Heart of Truth
by Thomas Willits
Finally, his eyes caught a faint glimmer of something deep inside. He was now on his knees practically holding the briefcase in his arms. He could see deep through the sofa as if it wasn’t even there — past the floor and the basement too. It went on forever. Eternal. It scared the hell out of him and fascinated him at the same time.
Suddenly the glimmer intensified as if a new star had been born and was suddenly coming into view after light years of travel. The sparkle reflected off Todd’s eyes and he was beginning to wonder if this was all a dream.
The light spiraled upward like something floating to the surface of a pool, gradually growing larger, taking shape. He had to know what it was like knowing there was no bottom to the case, he had to see it, understand it, know that he wasn’t going mad.
His right hand unhinged from the side of the case and moved to the center. He was terrified now, more than ever. He knew Frank was probably finishing up and turning the door knob right about now but he had to know what it was. Whatever it was, it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid eyes upon.
Finally his hand entered the case, trembling terribly. He had no idea what would happen when his hand went in there. Maybe it wouldn’t even come out. His hand stopped momentarily, as if contemplating a last second brush with reality, but all doubts and fears were swept aside as his curiosity and whatever power that had enveloped him had now completely taken over.
He pushed it into the void where the bottom should be but wasn’t.
Time seemed to flex in all directions. He didn’t understand how, but it felt like he was sixty years old and for a second, if he could call it a second, it felt like he was five. He had the impression that he was everywhere. Limitless, without boundaries. Omnipresent.
His hand moved deeper until it was elbow deep. He felt strange, almost like he knew what he was doing and had done this before. But he had no idea what was coming next. His hand was at least two feet in but it felt like a hundred, or a thousand. It was odd having his hand go through the couch like that. Ordinarily, he’d be touching the floor. But there was no end to it.
The bluish light that was getting closer finally took shape and Todd’s eyes widened. His hand felt the structure and wrapped around it delicately. It felt cool and pleasant. It felt right.
He tightened his grip on it and when he understood it was time to pull his hand out of it, he strangely didn’t want to. It was perfect in there. Harmonious. He thought if he could just keep it in a bit longer everything would be right with the universe. There was some sadness when he knew it was time to remove his hand and he at last did, reluctantly.
His hand left the void and suddenly Todd was back to reality or whatever that had just happened was over. The feeling he had when his hand and arm had entered was gone, replaced by his normal perception of life.
He looked into the void once more to see if it was still there.
It was. But there was no bluish light sparkling from within. It had gone dark. He could still see past the sofa and deep within. He tried to judge how far it was but he just couldn’t measure it with any certainty. How far did it go? To where?
Did I just stick my hand in there?
Then he noticed what was wrapped in his hand.
Nestled in his palm was a blue-stoned pendant laced with a diamond-studded necklace. The pendant was surrounded with diamonds and set in white gold. He’d seen this before but he couldn’t remember where.
For a second he had a flash of whatever it was that had happened when his hand had entered the void and then just as quickly it was gone. He’d definitely seen it before. The blue diamond stone was gorgeous, cut perfectly into a heart.
He found his way back to the couch and collapsed onto it, his eyes never leaving the necklace. He’d never seen something more magnificent. He wasn’t a jewelry expert but he knew it had to be expensive.
The stone seemed as big as the Hope, perhaps it could have been a knockoff, a custom-made sapphire with Cubic Zirconia. But the angles, and color, the hue, the depth, the weight and the light from within, all seemed perfect. There were no impurities.
Todd had completely forgot about Frank. And Frank was standing directly over him.
“I see you found it!” he went on, his arms raised wide open at the entire display of jewelry over the table. “I thought I’d lost it. I knew I had it in here somewhere.”
Todd hadn’t even heard the door open. “Uh,” Todd stammered. “Yeah, is this the one? I guess I did.”
Frank returned to his seat setting the briefcase in his lap once more. “Well?” he asked. “Be honest. Tell me what you think.”
“It’s...” Todd started.
“A perfect fit?”
