by Rebecca Carpenter
Mary sat in the dark room and stared as the Christmas tree lights blinked from white to blue to multi-colored—unwrapped presents spilling from under the branches. Located near the top, a hand-made star shimmered silver on one side, gold on the other, the inscription “Manney – 2016” written in black permanent marker along the edge. She approached, touching the ornament as if it were made of glass. Rough glitter met her fingertips—soothing, calming. A tear slipped down her cheek.
From behind, strong arms wrapped her waist, and warm lips pressed against her neck. “Come to bed, love,” her husband Joe whispered in her ear. “You know we have to get up early to meet with the donor-recipient’s family.”
Mary crossed her arms over his and squeezed. “Not yet.”
He kissed her cheek. “Soon, then.” With drooped shoulders, he shuffled to the hallway.
Mary removed the star ornament and clasped it to her chest. “Do you think he’ll accept our boy’s heart?”
Joe paused but didn’t turn back. “That’s up to his body … but I hope so.” Footfalls faded, but a heart-wrenching wail echoed through the house.
Mary dropped to her knees. Tears gushed in a raging, torrential river that shook her entire frame. How in the world would she ever get through the pain—fill the void that replaced her beating heart?
Her hands grasped a package, rending it until the box ripped and a Superman shirt with attached cape slipped out. With a gleam in her eyes, she lifted the garment. “Daddy wanted you to wear a nice suit, but I think this is much better. Superman was your favorite hero, and now you get to be someone’s hero.” She folded the shirt and lovingly placed it in her lap.
Between two gift bags, a small, square box wrapped in brown paper with a hand-drawn Christmas tree caught her eye: “To Mom, Love Manney” scribbled on the tag. With trembling hands, she parted the bags and clasped the box, meticulously tracing the letters with her fingertip before unwrapping the gift, careful to preserve the paper in its perfect form.
Inside, a white jewelry box beckoned to be opened. She inhaled a deep breath and lifted the lid. A folded note lay on top, hiding the contents. Unfolding the creases, Mary revealed a cut-out heart.
You always say I’m your heart, so now you can have me with you all the time. Hope you like the necklace.
I love you!!!!!!!!!
P.S. Daddy helped me spell all the words.
A whimper, long and guttural filled the room. Mary pressed the note to her lips, kissing the paper, wishing more than anything it was her son’s face. Placing the paper on his Superman shirt, she returned to the box and fingered the silver necklace with heart locket, peeling apart the edges to reveal a headshot of Manney—his wide, front-toothless grin the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She removed the necklace from the packaging and clasped it around her neck, the locket resting directly over her heart.
Warmth seared under the metal, a faint beating reacting to the glimmer of hope and healing.
The tree lights switched from white to blue to multi-colored, each reflecting off the heart that she now wore on the outside—at least for a while.