1st, 1974. 1:00 PM
Though I’m not quite sure how long the kiss lasted, I
can safely say (as is true with most kisses) it was over too soon. Unlike
the majority of kisses I’ve been party to, however, a bartender clearing his
throat broke up this particular one.
“Sorry to interrupt you there, Sammy,” Ryan
O’Donahue said, placing a steaming bowl on the bar. “But if you let it get
cold, it won’t be nearly as good.”
“So how did you find me?” I asked Sarah as
we both took a seat.
“Oh, that is a story in itself,” she
replied, turning her attention to the bowl. “That smells delicious, Ryan.
I haven’t had a good Irish stew in months, if not years. And I’m absolutely
I offered her the spoon and said, “Help
yourself.” After she tasted it, she took another spoonful, blew on it
lightly, and offered it to me. Granted, the image of two people sharing a
bowl of brown stew may not paint as romantic a picture as a couple of
starry-eyed teenagers sharing a vividly pink malted milkshake nose-to-nose
when they sipped from their respective straws, but I couldn’t have been
“Is it safe to assume, from the welcome you
just gave me that you accept my apology?” She said.
“For what?” I asked. Had my mind been
clearer, I might have remembered how she had allowed herself to be whisked
away by her father, with only a short, hastily typed note as a goodbye, and
how she didn’t write or phone during the ensuing years. But she was here
with me now, so none of that seemed to matter. I was still curious to learn
how she tracked me down, so I asked once more.
“I’ve been working for a private
collector,” she said. “A stodgy, old, obscenely wealthy curmudgeon who
craves treasures from cultures around the world yet has no desire to remove
his large derričre from behind his obscenely expensive desk. I’d spent two
years in South America, then came north through Central America, worked my
way up the coast, and suddenly found myself in Washington. I tried to
locate your company, but I’d either forgotten its name or you never told
me. You know, you aren’t the only bead seller based in Seattle.”
“With the way things are going, check back
tomorrow. There will probably be even more,” I said.
“Well, as luck would have it, I found
myself in this very establishment, and taking a complete shot in the dark I
asked our handsome bartender if he knew a Samuel Louviere. I then told him
how desperately I needed to get in touch with you, and to make my point I
told him everything about our torrid affair in Bali,” she said coquettishly.
“Not everything, I hope.” I tried
to match her flirtatious tone.
“A lady does keep some secrets,” she
said. “Well, Mr. O’Donahue told me of your upcoming Christmas party. I had
originally planned to be an uninvited guest; I’d show up masked, flirt with
you a bit, then reveal myself at midnight.”
“That seemed to be a popular idea,” I said.
“Nothing,” I replied. “It’s not
important.” Then O’Donahue came down to our end of the bar and asked how
the stew was. “So you knew about her all along, Ryan?” I asked.
“Hardest secret I ever kept,” he said,
flinging a towel over his shoulder. “I thought she was that woman dressed
like a witch. I couldn’t wait ‘til she surprised you, but things turned
out, well, different, didn’t they.”
“Did they ever,” I replied.
“So tell me about you, Sam. What have you
been up to?” Sarah asked.
I guess it was due to the shock of being
with her again, but all thoughts of the last few weeks seemed to vanish.
There were no exploding motorcycles to recall, or crazy mystics at rock
concerts -- even the seven strange beads and the stranger woman who was
after them seemed to be nothing more than memories from a forgotten past.
“We’ve got some interesting charms in,” I
said. “They should be big sellers. And it’s nothing more than a gut
feeling, but I really think copper findings are going to take off this
year.” It sounded much more boring than I had expected it to when I’d
thought of it.
“You and your beads,” she said. “I haven’t
had a conversation about beads in the longest time, not since having fallen
out of favor with my father.”
“Oh, crap,” I said, but not in response to
what she’d just told me.
“Such language, Mr. Louviere. And why
should you be so upset about my father and me parting ways?”
“It’s not that,” I said, looking at my
watch. “I have to leave. I’m so sorry, but I have a plane to catch. But
you will keep in touch this time, won’t you? I can take some time off after
Christmas, and if your employer…”
“Hush.” She cut me off by putting her
finger to my lips. “Your receptionist undoubtedly broke a rule or two, but
I was able to persuade her to tell me your travel plans. And as it happens,
I also have a plane to catch, so can I get a ride to the airport? I hope
so, considering I’ve already arranged for my rental to be picked up here.
We can have our goodbyes and promises of many more hellos once we’re on our
I took some bills from my wallet and placed
them on the bar. After saying goodbye to Ryan, I took Sarah’s hand and
started to escort her out.
“Are those yours?” She asked.
I turned to see her pointing at the three
strange beads I’d gotten from my employees. They were still sitting on the
bar napkin. I had thought them remarkably ugly upon examination a short
time before, but after having stared into the most beautiful blue eyes for
the last several minutes, they seemed even more grotesque. I wrapped them
in the napkin and put them back into my jacket pocket.
1st, 1974. 1:20 PM
It turned out our cars were right next to each other in
O’Donahue’s parking lot, so the transfer of her luggage to my car was
less backbreaking than it could have been. Though I found Sarah to be the
most unique woman in the world, she did have at least one trait in common
with other women: traveling with too many bags, each weighing more than one
would think possible.
