By J. M. Jackson
(Part 3 of 3 -- here's Part 1 and Part 2
“That’s what I was doing, Aunt Jody, when Mommy yelled at me.”
She holds my high school yearbook in front of me, opened to the center. At Jessica’s age, I discovered people’s names sometimes shimmered when I read them. I found out no one else saw what I saw, and I learned to keep quiet about my gift.
I first understood the gift's meaning in high school. Names of people glimmer if they are going to die within the year. I can’t explain the phenomenon, but it has remained an accurate predictor of death.
Once I broke my silence and shared the truth with my best friend--about her name. The knowledge drove her to suicide. I never made that mistake again.
Jessica thinks it’s a fine game to get my yearbook so I can look at the picture of our high school class. She doesn’t know I scan the names next to the picture for the shimmering that presages death, hoping to see my name shine.
Jessica, as always, asks, “Which one is you?” Continuing the fun, she giggles and points, “It’s this one. Right?”
I smile at the dance steps of our game. At first, I was relieved my death was not near. Now I’m so tired and so pained I hope to see my name. Today is like the others: not the least twinkling. Nothing.
She stares at me with Anderson eyes, “What are you looking for, Aunt Jody?”
Jessica has never asked before, but I had decided some time ago I would answer with the truth--or at least part of it.
“Sometimes I see words come alive, kind of like they have twinkling lights with glowing colors. Other people can’t see it. It’s a special gift I have.”
She looks carefully at the yearbook.
“I can see them too, Aunt Jody.”
An unbidden spasm runs through me. Surely, she is just trying to make me feel better. She’s such a sweet child. She must have discerned my look of disbelief.
“Really, I do. There’s one,” she says pointing. “And there’s another.”
I follow her finger to the two names that stand out. Throughout my life, I’ve mostly cursed my gift. After my best friend died, I forswore having children in case it was hereditary. But here is my niece, sharing sight I thought only I had. Jessica is still talking and I break out of my contemplation.
“What did you say, Jessica?”
“I said, your name shines too, Aunt Jody.”
“Yep. It’s been that way for a long time. I thought maybe it was because it was your book, that’s why your name stuck out like that--they used special ink or something. I thought the others were a boo-boo. Did I get it right?” She twirls around the room in delight at her guess.
“Oh honey, come give your Aunt Jody a big hug. You’ve given me three wonderful gifts today. I’m always glad to see you; I love the socks; and thank you for telling me about my name.”
I change my voice into our conspiratorial whisper. “Now remember, almost no one else can see this shimmering, so it’s best if we keep it our little secret and not tell other people. Not even your mother.”
“Sure. I like sharing secrets with you. Mommy’s coming.”
I listen and hear the metronome too.
Jessica takes the yearbook and replaces it under my bed.
“All set, Jessica? Make sure to bundle up. It’s cold out, and I don’t want you catching the flu. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks, Jody. Merry Christmas.”
They’re out the door, Jessica reprising her Glorias. My face hurts from my idiot grin as I wonder at my hubris in thinking I could foresee my own death. Unlike my cursed precognition, Jessica has unknowingly brought joy with her sight. I’m ready to embrace whatever comes next.
In my mind I join in singing Jessica’s retreating song. Gloria in excelsis deo.THE END
(The story originally appeared in the anthology, Not From Around Here, Are You?)