The Golden Locket
The Golden Locket
By: Jee Soo Cho
My morning began with a knock on my apartment door. I stumbled out of my bed lazily and slowly walked towards the front door. When I got to the door I paused for a few seconds, hoping whoever is on the other side would just leave.
“Knock, knock, knock.”
I sighed and cracked the door open slightly to take a peek of who it was.
“Thomas! Good Morn’!” It was my neighbor, Mr. Harris.
The skinny old man gave a bright smile through the crack of my door. Ever since the first day I moved to this apartment two years ago, Mr. Harris was always in a cheerful mood. I have never seen this fragile man frown or cry. He would always climb four flights of stairs just to say hello to every resident in this building. Sometimes he would share food he made, saying he made too much.
I opened the door all the way and invited him inside.
“Not today Thomas,” Mr. Harris said quietly. “I actually want to invite you to my house for a change.”
I turned to look at my clock. It was 10:26 A.M. I wanted to pass up the offer and rest a little longer, but Mr. Harris gave off an innocent smile that made me feel uneasy. My mind finally gave in and I told him to give me ten minutes to get ready. The old man chuckled, “Don’t be late!” Then he went to his room.
I took my time getting dressed. I was in no hurry. I didn’t bother bringing breakfast to his room. Mr. Harris always had something for his guests. By the time I got to his door I checked the time. It had taken me thirty minutes.
I knocked on his door and slipped my hand in my pocket quickly to warm up. Today was very chilly. I regretted accepting Mr. Harris’s offer. I could have just spent the morning drinking my coffee and watching television. I turned to head back to my room. I would apologize later saying I had things come up last minute.
The door opened.
“Sorry bout’ that!” Mr. Harris boomed. “Had to set up the game, you see.”
I gave an awkward look just before going inside. Not even three steps into the room and I could feel something was wrong. The whole room was empty except for two chairs and a wooden table. On the table lay a game of chess.
“Are you moving? Mr. Harris?” I asked.
Mr. Harris sat on the chair and signaled me to take a seat. “Actually, I’m planning to go see my wife and my daughter tonight.”
I took a seat, and shortly after, Mr. Harris moved one of his white pawns. I moved my chess piece and the game went on for couple turns before I asked, “I never knew you had a child or wife. Where do they live?”
Mr. Harris laughed, “A better place than where I am!”
“So how long are you visiting them?” I moved a chess piece.
Mr. Harris pretended he didn’t hear. He was focusing on the game, but I knew something was bothering him. He kept making mistakes during the game. This wasn’t the professional chess player I knew. Mr. Harris then pulled out his golden locket he always wore. He opened the small accessory and gazed at it. I just stared. I felt really out of place.
“Such a beautiful child… I can’t believe it’s been so long since she last looked like this. My daughter is so beautiful and so innocent.” I was hoping Mr. Harris would show me the locket, but he closed it and put it back in his shirt.
“You know,” Mr. Harris said looking down at the chess board, “sometimes you have to lose some to gain more. I always believed that, but recently I realized I was a fool to think that.”
I didn’t know what to say. It was all random. All I could do was look at Mr. Harris while his eyes slowly began to tear up. I knew I should say something comforting, but my mind was absolutely blank. Maybe because the happiest man I ever knew was sitting in front of me crying. For the first time, I felt completely helpless.
“My wife left me because of my mistakes. She was such a beautiful woman who took care of me and always made me smile more than I do now.” Mr. Harris continued to cry as he moved his knight.
“But soon…” the old man said nervously, “Soon… I will see them. When I do, I will ask for forgiveness. If she doesn’t want to accept my apology, then it’s fine. All I want is to see my daughter.”
Mr. Harris stood up. “Oh darn… I’m so sorry. You must be hungry ain’t ya? Here, lemme get you some food.” He walked over to the kitchen. I sat for what seemed like hours before he came back with a couple of sandwiches and a cup of coffee.
“Sorry bout’ that. I don’t have much food left, but thank you for coming down here to play a game of chess with this old man!” He was back to his old happy self, but I can still feel the heavy atmosphere around me.
During the game, Mr. Harris told me how he used to be in the U.S. Army where he met the love of his life. Got married and lived a content life for a while. He also mentioned that his golden locket was his first present he ever got from his wife, and cherished it ever since. I asked if I can see the picture of his wife and child.
“I can’t do that, Thomas. It’s only for me to look at you see.” Mr. Harris pulled out his locket once more and looked at the photo of his wife and child.
I took a bite out of the sandwich. It was the only thing I could do. I was always horrible when it came to comforting people. I never cared for other people’s business or their life story. I just wanted to live a normal life working and earning money to pay for college.
Looking at Mr. Harris cry, I couldn’t feel any emotion. I didn’t understand why he brought me to his room just to play chess so early in the morning, and out of all the residents in this apartment, why me? He and I barely knew each other. A sixty year old man and a twenty-three year old student, to me I couldn’t see any correlation.
We finished our game of chess and Mr. Harris told me to always cherish the person I cared the most. I simply replied with, “I will, don’t worry Mr. Harris.” The old man grinned but faintly. I climbed the stairs back to my room. I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the old man. Out of pity I decided to make him lunch for a change. Maybe he will feel better, I thought.
By late afternoon I headed downstairs with homemade brownies. Hopefully Mr. Harris was still home. I knocked on his door, but there was no answer. I knocked several times but there was still no answer. When I tried for his doorknob, the door opened. I guess he went out for a quick walk.
“Mr. Harris? Are you home? You left your door open.” There was no answer. I walked in to his living room to place the brownies on the table.
My heart dropped. On the floor next to the table lay a man bleeding.
It was Mr. Harris.
I dropped the brownies and rushed to the old man. I shook him and asked if he was alright, but to no avail, Mr. Harris was still. He was dead. He cut his wrist with the knife that sat right next to him. On his left hand, he was holding his golden locket. The locket was opened. I took the locket and looked at it. On the left side was a picture of his wife when she was young. On the right side, there was no picture, only a word engraved, “daughter”.
I placed the locket back and stood to get help, but on the table there was a white note. I picked up the note and opened to see its content. My tears began to drop.
“Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary my wife was killed. It’s my fault. She lives in a better place now. If I had controlled my anger, my pregnant wife would still be alive. I am sorry Elizabeth. I am sorry Lily. Maybe it’s time I get to see you both. Who knows? Maybe Lily will recognize me as her father! I hope you both can forgive me. I, William Harris, vow to be the best husband and father in heaven.”