50 – A Lover’s Gift

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Follows Sanctuary. Prequel to Surviving Christmas and takes place post episode 10×10 “Better Off Dead,” circa December 2009.

*******

Not what we give, but what we share,

For gift without the giver is bare.

–James Russell Lowell

*******

Sara sat staring at the box in her lap.

She’d been doing that for a while now. Sitting there in the locker room, staring at the international FedEx box in her hands, but not really seeing it, however, struck as she was with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.

Nearly three years before, she’d sat almost in this exact same spot doing this exact same thing: contemplating whether or not to open a package from Grissom.

Although a great deal had changed since then.

This time she hadn’t had to worry or skulk or sneak off from the mailroom, package in hand.

In fact, Sara had been in the process of slipping off her coat, having just come in late from processing an armed robbery at the Gas ’n Sip off Industrial, when Wendy had popped her head into the locker room to ask if Judy had ever managed to find her before she’d left for the day. Sara had shaken her head, wondering what the office assistant could want with her. Thankfully, Wendy hadn’t left Sara in suspense for long, as she’d told her with a knowing sort of smile, that a package had come for her, express international delivery no less, and should still likely be waiting at the front desk.

Which it had been, the package.

Odd though, as Sara wasn’t expecting anything.

True, Christmas was only a handful of days away, but she figured her husband would send anything of that sort to the apartment and not the office. So the package’s presence there honestly baffled and bewildered her.

Although it wasn’t like he hadn’t sent her anything recently. He’d express mailed that DVD of his lectures to the lab two months before, in order to help with her insomnia, or so he had scrawled on the envelope, much to her chagrin.

But when it came to actual packages, you never did know with Grissom. Not really. Their contents often tended to prove as enigmatic as the man himself.

The last time she’d been here and him away, all those years ago, it had been a cocoon, sans note or any sort of explanation, which actually hadn’t been all that unsurprising really.

This time, who knew?

Sara half-wondered/half-feared this one would prove as baffling. Likely, it would be just as profound.

It wasn’t that her husband was in the habit of giving strange gifts, although he wasn’t exactly prone to following convention either, but you could never doubt that any choice had been made with the same deliberate care with which he did everything.

So Sara, still needing to shed her coat anyway, had taken the box back to the locker room to open it in relative privacy. Not that the lab was ever entirely private.

Which was where she could be found a good ten minutes later, both curious and longing to open it and trepidatious all at once.

It was light, lighter than she would have thought for a box of its size. It didn’t rattle. Wasn’t marked fragile or perishable. The customs receipt pasted on the front simply read le cadeau – gift.

Ultimately, there was nothing to do but open it.

Which she did.

Sara sliced the tape on one end, peeled back the flaps and removed a cushion of crumpled up pages from the previous Friday’s Le Monde to find —

A child’s kaleidoscope.

Which was unexpected to say the least. More bugs she could and would have understood, but this?

It was garishly decorated to celebrate le 120e anniversaire of the Eiffel tower, with a faux vintage sepia finish and the image of a much less modern Paris spread out beneath the tower’s feet.

Sara sighed, continued to examine the scope in momentary bemusement before gently placing it down on the bench beside her in order to see if, hope against hope, Grissom had enclosed a note, an explanation, something, anything.

Of course there wasn’t one.

So she picked up the kaleidoscope again, placed the opening to her eye to peer into it and slowly gave it a turn.

It was amazing how such a simple thing – after all, it was just a tube and mirrors and colored beads – when combined with light and transformed by the basic principles of reflection and refraction produced such explosions of ever-changing geometric patterns of blues and greens, reds and golds.

To which she couldn’t help but smile.

It was…

Beautiful.

And reminded her of the great, vast panels of stained glass that she loved to spend hours admiring back in Paris. Readily, she recalled her last visit to Sainte-Chapelle the month before. It had been light and color that day, with the rare sunshine streaming radiant through the jewel-like windowpanes. She’d gone for the quiet and the breathless beauty. Gone to think and reflect and be reminded that there was still that sort of beauty in the world. That humankind was still capable of that, and not just darkness and hate and destruction.

He had joined her there that day, Grissom had, and having him there with her, his presence added warmth and joy to the awe and wonder. Like it often did.

It was that same warmth that she felt now.

And suddenly, she didn’t need a note or explanation.  She knew what her husband was trying to tell her in sending the kaleidoscope.

That there was still beauty and wonder and joy to be found in every day, no matter how dark the world seemed to be.

And the Friday before, things had seemed dark indeed.

