a surprise visit

this is for you, tati…

afternoon light poured weakly through the large kitchen windows — divided by the slats of the mini-blinds that hung there — and patterned itself in dull bands across the table where tatiana had been absently perusing a clothing catalogue. she slowly looked up and out the window to her right toward the imposing wall of grey apartments that jutted skyward and merged with the mostly grey sky.

the last week had been as lackluster as the ashen, foggy sky. although her life in the bay was accustomed to flat, colorless days, the last five since her grandfather’s death were especially drab. the fervor of life had become stale — had become an empty room from which all the guests of a lively party departed and the dim echoes of their voices and laughter hung about like cobwebs — and all the luxuriance of summer drained into the crisp, earthy chill of autumn.

“thank you, grampo, you didn’t have to.” i was too old by then, older than the cousins. christmas is for children and i was becoming a young lady then, too old for presents. he pulled the sterling chain from his pocket…

the phone ringing startled her out of her reverie.

“hi, gramma. you doing ok?”

“oh, sweetie, it’s hard,” was the reply.

they talked solemnly, finding comfort in the sadness of each other’s voices. eventually, they touched on happier memories and were grateful for the feelings they evoked.

he pulled the sterling chain

“one christmas,” tatiana began bravely despite the overwhelming mixture of sorrow and joy that was forming a lump in her throat, “grampo gave me something.” the lump burst and she began sobbing.

“oh, what was it, sweetie?” gramma responded.

“we were at your house for christmas and everyone was in the den and the kids were opening their gifts. i was a little older than the other cousins, so there wasn’t a gift for me. i guess the extended family figured i was too old to be satisfied with generic toys anymore.

“so i sat watching the children opening their presents. i felt a little strange not opening anything, but i understood why. grampo left the room for a few moments. when he came back, he walked straight to me with a sparkle in those blue-grey eyes of his and said, ‘this one’s for you, tati.’ he pulled a sterling silver chain with a hummingbird medallion from his shirt pocket. he didn’t want me to feel left out.”

tatiana sobbed loudly.

“his mother’s necklace,” gramma said warmly. “she just loved hummingbirds and when she passed, they became very special to him. every time he saw one, he’d say it was her coming to say hello.”

tatiana smiled as silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

“grampo loved you. i hope that necklace becomes special for you too. do you still have it?”

“yes.”

they traded a few more stories of the past in reverent tones before hanging up, each feeling relieved to dispel the emptiness for a while.

tatiana went out to her back patio to enjoy the rest of the afternoon before it went away. despite the grey sky, despite the gloom, she knew that behind the fog, the sun was out. and the sky was blue. there was peace in knowing that.

she heard a deep rustling behind her near a row of hedges. fearing it was a pest of some kind, she turned quickly, the blood in her body rising feverishly.

but there was no pest. just a tiny hummingbird hovering near, its wings nearly invisible as they beat 50 times a second. her heart fluttered just as many.

the delicate bird floated there a moment, staring at her from the small, black dot of its eye as it hung motionless on the air. then it flew on in its distinct, deliberate way, first to a nearby tree then higher toward the wall of grey apartments behind her that stretched up and up.

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