A Scent of Jasmine
by Beverly Ann Meyers
My sister Janine had just celebrated her 25th birthday — a major milestone for young adults in our town — with the usual pomp and circumstance. When one reached one-quarter century, custom allowed that person to “leave the nest” and live on their own. Several days later, Janine disappeared without a trace.
That year changed my life forever. The emptiness she left behind within our family never completely healed. We never received any word from her or even knew what actually happened. Her body was never found. She was just gone.
Janine was three years older than I and was the beauty of the family. She wore the scent of jasmine, her favorite fragrance, much like a gentle waft of flowers signaling her presence wherever she went.
Blessed with blue-black curls which framed a flawless oval face and violet eyes along with full, sensuous lips, she had a smile with a haunting expression of mirth concealing a secret she never let anyone know. Not even me, her dear, dear sister, whom she always teased with abandon, and I clandestinely enjoyed it, though outwardly, I endured utter agony.
Janine was born with the gracefulness of a dancer, and that was exactly what she aspired to become. Grace was something I always strived for but could never attain. Poor me. I was the family klutz. Even though she was aware of my artistic limitations, Janine would lovingly encourage me to attempt some of her more simple moves.
However, the one time I attempted to imitate Janine’s ballet routine when she was practicing for her dance recital only landed my grande jetée into the dining room breakfront while irreparably splitting my best pair of black pants. Dance contest over. So, at age thirteen, I knew a ballet dancer I was destined never to be.
Three years after Janine’s disappearance, I made the decision to enter the attic in order to gather some things I thought I would like to have before leaving my parents’ home to begin life on my own.
I was twenty-five, the same age as Janine when she had disappeared. I felt as though I were an unwelcome visitor invading the past. With much trepidation, I entered the cloistered place where some of her clothes were still kept.
Mom always held on to certain “necessary” items of clothing “just in case” Janine ever returned. Of course, she never did. While looking around, I came across a heavy woolen coat that Janine had purchased the Christmas before she disappeared. Protected within a clear plastic bag, it was navy blue with huge brass buttons.
She never had the chance to wear it; the coat’s tags were still there. That winter had been especially warm, and she had intended to save the coat to wear for the really cold days that never came. The coat became a permanent resident of the attic along with the other “necessities”, such as Janine’s fine leather boots, gloves, and her bright green prom gown. Why Mom decided to keep that prom gown is still a mystery to me.
I carefully unzipped the plastic bag and placed it on the window seat. I slipped the coat from its perch on the coat rack and put its hanger on top of the plastic. I looked around the dusty attic and carefully pulled Janine’s coat on.
First one sleeve, wrapped the coat’s warmth around me then placed my hand, ever so gently, into the other sleeve. I was amazed how wonderful the coat felt next to my skin. The lining was soft, feeling more like a caress.
I walked over to the standing mirror and peered into it just to see how the coat looked on me. It fit me perfectly as if it were tailor-made. The familiar scent of jasmine momentarily filled the air. I abruptly turned around because something caught my eye in the mirror.
I couldn’t tell what it was. Was it the flutter of the curtains against the window caused by some mysterious breeze within the house? Or could it have been Janine rushing past me? I’ll never really know for certain. All I do know is that for one brief, precious moment, I had my sister back with me. I have worn the coat for the past twenty-five years.
Copyright © 2009 by Beverly Ann Meyers