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17/01/2003 - 7:34 p.m.

The Easter Egg

Here's this week's No Shame piece. It's a take off of a French story I translated for IHSSA last year, but this version is my own.

That Easter morning, Sarah and Matthew wandered hand in hand into the little shadow dappled glade. Matthew explained to her that he had a surprise for her, but he had to hide it first, so she had to close her eyes. He dropped her hand and stepped away from her.

“Can I open my eyes yet?” asked Sarah.

“Not yet,” Matthew replied. He carefully placed the chocolate egg in the bushes and returned to her side. “OK, now you can open them.”

Sarah opened her eyes and took a few steps forward.

“You’re getting warmer, cooler, warmer, warmer, hot, boiling,” said Matthew, tracking her movements around the glade.

“Where?” she asked, laughing.

“You have to find it,” he said.

“Matthew, I don’t even know what I’m looking for!”

A moment after making this statement, she dove into the bushes after the glinting coloured foil. Matthew told her to open it, and she unwrapped the chocolate egg. Taking a bite, she discovered inside a note posing a simple question.

“Happy Easter. There’s a ring to go with it, if you’ll have it,” Matthew said, as she read. Happily, she accepted him and shortly after the two became Mr. and Mrs. Laurence.

Every Easter morning afterwards, Matthew would hide a chocolate egg somewhere for Sarah to find. The next year he left it on her pillow with some lines of poetry enclosed. When they moved from their tiny apartment to the house, he had hidden it in the yard, and she almost never found it. When she did, she found a subscription to a gardening magazine. The year Matthew lost his job, it was a bag of Hershey’s kisses instead of fine chocolate. However, no matter what the circumstances, there was not an Easter that he forgot their little tradition, and neither ever seemed to tire of the game.

This year, however, on Monday morning, Matthew absolutely had to be in London to give a business presentation. As he had explained to her, he couldn’t help what he had to do for work. I wasn’t his fault that the only plane that would get him to London in time was leaving at nine o’clock that Sunday morning. Sarah understood, but wished it could be different all the same. Easter Sunday was their day.

By the time Sarah awoke, Matthew was already up and shaving in the bathroom. As she passed by the open door, she heard him cry out.

“What happened?” she asked.

“I cut myself.”

“You’ve never done that before,” she remarked.

“I’m a little worried about the time; trying to do things too fast,” he explained.

“Oh, well, do you want me to make you some breakfast?” she asked.

“No, no,” Matthew replied quickly, “I can get something at the airport.”

“You’re certain you don’t want anything: toast, cereal?”

“Um, toast, actually would be great,” he said.

“All right then.”

Sarah turned and went downstairs to make the toast and bring in the newspaper. He hadn’t mentioned the Easter egg, this would be the first year in fifteen that he had forgotten.

Matthew came downstairs and began reading the newspaper a short while later. He flipped hurriedly through the paper and put it down again, taking a long look at his wife. Sarah looked at him curiously.

“You haven’t eaten your toast,” she said.

He picked up the butter knife, but before he had half buttered his toast, he had set it down again.

“Matthew, is everything all right?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, yes, everything’s just fine, why?”

“You seem a little jumpy, that’s all.”

“I’m just a little worried. I don’t want to miss that flight. And I want to do a good job on this presentation. It’s a very important piece of business, Sarah, I can’t-“

“Miss it for anything,” finished Sarah with a sigh. “Yes, I know.”

Matthew nodded and went on with his toast. Sarah watched her nervous husband, trying to decide if she should mention the chocolate or not. It was really a terribly silly little thing after all, but she enjoyed it. Perhaps he had gotten tired of doing it after so many years. However, if that was the case, she knew that he would have told her. She knew in her heart that he would never simply forget. He had to have hidden one. Suddenly, the thought struck her that, since he was so worried, he must have hidden it, and just wasn’t thinking about it. A chocolate egg must have been the last thing on his mind at that moment. He didn’t have the time to try to let her find it. He would probably want her to find it on her own.

At that moment, the clock in the hall struck eight and Matthew, grabbing his suitcase, made a rush for the door calling a quick good bye to his wife. In spite of everything, Sarah knew that he must have hidden the egg somewhere in the house.

After cleaning up the kitchen, she began walking through the house. She looked first in all of the hiding places he had used before, he had never used one over, but this year he might not have had time to think of a new place. Over the years, she had grown to take a set path each time she started the search, and would always look in the same sorts of places. She began to look in all of these, but she found nothing. This year, she missed the familiar chuckle of her husband following behind her gauging her proximity to the hiding place.

Matthew had not hidden the chocolate in the yard since the year of the garden subscription, but she went outside anyway. Carefully, she searched through all of the shrubs, in the flowerbeds, under the porch and even looked into the boughs of the magnolia tree outside the bedroom window. There was no chocolate egg to be found.

At that moment, she heard the phone ringing and rushed indoors. As she made her way to the phone, she heard it striking nine o’clock. Perhaps it was Matthew calling before the plane took off. She picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

There was no answer. She repeated the greeting, still nothing.

“Matthew?” she asked. She heard a click on the other end and then the dial tone.

Sarah was shaken slightly by this phone call. Presently, she decided that it must have been a wrong number; they often seemed to get wrong numbers on Sundays. She was, however, slightly disappointed that it hadn’t been Matthew. He was on his way out of the country by now, she realised.

Now she began to think of new places he might have hidden the egg. Never for a moment did she doubt he had hidden it. He may not have mentioned it, but she could not make herself believe that he had forgotten entirely! With new resolve, she began to tear the house apart. From the bedroom to the laundry room, she searched. She emptied drawers, hunted through cupboards and looked under seat cushions.

At last, she came to the resolve that he had not hidden it at all. This one year, after all these years, he had forgotten their tradition. Sarah made her way into the kitchen to make lunch, but realised that she had no appetite. Sitting down at the table, her eyes fell upon the oven. Of course, she hadn’t looked there! She hadn’t even considered looking in the oven, but that was the place it had to be! She opened the oven door, and sure enough, sitting inside was the familiar, foil wrapped egg. Matthew had remembered!

In an instant, all of Sarah’s grief turned to joy. With great speed, she unwrapped the chocolate and took a bite. Inside, she found a folded piece of paper, just like that first egg fifteen years ago. This note read simply, "Good bye." Two seconds later, Sarah Laurence fell senseless to the floor.

Today, Matthew Laurence calls himself Miguel Lorenzo and all of his business presentations are done in Argentina. If you should happen to meet him, ask him whether chocolate mixed with arsenic tastes good.

 From the Shire, down the Anduin, to Mordor

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