Todd nodded. “It’s absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.”
Frank’s eyebrow raised, “Oh? You don’t recognize it? Surely you do.”
Todd studied it closely trying to remember, but the memory just wasn’t there. He shook his head, “No, I’m afraid I don’t. Seems like I should though. Strange. Like another lifetime or something.”
“Yes, it was a while ago I guess. 1997 to be exact.”
Todd shook his head wondering what Frank was going on about. “I don’t understand.”
“Le Coeur de la Mer?”
Todd’s stare was blank. He really had no idea although he thought he should. “The Heart of the Ocean? Kate Winslet... Titanic?” Todd felt embarrassed and laughed.
“Of course! It was right under my nose. Seems strange that I didn’t recognize it. But that was a fictional necklace right?”
“Yes. There was no real necklace called, ‘The Heart of the Ocean’. Just for the movie.”
“Then it’s a replica of the one in the film?”
“Oh, I think you’ll find it real enough. It’s hard to put into words the value of a priceless work of art. When it finally ends up in the right hands I believe it makes perfect sense.”
“I don’t think I could afford it.”
Frank shook his head wildly, “Nonsense! It’s a perfect fit! I’ve seen the photo up there, trust me, I know these things.”
“Yes, I’m sure you do.”
“Tell you what, Todd,” Frank suggested. “You take the necklace, think about what I’ve said. You don’t have to decide today. Your anniversary’s not until next week. If you find something better I’d be happy to take it back, but I have this little feeling in my stomach you’re going to be pleased with it. And like I said, I’ll give you twenty-five percent off.”
“But we found the necklace.”
“You found it. That’s the important part. Like I said, it will suit her well. She deserves it. You’ll see. That necklace is on sale anyway, so don’t worry. I’ve been toting it around in here for years.”
He tapped his briefcase, then began folding things up and replacing them. Todd wondered what was keeping the stuff from falling into oblivion, but his eyes couldn’t leave the necklace. It really was the Heart of the Ocean, the same one that Rose had tossed into the Atlantic.
The way it had floated to the bottom, into the cold depths of the sea, reminded him of the way it had appeared from the void in the briefcase. The blue diamond with surrounding white stones and white gold metal was truly magnificent.
He wanted to ask if the stones were real. A diamond this size would be... well what would the Hope be worth? Because it was probably that big and pure. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. It didn’t seem necessary. It was a match, as Frank had said.
Todd considered that: a match. Todd believed he and Amy were certainly a match despite some recent doubts he couldn’t shake loose. Was that a crime? Why this very morning he had thought about her.
The other Amy. Amy... Garrett or Garrison or something like that. Last names were hard to remember after fifteen years.
He could remember her now, more than before. Lots more. But it didn’t seem important. He could remember when he told her he was staying with his wife and wouldn’t leave her. He told her part of it was for their coming child, but part of it had been something else, something that made him steadfast.
He had seen past their small fling, beyond that year when she got to know him and loved him as much as the Amy that was having his child. Todd had seen another life there too. It was in that moment, back when he had his hand in the briefcase, he’d seen his life with Amy Garrett. In this life he had left Amy and his child and gone off with her instead. He had a new family and children and it was good too.
At least for a time...
something wasn’t right about it. He tried to remember. Looking into the blue stone helped so he stared deep within. It was like looking into the ocean of that briefcase, the timeless void.
It wasn’t a match.
It wasn’t perfect.
It wasn’t... Eternal.
No, it had done something his relationship hadn’t done with his Amy now. It had ended, ended with a capital D. They had split five years later with two young children. They had gone on together for years before realizing their mistake and finally made the right choice to undo the damage the only way possible.
But that hadn’t happened? Had it?
Todd didn’t think so, unless time had somehow drifted into another reality. It seemed anything might be possible after the thing with the briefcase, which Todd discovered Frank nearly had everything back inside now. Frank hesitated a moment trying to decide if there might be any other items to return to the case.
“So do I need to return the necklace?” Frank asked him. “Or would you like to hang on to it for awhile?”
