My Name is Jane
written by Christine Unger
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|Tension in my head began to mount, eyes twitched, the precursors of a migraine if I didn’t get to some water and a triple dose of advil. I swung my legs over the side of the bed. July and the floor was cold. I know this is a mountain town but still, I briefly missed New Jersey as I pulled on my crocs.
My thoughts cleared, like a gauze pulled off of drying sore. Of course I didn’t miss New Jersey. After-images of another nightmare, the one I had nearly every night, still fresh I squeezed my eyes shut, willing away the image of the red boat, honeymoon getaway, tossing on the ocean while D. swims pointlessly against the waves, losing ground with each crest, and finally sinking under the waves, eyes wide and accusing, “you didn’t come with me, you promised you’d always come along.”
You remember Y2K, the world was supposed to crash into chaos because all our computer information would be lost. Well, my world did crash. Since my marriage, my sensitive outgoing husband had gradually devolved into a depressed, suspicious, solitary person. I was certain it was clinical, but I couldn’t get him to look for help. I kept thinking, hoping it would pass. I stayed with him, trying to talk things through, changing our diet, sneaking aroma therapy oils under the lampshade and into my cleaning products. Friends tried to intervene, telling me to leave, but I loved him, I was afraid, without me he’d hurt himself. Then came Y2K. The idea obsessed him. He began spending nights in his office, consumed with internet reports, calculations, estimations. I came home 3 days before January 2000 to find our bathroom cleaned out, our camping gear, photographs, some of our clothes, gone. The note taped the kitchen fridge said “meet me at the dock, I’m leaving at 7pm with or without you, please come” I found my suitcase packed and ready behind the front door. I couldn’t do it. I felt the sting on my cheek from our last argument just a week earlier. He’d never hit me before, it was a new low, part of me didn’t care if he came back. It would be a relief I told myself. I was sure he’d head out for a bit and come back when he saw Y2K was a big nothing. And when he did, I promised myself, I’d finally give him an ultimatum, get help or leave for good! Y2K came and went with barely a flutter in the business world. My husband never returned. I called the cops, they called the coast guard. Months passed and then a year…
The boat, if only I’d gotten on that boat.
The red boat, it clicked, something was wrong with Jane’s red boat. I couldn’t quite nail down the thought. From experience I knew I couldn’t force it. I decided to follow my next lead instead. I reached for the card Angela had given me. 1001 Pots. Fortuneteller! really. this had to be good.
It didn’t take long to get there, turning into Val-David off the 117 it was right there. a genuine tourist trap.
I made my way curiously through the labyrinth of pottery stalls. I couldn’t believe I’d just paid to walk into what was nothing more than a market. I picked up a piece that caught my eye, its surface a delicate celadon imprinted with a single fern frond. Gorgeous. Pulling out my wallet I paid and then let my mind drift while the vendor wrapped it for me. I loved small things. I practically lived out of my car, but I kept a collection of small beautiful things with me.
Only then did I notice the fortune teller, not the crystal ball kind but Tarot cards and tea leaves. I didn’t exactly believe in Tarot but something about the process sometimes helped me connect the dots and I couldn’t do it for myself. I took the little celadon cup with a smile and walked to the fortune teller. There was something tremendously familiar about her. She played her role well, laying the cards out slowly, glancing up after each card was laid down, reading me.
“I see something very important to you is lost. you should stop looking,” there was a warning in her eyes. She turned over another card. It was upside down. I felt a chill despite my sweater. The joker looked up at me. Really, I didn’t think of myself as a fool, but the cards were seldom wrong. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t let this one go. I shook my head, NO. She leaned across the table. looking into my eyes. “You’ll need this” she said as she slipped a small box into my palm.
I left the stall, walking quickly to the privacy of my car. Inside I examined the box. It looked very old and was beautifully embossed with the image of a peacock. Inside, lay a key and folded beneath a layer of batting was a note with a single word on it. SISTERS.
Wow, this was beginning to feel like something out of The Maltese Falcon. What was the key for? SISTERS had to refer to the nuns. I had a lead and as luck would have it, they were already on my list of to-dos.