“I like it.” He smiles at her with his crinkly blue eyes.
Miranda walks over to the mirror by the register to evaluate the coat. She looks at herself squarely, then twists back and forth, watching the gentle folds of emerald green wool drape from her shoulders and swirl around her. “I like it, too.”
The elderly lady behind the register smiles. “It fits you perfectly.”
“It does!” Miranda smiles. “It reminds me of…something.”
Her husband walks up behind her, fingers her auburn hair back off her shoulders. Their eyes meet in the mirror. “Reminds you of what?”
She turns and faces him. “I’m not sure. Maybe I had a coat like this when I was younger? Or a dress this color? Something like it, anyway.”
Ben nods. “Perhaps you did.”
She pulls away and wanders over to the racks filled with vintage dresses. She moves the hangers along the rack deftly, scanning for another treasure. She holds a burgundy shift dress in front of her, wrinkles her nose and places it back on the rack. She pauses briefly at an off-white dress with a tiered skirt, then moves on to another rack of clothes in the back of the store. Ben settles into a velvet armchair by the picture window, watching her glide through the small shop with paternal attention.
They leave with the green wool coat, a navy cashmere cardigan and a pair of suede loafers dotted with tiny pink flamingos. Miranda wears the coat home. As they walk into the kitchen from the garage, she stops.
“Ben?” She’s standing as still as a statue in the doorway.
“Hmmm?” He says it absentmindedly, setting his keys down on the granite counter. When she doesn’t answer, he turns to see Miranda staring at something in her cupped hand. “What is it?”
“I don’t know.” She looks up and reveals an object on her open palm. “Do you recognize this?”
He steps closer, takes a look at her hand. It’s a small bird, crystal, on a string. “It’s really pretty. Where did you find it?”
She’s mesmerized by it, holds it up by the string. It catches sunlight from the large windows and throws little rainbow flecks on the white cabinets. “It was in the pocket. Of the coat.” Her voice cracks. “It isn’t mine.”
Ben wriggles out of his coat and hangs it in the hallway. “Well, it is now.” He raises his eyebrows when he looks at her again. “Finders, keepers.”
She laughs, a girlish giggle that doesn’t quite match her middle aged face. “Oh, I’d feel terrible keeping it.”
“What if the woman…? It was her coat. Maybe she didn’t know this was in it. Maybe she’s going to miss this terribly.” Her eyes are suddenly wet. “Maybe she wants it back.”
Ben walks to Miranda and puts his arms around her. He whispers into her hair, pats her back. “Come on, now. Don’t be sad. Maybe she wanted you to find it? Maybe it’s fate that you have it now.”
Miranda shakes her head no against his chest, emphatic. “No. No. We have to take it back.” She pulls away. “Can you? Can you call the lady at the store and let her know we found it?” She’s pleading, and Ben is concerned.
“Okay, okay. I’ll call Faith and tell her we found it in the coat.”
“Yes, right now. Why don’t you go lay down upstairs. I may even run back over there and drop it off while you’re napping.” Ben takes the bird and sets it on the kitchen table, helps her out of the coat. “Okay?”
Miranda is wiped out. “Okay.” Her arms are heavy at her side.
“Come on. I’ll help you upstairs.” He extends his hand. “Come on. We overdid it today.”
She doesn’t resist. He gets her onto the bed, and she’s asleep by the time he pulls her shoes off. He tiptoes down the carpeted hall, silently manages the steps. He pockets the bird and takes his cellphone out onto the deck. It’s a beautiful October day, sunny and crisp.
Ben sits down on the teak bench and sighs. “Hi, sweetheart.” He and Miranda have two daughters, but it’s always Lucy he calls when he’s worried.
“Uh oh. You don’t sound good. What happened?”
“Well, I think I did something foolish.”
“At the consignment shop?”
“Yes. Well, after really. She picked the green coat, like she does every time.” Ben can hear Lucy typing in the background.
“The one from your trip to Paris?”
“Yes. She loves that thing. As a matter of fact, this time she said it reminded her of something. But when I asked what, she couldn’t put her finger on it. It was encouraging, though.”
Lucy stops typing. “So, what happened?”
Ben lets out another sigh. “Well, she also picked the cardigan you gave her last Christmas. She almost picked one of her old dresses, too. And a really weird pair of shoes.” He laughs. “Anyway, you remember that little crystal bird?”
“The one that used to hang on her rear view mirror? Oh, Dad. You didn’t.”
“It was stupid. I know. I asked Faith to slip it in the pocket of the coat.” His words pick up speed, as though rushing through the rest will make it better. “I thought if she just found it, you know? Like it was serendipity. Then maybe she would associate it with the coat. Not the accident.”
Lucy is quiet for a beat. “I understand what you were trying to do, but of all the things… I mean, that wasn’t a great choice. It was maybe the worst choice. Jesus.”
“I know. I’m sorry. She just used to love it so much. She bought it when you girls were little, to keep you busy in the car. Watching the light reflected through it.” Ben sits bent over, head down like repentant sinner. “She did that, you know?”
“She held it up so the light reflected all over the kitchen. It made her really happy, at first anyway.”
Ben doesn’t want to go on. He wants to get off the phone now. “She just kind of flipped out. She was worried that ‘the woman’ who donated the coat would miss it.” He’s pacing the deck now. “She wanted me to take it back. She wouldn’t even touch it after that.”
He hears Lucy take a deep breath. Summoning her patience, he imagines. “The bird probably reminds her of the car in some way. Which, of course, reminds her of the accident.” Another deep breath. “And the ‘woman’ she’s thinking about is her. At least the ‘her’ she was before. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, yes. Of course. It was stupid.” Ben sees movement in the kitchen. “Lucy? I’ve got to go.”
“Okay. Hey, don’t feel bad, okay? Look at the bright side.” Lucy lets out a small laugh. “At least she won’t remember any of it.”
“That’s not funny.” But it is and Ben laughs, too. He walks back in the house and finds Miranda fondling the green coat where they’d left it on the kitchen table.
When she looks up, she’s beaming. “What a beautiful coat! Where in the world did you find it?”