The old woman is massaging a heart-shaped silver locket between her fingers as the nurse stands behind her combing her long silver mane with an antique brush. “And my Jasmine is every mother’s dream, you know?” the elder says in her soft voice. Pushing a small button on the side, she pops the locket open. A photo of a young woman with large blue eyes, lips curled up in a secretive smile, peers out.
The nurse stops combing and places her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. “I remember how excited you were at Christmas, Beverly. I can recall the two of you like little girls, braiding each others hair and giggling.” Beverly separates it into three silky sections, overlaying one side across the other into a singular braid.
“My Jazzy,” Beverly says, her eyes linger at the window pane watching what nature holds on the other side. “The only reason my hair isn’t short like most women my age is all because of my Jasmine you know.”
“No, I didn’t know that.” She continues to braid to the end as she listens.
“Oh yes.” The woman smiles, folding her hands in her lap before she continues, “I was older than most women when I had Jasmine. The doctors all said I’d never bear children, but they were wrong.” She shakes her finger in the air as if scolding a doctor now. “Yes sir, they were wrong. I got pregnant just before her daddy was called to war. Of course I didn’t find out until he was gone, and then it was too late. And being a single mother back then was hard, you know.”
Beverly shifts in her chair to capture her listener’s face before rotating back around, waiting for the final touches.
The nurse finishes up the braid and wraps it around her head in a wreath, cinching it with a few bobby pins and spritzing it with spray. “You look lovely,” she says to her client.
“Her father liked long hair, you know. He used to laugh and call me Rapunzel. I remember how he would wrap himself up in it before we went to sleep at night, like a little boy with his blankie.”
Beverly’s eyes fill with tears and the gold locket slides back and forth on the chain between her withered fingers, making a zing-zing sound. The thin smiling lips quiver and she emits a tiny choking gasp.
The nurse pulls a folding metal chair around in front of the old woman and takes the aged hands into her own. The plain, unembellished silver wedding band loosely encircles her ring finger. She waited patiently for the next part to follow.
“Every night I’d comb it and cry until one night I couldn’t stand it anymore and cut it off to here,” she said, indicating a length with her fingers, like scissors, just below her jaw. “I guess part of it was the mood swings from the pregnancy, but I never did grow it back, until…”
The nurse takes the old woman’s wrinkled hands, “Go on, Beverly. Tell me all about your precious baby.”
“When I saw the beautiful curly blond locks around her face, it seemed a shame to cut them off, maybe a sin of some kind, so I didn’t. It grew clear to her waist.” She giggles and covers her mouth to cough, reaching for a tissue the nurse hands to her. “Just like mine used to be. One day, I guess she was about ten, she asked me if I could grow mine out so we could be twins. It was the darn-hootinest thing you ever did see–her telling people we were twins.” Beverly pauses and catches her breath, whispering the rest. “Jazzy was such a lovely little girl and then she grew up!” Beverly chuckles again, punctuating it with a cough that continues until she is blue in the face, with the tissue pressing hard against her mouth.
“Beverly, are you okay, hun?” the nurse asks. She stands to get a plastic cup of cold water from the cooler by the wall and holds it out to her.
Beverly put the cup to her lips and swallows before she pulls it away again. “She’s about due now, isn’t she?”
“Well, Jasmine of course,” Beverly smiles. “That is why you did my hair for me, remember?” Beverly straightens the locket and fixes her collar, giving it a pat. Her sad expression is replaced with a joyous adventure seeking face.
“Of course I remember.” She holds her watch up to take a look. “She should be here anytime, I guess.”
“Wonderful, just wonderful dear.” Beverly’s vision is not broken, nor her grin faltering. “Would you be a dear and direct her in here when she comes? I made some gingerbread and apple cider.”
Stroking the old woman on the back with her hand, she reassures her. “I’ll do that Beverly.”
“Thank you, dear.”
The nurse stands and moves toward the doorway behind the woman where another nurse is entering and pushing her purse into a locker. “She’s talking about Jasmine coming to visit for Christmas again,” she tells the new nurse as she plucks her purse from inside another locker, slinging it over her shoulder.
“The poor woman,” the new arrival says, “It’s getting to be more frequent.”
“I’m glad I’m not the one to break her heart this time. It’s the worst part of my shift, watching her cry.” She steals a glance at Beverly as she watches out the window and then bows her head, leaving the room.
“Beverly,” the new nurse taps the old woman gently on the shoulder.
“Oh,” she says, startled a bit, “I thought you were my Jasmine. She’s every mother’s dream, you know.”
“Yes, what a lovely girl.”
“The only reason my hair is long is because Jasmine wants to be twins. Will you help me fix it so when she comes I can look presentable?”
“It’s already up, Beverly, and you look perfect.”
Beverly’s eyes open wide and her mouth moves as if she will speak, but then she closes it again. “Oh, so it is.” Her hands reach up and feel the braid wrapping around her head. “Jasmine likes it like this.”
Beverly watches dreamily through the window. “I just love Christmas. Don’t you?” she says.
“Yes,” the nurse says, “I think everyone loves Christmas.”
Crossing the room, the nurse reaches up to close the blinds before Beverly sees the Fourth of July fireworks. When she turns back, the old woman is motionless, crumpled in her chair. The locket cradled delicately in her palm lying in her lap. Jasmine beams up from inside, smiling at her mother.