In the brown box, tucked in around the socks, shorts, and tees, was a manilla envelope containing the gold bangle bracelets Jon had given Audrey. However, she had been unwilling to part with her oval sapphire and diamond solitaire pendant. She hadn’t taken it off since Jon had given her the necklace last Christmas. Sapphire was not only her birthstone; it also matched her eyes and had healing properties. Yet, Audrey was tired ofthe guilt she felt whenever she glanced at the glimmering sapphire in the mirror. She and Jon had called it quits, and it was way too expensive for her to keep. She finally agreed with her therapist’s advice that if she were to allay her guilt and move on, she had to return the necklace, so she booked a flight to Belize, the country that had caused the breakup between her and her fiancé.
Six weeks ago, Jon had collected his last box of belongings from the condo he and Audrey had shared for two and a half years. “Everything else is yours, Audrey. I won’t need any of this furniture or collectables in Belize.”
“Are you sure you can’t take the living room set? Put it in storage or something?” You know I’m not a fan of contemporary furniture’s hard-edged lines. “
“Sorry, no,” said Jon as he picked up the box and headed towards the front door.
For the past five years, Jon had been satisfied doing stream, wetland, and wildlife habitat assessments in Southeastern, Pennsylvania, but when he was offered his dream job, as Conservation Director for a nature conservancy organization in Belmopan, Belize, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Audrey was happy for her him but, despite his persistence, she couldn’t just pick up and leave her life in West Chester. “What about my family and friends? My parents would have a conniption if I moved away. And can you imagine Karen’s reaction? We’ve been best friends since first grade and see each other at least once a week.”
“We would visit home at least once a year, and everyone could come down to see us.”
“That’s not the same. Besides, I have a career too. In case you forgot, I worked hard to get my tenured position at the university.”
“I know you did, but there are opportunities for English professors in Belize, I’m sure.”
“Sure, teaching ESL.”
“But 60% of its citizens speak English, and you know some Spanish, the other language of Belize. You wouldn’t have to teach ESL.”
Jon just didn’t get it. “I’m a literature professor, specializing in the Victorian era. I’m not going to find a job doing that in Belize, Jon.”
Neither Jon nor Audrey was willing to compromise, so Audrey had returned the 1.5 carat diamond and sapphire engagement ring Jon had given her two months ago, but not the @2500.00 sapphire diamond necklace. She hadn’t been ready to do that. She truly believed the sapphire helped to dispel her depression and provide her with the mental clarity she so greatly needed at this juncture in her life.
Audrey wasn’t thrilled to have spent $840.00 for her round-trip flight to Belize, but she was overjoyed to find a room for two nights at the Kikwete Resort, only 4.7 miles from the center of Belmopan, for $160.00. Ah, to escape the frigid January weather for two days will almost make the pain of seeing Jon and parting with my cherished necklace worth it.
On her drive to the airport, Audrey clutched her steering wheel. I’m so glad I don’t work in the city. I couldn’t bear to fight this morning traffic on I-95 every day. As if she weren’t tense enough, when she was 15 minutes from the airport exit, a text appeared on her dashboard screen stating that her American Airlines flight was delayed out of Philadelphia by two hours. Just what I need. There’s no way I’m going to make my connection. Pangs of anxiety riveted her body as she exited the expressway. If I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.
Audrey pulled into Starbuck’s a mile off the exit. There is a God, she thought as she inhaled the aroma of fresh ground coffee beans wafting through the front door of the café. Luckily, she was able to book another connecting flight into Belize City, but it didn’t depart from Miami until 6:10 pm. I can’t believe I have to sit in the Miami airport for four hours, but at least I’m getting into Belize tonight. I just want to get this thing over with. She sipped her grande latte, nibbled on a blueberry scone, and manipulated the sapphire pendant dangling at her neckline. No sense taking it off until I have to.
Audrey resumed her trek to Philadelphia International, but as she approached the I-95 entrance, she noticed smoke coming out of the front of her car. “No, no, no,” she shrieked as she pounded her steering wheel. She pulled over to the side-shoulder, popped the car’s hood, and stood shivering in the frigid January air while she stared at the car’s engine. Damn you, Jon. Why did you leave me? This is the kind of stuff you always took care of. I don’t even know what I’m looking at. Wiping the tears streaming down her cheeks, she emptied her water bottle into the container marked “coolant. Maybe the Universe is sending me a message. Am I meant to keep my necklace? Is there another way to get over Jon? When her car solution seemed to have worked, she assumed the message was still “Return the necklace”, and she continued her journey to the airport.
When Audrey arrived at Philadelphia International, she drove around for twenty minutes trying to locate a parking space in the remote parking lot. I hate this airport sometimes. Parking is next to impossible, and the shuttle to the terminal takes fucking forever. At least I don’t have any baggage to check. Moving through the security seemed interminable, and the TSA agents were snarly as usual, but Audrey eventually made it to the gate area. The water refill station was out of order, so Audrey swallowed half a Xanax with her $4.50 bottle of Dansani and waited for her flight.