Poor Sam Trent, unable to save the one person he cared about. Then so desperate to die, and yet unable to do so, no matter what he did or how hard he tried. And now forced for the rest of his life to have to live with the fact that he would never know, never know if Carrie Warren loved her dog more than him. It seemed to Sara a far worse a fate than death, that never knowing, never being able to be certain or sure.

She’d come home late after that. As usual. Been tired and frustrated and truth be told, a little heartsick over the whole thing. But she’d also wanted to check her email one last time before collapsing into bed for a few scant hours of sleep until she had to be back in to work again.  She’d been hoping that she’d finally gotten a hit from her entry in the Missing and Imperiled Person’s Database from a case she’d been working on earlier in the week, as she could really have used some semblance of good news or even just closure. Neither waited for her there.

But she had spied her husband’s screen name active on Messenger.

A check on the time had made it close to one in the morning in Paris, so she’d clicked open a chat window to type, “What are you still doing up at this hour?”

She’d known better than to believe his reply of “Just prep work for class,” and told him so.

“Liar.”

“Internet insomnia,” he’d admitted. Then, “And you?”

“Just checking messages before bed.”

“Don’t tell me you just got home.”

“OK. I won’t,” she’d typed, feeling a slight smile tug at her lips, knowing as she did, that Grissom was shaking his head in exasperation. She’d decided to deflect any further comment on the subject by typing, “Tell me about your day.”

“Not much to tell,” he’d replied. “It was an ordinary day.”

Sara’s fingers played over the keyboard. The words “Tell me anyway. The more ordinary the better” filled her messaging window. She’d hit the return key to send her text and waited.

Except that done, there hadn’t been the usual indication that Grissom was in the process of composing a reply.  Which had frankly surprised and perplexed her.

Until her phone rang.

When she’d picked up, her husband didn’t bother with a greeting. Instead, his voice warm and gentle on the other end of the line had said, “That good huh?”

God, how good it had been to hear his voice then.

For it was so easy, too easy, always had been, to get wrapped up in all the ugliness and anger, sorrow and hurt and horror of the world. So easy to forget that beauty and happiness and joy and love remained, too.

Several years before, he’d said as much to her. They’d been standing alone together watching the sun rise over Lake Mead. It had been breathtakingly beautiful. Probably would have been romantic, if they hadn’t just stepped out of a house where a husband and father had murdered his wife and three children before killing himself.

Sara remembered thinking how incongruous it all was. There being all that beauty and ugliness all at once. And had said as much to him. How she never had understood.

But it wasn’t him telling her that perhaps it was to remind us that there still is beauty in the world that had rendered her speechless that morning. It was his next confession that he was reminded of that everyday, that had cut her to the quick, as so many of Grissom’s unadorned admissions were wont to do. For he’d been gazing at her when he’d said it, his eyes as warm and tender as his words. As that had also been the day he’d first told her he loved her, it had been a Sunday she was unlikely ever to forget.

Sara gave the kaleidoscope one last turn. She supposed life was a lot like that, ever-changing, resolving, full of chaos and disorder as the world went round and round, and yet there was beauty to be found there just the same.

After a while, she carefully replaced the scope in the box, her fondness tempered with knowing that it was indeed the most gaudy, tacky, kitschiest thing she’d ever seen. And yet it was perfect.

She wanted to tell her husband as much. Except as it was well past four in Vegas, it was way too late to call, even with the Sorbonne on their Christmas holidays and Grissom not having class in the morning. But she didn’t want to wait or leave a voicemail either.

Of course a text message was another story entirely.

*******

Gil Grissom woke to find his phone blinking to indicate he had a text waiting for him. He clicked it open to read:

Package arrived. Message received. Merci.

But don’t you ever tire of being right, Gilbert?

He grinned; almost able to hear the laughter in that last line, the playful, teasing lilt Sara always seemed to get when she called him by his full first name. While he wasn’t all that fond of being addressed that way, he rather liked it when Sara did it. Not that he would admit to it.

And found he missed her and that even though they had seen each other less than two weeks before, he didn’t really want to wait almost another month to see his wife again.

It would be easy enough to arrange. He would just fly out a little earlier for his American Board of Forensic Entomology meeting at Michigan State. All he needed to do was make one quick phone call before changing his flight.

He scrolled through the contact list on his phone, located Conrad Ecklie’s cell number and dialed.

*******

Continued in Surviving Christmas.

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mbonthecorner
    Apr 01, 2010 @ 18:25:01

    I love it when she calls him Gilbert!
    And of course Grissom would read Le Monde!

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