room. As much as I hate to admit it, the voice sounded strangely like my mother's. Maybe I'd heard nothing but it didn't matter. I wanted to know that my mom was with me on this one just like she had been with me all my life.
That night I gave Preeti her gift and explained to her what had happened. She smiled at me, held my hand and kissed me for a fleeting moment. "It's a shame that you'll never be able to see what I really made for you." I told her regretfully. I was sad. "Hey, some things should stay a surprise. Don't worry, I'm sure it couldn't have been as beautiful as me." I chuckled and even though I knew she would never be able to see it, her happiness made my day. That night as she lay in my arms I knew without a doubt that she was the one I wanted to grow old with.
Five years later, we got married. We bought a house in the suburbs of Kolkata. Pretty soon we had 2 kids and life was great. Life went on and the vase stayed in the corner of our living room, not remembered but not forgotten either.
It's been almost 70 years since I gave her that gift. Today is the day I lost the gift I had received from life. Everyone thinks that she's gone to a better place now but the best place was where we were together. I can't believe it's happened but I’m alive without Preeti. I walk over to the vase with tears in my eyes. I've lost the one who's been with me through everything. I know she'd want me to be happy. I pick up the vase and rattle it for old times' sake but I can't believe what just happened. I rattle it again and again and again. For the first time in ages there's no sound inside. I glance at Preeti lying there in serenity, smile to myself and leave. My work here is done.