copyright 2002, by
These characters were created by Thomas
Harris. They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of
admiration and respect. No infringement of copyright is intended, and no
profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this
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“Is this the kind of thing you were thinking of?”
The woman studies the rough sketch the jeweler offers her. The setting is a simple bezel surrounding an oval stone that matches the width of the band. It is not elaborate, but will be striking with the fiery emerald.
“It’s lovely,” the woman says. “When it’s done, I’d like it engraved....”
She sits in her kitchen, staring at the small package on the table in front of her. She understands what it means without having to open it.
Time passes, though she could not say whether it has been minutes or hours.
She reaches for it, finally, holding it away from her and turning it over in her hands. She returns it to its place on the table and stands.
Words are forced from her throat in a barely audible whisper as she stares down at it.
“Goddam you, Starling.”
She pulls her gaze away from the tiny brown square and leaves the kitchen.
The phone is on her desk in the living room. They’ll want to see it, even though it will tell them nothing of any significance. She picks up the receiver and begins to dial...
Nothing? No, it will tell them everything... confirm their vilest suspicions.
She slams the phone back into its cradle, screaming her frustration to the empty room.
She paces the floor, shaking with impotent rage. She stops, releases another scream, then stalks back to her kitchen.
She stands in the doorway, staring at the unwelcome message that waits for her. She will open it, she knows that now... might as well get it over with.
She moves to the table, and once again sits in front of the package. She takes a deep breath, then reaches out, her hand hesitating over its target. Her fingers close over the small box, and she unwraps the packaging with trembling hands.
It looks innocent enough... a simple white box sitting there with a piece of plain brown wrapping paper. Looks can be deceiving.
She reaches out to lift off the lid, hesitates again, picks it up and sets it aside. Only then does she move the box closer to her. She peers into it.
A note... not even a proper letter, but a note.
What does it matter? What could a letter hold to make this any less horrible?
She picks up the heavy note card without bothering to look underneath it. She recognizes the handwriting. She forces herself to focus on the words...
I’m fine and better than fine. Don’t look for me.
I love you. I’m sorry I scared you. Burn this.
Her friend is gone. She has heard from Clarice for the very last time.
A single tear escapes and rolls quietly along her cheek. She clenches her jaw, determined to hold the rest in check. She carefully places the note card on the table and returns her attention to the box.
The ring is nestled in cotton. It glints up at her, and she gasps.
She takes it between two fingers and lifts it up. It’s beautiful, and she loathes it immediately. She turns it this way and that, and then notices the inscription... AM-CS.
She clutches her hand into a fist, trapping the ring in her grip, and pushes back from the table. She is unsure what she means to do, only knows that it can’t stay in this house. Eyes stinging with unshed tears, left hand still a tight ball, she begins to collect her coat and car keys. She gets as far as the front door and stops.
She looks around her, lost for a moment, and then she knows... the river. She’ll take the thing to the river, throw it in the water where Starling used to run. It’s the only way she knows to do the one thing she most desperately wants right now - throw this gift back in her friend’s face.
She throws the door open and rushes through it, slamming it hard behind her.
copyright 2002, by
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