“So you and your father are on the outs,
then?” I asked after slamming the trunk closed and opening the passenger
door for her.
“You’re partly to blame,” she said with a
smile that said I was absolved of all responsibility. “After he’d cut our
Bali excursion short I realized he had no intention of ever letting me live
my own life. Everything he did and said to me seemed to confirm that, so
after I graduated, I simply left.”
“You don’t see him at all?” I said, pulling
out into the street.
“I send him postcards to tell him where I
am in the world and how much I’m enjoying myself. I do feel guilty every
now and then when I find beads from some ancient culture knowing they would
make his mouth water if he simply thought of owning them. And though
I could acquire them for little more than a few pennies and a fluttering of
my eyelashes, I just move along.”
“So he’s still trying to retrace the
history of man through the beads of ancient cultures?” I asked.
“Beads and a few other things,” she said.
“At least he was the last time I spoke to him, but it has been quite some
time.” She placed her chin in her hand and watched the seemingly
never-ending line of telephone poles rush past her window. After several
seconds went by she said, “It’s funny he didn’t even try to get along
with you, isn’t it? He so loved beads, and there you were, a bead
salesman. Who could have guessed I’d meet a man with something so in common
with my father, and yet he still refused to approve.”
“We have something else in common,” I said.
“And what would that be?”
“We both love his daughter.”
Did I just tell her I love her? I
thought. Was it too soon after having been apart for so long?
She reached over and put her hand on
my shoulder. Her smile was genuine. I found myself wishing the airport
were thousands of miles away and our drive would last for days.
1st, 1974. 2:05 PM
We were both taking the same airline, so at
least I could spend a few more precious minutes with her even if they had to
be spent standing in line. After we checked in, we headed to the gates.
“I’m Gate 24C,” I said, looking at my
“7B,” she replied.
“It’s par for the course,
really,” I said. “I’m always at the farthest gate possible.
1st, 1974. 2:15 PM
When we reached her gate her plane was not yet
boarding, but the DC-10 whose duty it was to steal her from me sat patiently
on the tarmac. It had undoubtedly played a part in separating countless
lovers, so as far as it was concerned, today was business as usual. I never
would have guessed the wings of fate were metal.
We set down our carry-on bags, and I put my
arms around her. A word of advice for anyone who might eventually read
this: hello kisses and goodbye kisses should never be given or received
with so little time in between.
She pulled away from me, and the moisture
welling in her eyes wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. She looked up
at the electronic board.
“I’ve got a while, but your plane is
boarding. You’ve quite a walk, you should be going.”
I would have loved to argue the point, but
I couldn’t. “Goodbye, Sarah,” I said.
“Goodbye, Sam. But not for so long this
time, I promise.”
I picked up my bag and walked down the long
hallway to the uncaring plane that waited for me.
I couldn’t get the smell of her perfume out
of my head. At first I thought it was just a trace amount that may have
made its way onto my clothing. But after passing a stand selling soft
pretzels, it was still with me long after the scent of baking dough and hot
mustard had passed. Between gates 20 and 21 there was a shoeshine stand,
and even the pungent odor of the shoe polish was long gone while the smell
of Sarah’s perfume still haunted me.
I reached my gate, and was just about to
hand my boarding pass to the attendant when I finally admitted to myself I
was making a mistake. The life I was looking forward to getting back to
didn’t see so comfortable anymore. My customers could wait a week or so,
and I could send the beads and whatnot to replace the ones stolen from Sage
via express mail, so she’d have them with time to spare. I’d have ample
opportunity before her flight boarded to run back to her gate and convince
her…well, I wasn’t sure what I’d be convincing her of – her staying, me
going with her, us going somewhere else – but I just couldn’t conceive of
losing her again.
I turned. My mind told me to run as fast
as I could, but with so much to think about, my brain had a hard time
relaying the sense of urgency to my legs. Instead I just shuffled, like a
child lost in the supermarket, not knowing which aisle to turn down to find
Mommy. It’s a good thing I didn’t dart off with the momentum of a star
running back, for if I had, I’d have run right into Sarah and would have
probably knocked her to the ground. She had been standing right behind me.
(I guess that explains why the smell of her perfume lingered for so long.)
“What…” I was able to communicate the first
word of my question, but fortunately she didn’t need to hear the rest of it.
“I’m going with you, Mr. Louviere. But
come on, we’d best hurry.” She snatched the boarding pass from my hand, and
gave it and hers to the attendant. As we walked quickly down the gangway,
she apologized for a second time.
“You’ll have to excuse the little con game
I played on you,” she said. “But that small lie did get me one great kiss,
as I’d hoped it would.”
“I was just going back to get you.”
“Then my plan wasn’t in vain,” she said.
“I’m taking a week off, and I know you’ve got work to do but I’ll just tag
along quietly. What a great way to see the States, the real
America. Not by going to stuffy museums or boring meetings with millionaire
traders, but by being with people, genuine people. And in your off hours…”
instead of speaking further she squeezed my hand and laughed.