On the plane, Audrey sat jammed against the window because the man on her left spilled halfway into her seat. Why do I continually book the window seat? When Jon and I traveled together, he was gracious enough to sit in the middle seat. That way my 102-pound frame wouldn’t be squished if some lardo sat next to me. A few minutes into the flight, Audrey was fast asleep, and being crushed was the furthest thing from her mind. She woke up a few minutes before the plane landed and was mortified to find her cheek resting on the man’s hefty shoulder and quickly sat up straight. “I am so sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to intrude on your space, even though you invaded mine with your 300-pound body.
The man grinned at her. He would probably be handsome if his face wasn’t so bloated. “No worries. You’re so tiny, I hardly knew you were there.”
“I guess I was more tired than I realized,” and fortunately, I only took half a Xanax so I could still maneuver Miami International. Audrey wasn’t going to tell him she depended on the medication to make it through any flight.
In the crowded Miami airport, Audrey tried to pass the next four hours reading in the uncomfortable airport chair. Audrey refrained from taking the other half of the Xanax before boarding for fear of falling asleep on another stranger or, worse, missing her flight altogether.
When Audrey stepped off the plane in Belize, she basked in the tropical warmth and gazed at the gently swaying palm trees. Maybe I should give up everything, get back together with Jon and live here, after all. Then she was startled back to reality about how much she enjoyed her career at West Chester University and why she was here in the first place. I’ve got to find Jon, give him the necklace, and quickly get away from him. If I’m in his presence for more than a few minutes, he’s going to melt me, and my love for him will surface. Then, all the work I’ve done for the past seven weeks and five days, trying to fall out of love with him and move on, would be for naught. I can’t let that happen. Our breakup is permanent. Jon is here to stay period. I’m not and never will.
The next morning, Audrey stood out on her balcony and sipped her rich, dark coffee. She marveled at the puffy clouds and blue sky as the morning sun warmed her. “Let’s get this over with,” Audrey muttered to herself and called Jon’s cell. “So you said you know how to get to the Kikwete Resort?”
“Hello to you too, Audrey.”
“Sorry, Jon. This is difficult for me. How are you?”
“I’m loving my job but wish you were living here with me.”
“Let’s not go there, please. You know can’t happen.”
“That’s what you say.”
“What time this morning are you coming?”
“I’m sorry, but I had to get to work early today. I’m already out in the Rio Bravo Conservation Area, but I can come to you at the end of the day, say 5:00. I’ll take you out to dinner.”
Audrey sighed. “I’ll think about it.”
“It’s just dinner, Audrey. We can still be friends even if we’re no longer a couple.”
“I’ll see you at 5:00. I’ll let you know then.”
Since Audrey had the whole day to herself, she was going to make the best of it. After a light breakfast of papaya, pineapple, and banana slices topped with yogurt and homemade granola, she explored the tropical ambiance of the 20-acre resort. She basked in the melodious bird songs, the whistling leaves, and balmy air as she walked over a small wooden bridge above the creek that curved gently through the lush foliage. Occasionally, she swatted away mosquitos, but the expedition was so enjoyable that she figured a few bites were a small price to pay for this splendor. That was until, in her room, she was changing into her bikini and noticed an abundance of puffy, reddish welts dotting her limbs. Why didn’t I think to bring bug spray?
As Audrey lounged by the large kidney-shaped pool, reflexively touching the sapphire pendant around her neck, she couldn’t stop scratching her arms and legs. I don’t even have anything to put on these welts. Maybe I should text Jon and ask him to pick up some Calamine lotion on his way here. Do they sell that in Belize? I’m sure he can find something. Why am I depending on my ex-fiancé? Because I’m scratching myself silly, he has a car, and I don’t. The chlorine temporarily assuaged the itching, but as soon as she returned to her chaise, the incessant discomfort resumed. Damn you, Jon. Why didn’t you ask for the pendant when I gave you back my engagement ring? Then I wouldn’t have had to come to this godforsaken place.
After her shower a few hours later, Audrey was pleased to see noticeable tan lines. Unfortunately, surrounding the unexposed areas was inflamed, painful skin that felt hot to the touch. Of course, I didn’t pack aloe gel. I’ll have to ask Jon for that too. By the time he arrived, Audrey was feeling sorry for herself and angry at Jon. All I’m trying to do is the right thing, and what do I get? Ugly bumps and flaming scarlet skin, not to mention a horrendous day of travel yesterday. I should have sent the $2500.00 necklace to Jon through UPS. I could have insured it. Just admit it, Audrey. You didn’t want to part with the necklace, and you wanted to see Jon.
When Jon’s tall masculine frame filled the doorway to her room, Audrey saw that Jon was as handsome as he’d ever been. His thick dark hair, chocolate brown eyes, and dimples were characteristics of the face she had fallen so in love with. I need to return the necklace and get on with my life. There’s no way we can get back together because neither of us is willing to compromise, and I don’t think I could handle a long-distance relationship. Audrey handed Jon the envelope containing the necklace. “Jon, I’m going to pass on dinner. I’m feeling miserable right now because of my mosquito bites and sunburn. And you must admit, spending time with each other is just going to make things harder on us.”
“I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. You’re probably right about spending time together. I’ll take the necklace and go.”
Audrey fought back tears and nodded.
“If you ever change your mind about being together, Aud, you know where I am.” As Jon turned around to leave, he looked back at Audrey one more time. “I appreciate you giving me back the necklace, but you went through a lot of trouble and expense for a $200.00 simulated sapphire and zircon necklace.”