Excerpt: Simple Charms
In My Valentine ’93 Anthology
“Look!” Jane heard the high-pitched, childish gasp the moment she started to write on the blackboard.
“Yes, it is. D’you suppose she lost it?”
“Duh. How could she lose it? It was one her finger, stupid.”
“I’m smarter’n you, Jeremy Proctor. I bet she gave it back.”
“Maybe he dumped her.”
“Miss Kitto? Dump Miss Kitto? He wouldn’t dare!”
Jane hesitated for an instant, then continued, her hand moving steadily across the blackboard printing in big square letters: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS.
When he’d finished, she turned around and smiled determinedly into the sea of curious, upturned faces.
There were twenty-three of them, all belonging to the gap-toothed, grinning innocents who comprised half of the second grade at St. Philomena’s Catholic School in hilly San Francisco. Jane’s class.
Jane adored them, and they thought that their Miss Kitto was Betty Crocker, Wendy Darling and both Madonnas, the spiritual and the material, all rolled into one.
For the most part Jane tried not to disillusion them.
“I know you’re all thrilled to be back after Christmas vacation,” she said brightly.
There was a chorus of groans.
“And I know you’re all ready to get a good start in the new year. That’s why I’ve written three words on the board &emdash; New Year’s Resolutions. Can anyone tell me what that means? Jeremy?”
Jane often called on Jeremy first, thereby &emdash; she hoped &emdash; taking the joy of interrupting away from him.
“How come you’re not wearin’ your ring?”
Jane had been afraid of that.
Her students had shown an avid interest in the progress of her engagement to Paul Crawford ever since school had begun. What was Paul like? How had Jane met him? When was the wedding going to be? How many bridesmaids was she going to have? Where were they going on their honeymoon?
And most important of all: were they all going to be invited to the wedding?
And now, where was her ring?
How was Jane, having previously assured both her students and herself that Paul Crawford was her idea of her perfect man, going to explain to them that the wedding was off?
“We’re talking about resolutions, Jeremy,” she said, hoping to deflect their interest through sheer will power.
“Don’t know nothin’ ’bout them,” Jeremy said flatly. “Where’s your ring?”
There was a low murmur of assent from the group. Every one of Jane’s students looked equally curious and expectant.
Leticia Morely raised her hand.
Jane smiled her relief. Leticia Morely, with her long, black braids and her patent leather Mary Janes, could always be counted on to stay on task and know the answer. She reminded Jane of herself at that age.
“Resolutions are decisions,” she recited. “We make them to make ourselves better.” A pause. “You gave your ring back, didn’t you, Miss Kitto?”
Jane sighed. She wanted to run her fingers through her hair. She twisted the bracelet on her arm instead.
The children waited, just looking at her, not even squirming. There was no hope for it.
Yes, Leticia. I’m afraid I did.”
Jeremy folded his arms across his chest, scowling. “Well, he coulda dumped her.”
“Why did you do it?” Twenty-three voices demanded.
Where was it written, Jane wondered, that she had to explain her life to a horde of seven-year-olds?
Still, she knew she would try. It was the sort of relationship she’d had with them from the start.
“We . . .decided we wouldn’t suit.”
“Didn’t you love him?” Leticia asked.
Jeremy made a gagging sound.
Jane gave him a reproving stare. The question was a fair one. Certainly she’d thought she had.
When handsome, successful Bay City lawyer Paul Crawford had asked her to marry him last December, Jane had been thrilled. He was intelligent and refined, clever and well read, quiet and conservative, not to mention spit-and-polish handsome.
Now she tried to think how to explain her change of heart. “We didn’t value the same things.”
She sighed. “My bracelet.”
Twenty-three horrified faces stared at her. “He didn’t like your bracelet?” they gasped in unison.
The entire second grade at St. Philomena’s thought Jane Kitto’s charm bracelet was close to magic.
She wore the bracelet every day. A simple silver chain with a variety of charms, it had been Jane’s prize possession since she’d received it the Christmas she was seven.
Her grandmother had given her the chair and the first charm, a sterling silver ballerina. The nineteen others had appeared one after another, each succeeding Valentine’s Day.
From whom Jane didn’t know.
“Your Secret Admirer,” her friend Kelly said. . .
And though Jane laughed, she had hugged the thought close to her heart. Somewhere out there was a person who understood her, cared about her, loved her.
She’d dreamed about him for years.