1st, 1974. 2:35 PM
As you may remember from an earlier entry, traveling by
air is not my favorite way to spend any amount of time, though admittedly it
isn’t the actual flying that bothers me as much as the takeoffs and
landings. Usually my hands tightly grip the armrests, and long-forgotten
prayers from Sunday school magically become as familiar to me as the
afternoon I’d first memorized them. On this trip, however, I didn’t even
notice when the too-heavy-to-fly machine took to the air. If I had thought
about it as I usually did, I surely would have crushed Sarah’s dainty hand.
Even though she wasn’t aware of it, we both had reason to be happy that I
was unusually calm during this trip.
Soon after the plane leveled off, a
stewardess came by to take drink orders. It didn’t take any forethought to
order two glasses of champagne, for I’d never had anything as important to
celebrate as my upcoming week with Sarah. While reaching for my wallet to
pay for the drinks, however, I found it wasn’t in my back pocket. I
apologized to the stewardess as I searched through my pockets, emptying them
onto the tray table. During my hunt, I pulled out the napkin-wrapped beads
and placed them with the other items set aside. Eventually I located the
wallet in my breast pocket, paid the stewardess, and made a toast to Sarah.
“Here’s to a woman of small stature who was
able to take a man so ordinary it’s extraordinary and make him happier than
any man who has ever lived.” Granted, it wasn’t the most romantic toast I
could have made, but the creative part of my mind was already planning the
next seven days and couldn’t be bothered with trivial platitudes. Besides,
Sarah seemed to like it.
We clinked glasses (as much as plastic can
clink) and took our good luck sips before setting them down and sharing
another kiss. Then, realizing everything I’d taken out of my pockets might
drop to the floor if we hit turbulence, I starting putting each item back to
where it had come from. During my toast and our kiss, the napkin with the
beads had opened slightly, and as I reached for it Sarah grabbed my wrist,
“What are these?” She said, taking the
bundle and placing it on her tray table before unwrapping it completely.
“Oh, just some beads,” I answered.
“I can see that.” She gave me a sideways
glance accompanied by that demure grin. She picked up the
arrowhead/demon-faced bead and held it up. I noticed slight surprise in her
face. Then she picked up Donald’s haunted-looking banana bead, and again
seemed taken aback.
“Thibaut’s Beads,” she said to
herself. And then to me, “You’re not actually thinking of selling these,
are you? I doubt there’d be a market for them.”
“No,” I said. “But how did you – what did
you call them?”
“Thibaut’s Beads. You mean you
don’t know what they are? May I ask then why you have them?”
“I’m not sure,” I admitted.
“I didn’t know they even had a name. Whose beads are they?”
She then picked up the crystal with the
dried blood (or whatever it was) floating inside and studied it with the
same seriousness she’d given the other two. After it had been given a half
minute of her attention, she wrapped all three in the napkin and handed it
back to me.
“I don’t mean to give you business advice,
but speaking from an ornamental standpoint, they’re not the most attractive
beads in the world. And considering so few people are familiar with the
legend, I doubt you’d sell many for that reason. But still,” she continued
after a long pause, “they are remarkable reproductions.”
“Reproductions?” I was stunned. After all
the time I’d spent wondering why these beads were so important, it turned
out they were only copies. Did Celia Andrews know they were fakes? Did she
even know they represented Thibaut’s Beads – whatever that meant?
“How do you know? I mean, what makes you so sure they’re not the genuine
She laughed that laugh that made me want to
take her somewhere where we’d never have to see another human being.
“Because there is no such thing as Thibaut’s Beads. It’s only a
“Wait, wait a second,” I said, once more
trying to wrap my mind around a new piece of information concerning these
blasted beads. “If there’s no such thing as the real ones, how can these be
reproductions? What are they reproduced from?”
“Oh, lots of things. Various sketches,
written descriptions, stories passed down by word of mouth from generation
to generation. Not many people have heard of them, but a good deal of those
who have often become rather obsessed. My father is, or was – I’m not sure
if he still is – just to name one. I’m sure a smooth-talking huckster, if
he found the right gullible sap, could pass these off as the real thing and
make a small fortune. But that’s not what you plan to do, is it Mr.
“No. I didn’t even know they had a name,
much less…what was that name again?”
“Right, Thibaut. No, I didn’t even know
about him.” Then, after thinking for a moment, “Is it a he?”
“Yes,” Sarah said. “It’s a he. You’re not
toying with me, are you? And, by any chance, do you have copies of the
“So there are seven!” I said, probably too
excitedly. “I knew it.”
“So you know there are seven beads, but you
don’t know the story. I think you’re holding out on me, Sam,” she said.
“Yeah, I’ll tell you the whole story in a
minute,” I said. “But first, do you know the legend of Thibaut’s Beads?
Can you tell it to me?”
“It’s a rather long story,” she said.
“It’s also a rather long flight,” I
“Fair enough. Shall I go first, then?”
I said I’d be grateful if she would.
So then she told me a story.
..................to be continued
© 2006 Brightlings
Beads and M. Robert Todd