Todd looked at Frank momentarily and then back to the necklace wrapped in his hand. Everything made perfect sense now. It was so utterly clear to him he couldn’t understand why he had been so skeptical of his life-changing decision fifteen years ago.
Frank took a cucumber and slipped it into the dip. He stuck the entire thing in his mouth. Todd watched him, still rattled by the present events.
“That’s terrific!” He declared. “Don’t change your dip one bit.”
Todd smiled. “Thanks. Amy makes the stuff. I steer clear of it and just let her work, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do.”
He closed the briefcase and Todd was already beginning to forget about the void inside and the fact that it was not only bigger inside but exponentially grander on an entirely different scale. By the time Frank was on his feet he couldn’t even remember that he had stuck his hand into it. He knew something was odd about it though, like knowing the outcome of the games Frank had said he knew. A two-seed losing in the first round? Come on. Maybe a three, but a two is entirely uncommon.
“Yessir-eee!” Frank exclaimed. “A good day for the little guy! Just remember what I said, Todd. Love is like a scale; you have to keep it balanced. True, reciprocated love, never dies. Because it’s eternal.”
Todd rose from the sofa, the brilliant necklace encased in his palm. He noticed Frank had placed a small gift box on the table. It was sapphire blue, like the Heart of the Ocean, and a card was attached to the top. It appeared blank but Todd already knew what he would write there.
“Mr. Rosier — ” Todd started, not wanting him to leave just yet. It seemed like there was something he should ask him before he left — something that he didn’t understand, but now it didn’t seem so important. He remembered something with the briefcase, that it was odd in some way.
“Frank,” he corrected. “It’s just Frank.”
Todd didn’t know what to say. Whatever it had been was a lost memory now. It had started to leave him as soon as Frank shut the briefcase and now he had no idea what it had been. He extended his hand instead and Frank took it. It was warm and firm, very gentlemen like.
“Thank you,” Todd said. “For everything. I don’t know what to say.”
Frank waved it off like an after-the-whistle basket. He shook his head.
“You’ve already said enough. And you should know you got a magnificent deal on it. Should last a lifetime.”
Frank turned for the door and Todd saw him out. The pungent odor of Old Spice lingered in the doorway as he left. When he shut the door Todd went to the window where he had first spotted Frank on the porch with his tattered trench coat and red-striped tie and small black briefcase.
It was a nice briefcase, Todd admitted. Maybe that was what he was going to ask Frank a moment ago: Where had he got the case? It was so small and manageable on the outside and yet so much room for items inside. A gentlemen’s briefcase.
But Frank was already disappearing down the street and the game was starting the second half. He had this crazy idea it was going to be a very unusual tournament; low seeds going down early. A good week for the little guys. He closed the curtain and returned to the table, placing the necklace in the gift box. He picked up the card and began writing his inscription for Amy.
Todd decided to give her the necklace at dinner. He placed the box on the table when she had gone to the restroom and when she returned it was there waiting before her. She picked it up gently with an anxious smile.
“What is this?” She asked surprised. “We usually don’t do this. I mean, sometimes we do, but it’s been so long.”
“Something I picked up last week. I hope you like it.”
She cradled the box in both hands and went to Todd giving him a slow, sensual kiss.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s wonderful. I know you don’t know much about jewelry. A woman can tell these things, you know. You know I don’t expect anything from you, unless of course you want to.”
He flashed a tender smile, waiting for her to read the card.
She thumbed it open and read:
my Eternal Love,
my Eternal Truth
my Heart of the Ocean
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” she cried, stopping short of opening it to give Todd another kiss and hug. “Where did you come up with this?”
He shrugged, “It just sort of came to me.”
“Well, it’s beautiful.”
She set the card down on the table and removed the lid from the box. Her eyes peered down deep into the Heart of the Ocean, for it truly was eternal.
Todd thought about what Frank had said. What is love without it? True, reciprocated love, the kind that never dies.
What is love?
Eternal Truth, my friend. Eternal Truth.
Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Willits