02 – L’affaire du Collier, or the Affair of the Necklace

  Continued from Mirror, Mirror

 

“These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of,”

The Spanish Gypsy, Book One, Mary Evans Cross (George Eliot)

*******

However scheduled off for that evening as she might be, Sara was still technically on-call and with the very real possibility she would be called in that night and not wanting a reprise of Nick and Ray’s agog response to the dress she’d worn to the Gilbert Foundation party, Sara had originally planned to wear the simple, neat pantsuit she’d worn to Dave Phillip’s wedding reception several years before, but considering that Grissom would soon be back off to Peru again and her not entirely above dressing with a desire to please — and tease — her husband even if only a little, she opted instead to risk another dress, albeit one slightly more conservative in cut, as this was of course dinner out with her mother-in-law after all.

Careful so as not to tousle her hair, she slipped the sheath over her head and proceeded to zip it up as far as she could reach. Then having slid on a pair of conservative heels, all she needed was a necklace and she’d finally be ready to go.

As for that, she went to retrieve the pretty butterfly-shaped Costa Rican puzzle box Grissom had presented her with three Christmases before. Just as it had that morning, it still contained his grandmother’s ring, but over the years she’d added to the collection, or rather her husband had. These days Sara kept her not for everyday jewelry there.

Quickly locating the key, the box fell open in her hands and she couldn’t help but smirk at the sight of the amber pendant positioned perhaps a little too haphazardly as it was on top. But then Sara hadn’t exactly been in the best of moods when she’d last put it away. Delinquent husbands, disapproving mother-in-laws and a dead body all in the space of an hour did not a good night out make. And then there’d been Julia.

But ultimately it wasn’t the thought of that evening which had caused her to pause in her replacing the necklace. Rather it was that of the afternoon when she’d first discovered its unexpected presence in said same box.

*******

Sara had repeatedly put off emptying her bags from that final trip to Europe, her husband’s tenure as a visiting professeur at l’Université Paris-Sorbonne having finally come to an end. While she could have probably blamed all the extra hours she’d been working since she’d gotten back, she knew Vegas had nothing to do with her uncharacteristic in general — but more frequently habitual as of late — unpacking procrastination.

For in the end, the act signified, like nothing else did, that end of her time away and more importantly her time with Grissom. And Paris had been Paris after all. No less charming and in some ways made more so by the addition of an unseasonably large snowfall. Sara hadn’t had a white Christmas in nearly fifteen years and never un Noël blanc so enjoyable as this. Which all meant that it had been even harder than usual to let the holiday go.

Hence it was after New Years when she unearthed her jewelry box from her carryon. Except as she did so, it felt off; strangely heavier than she remembered.

Curious, she set to open it and was surprised to find a very unfamiliar necklace perched inside.

She glanced at her watch, had already done the quick calculation to make sure she wasn’t phoning in the middle of the night when she recalled that PET, or Peru Time, was, unlike Paris, only two hours ahead. Still, it should already be dark there, which meant it was possible she could catch him back in camp. Could at least if the reception cooperated, which it often did not.

So perhaps she should have been thankful when her husband readily picked up, but Sara, not bothering with Hello, instead launched in with “You want to explain, Gil?”

Not unsurprisingly, he echoed uneasily, “Explain?”

His wife’s “So, what did you do?” while slightly more playful, not proving all that particularly illuminating, Grissom said, “You might want to narrow it down a bit, dear.”

“That necklace,” she offered.

To which he let out a soft “Ah” of comprehension.

When this appeared to be all he was going to say on the matter without any further prompting, Sara sighed, “You’re going to have to do better than that.”

There was a long moment of dead air which left Sara under the impression her husband was carefully weighing his next words, but what she didn’t know was the situation had rather pointedly reminded Grissom of a conversation he’d once had with Doc Robbins nearly seven years before, one about how his wife Judy had irrationally accused him of having as Doc termed it sex on the steel and all because he’d taken it upon himself to buy her some very expensive underwear. At the time, Grissom had dismissed the whole thing as just another one of those incomprehensible weird things married people did. Not that he’d expected then to ever be one of those married people himself, nor happily, too, for almost two years. Nor did Grissom believe for a moment now that his wife shared Judy’s sentiments or suspicions; that that particular motive even crossed Sara’s mind. Her tone was far too much of the perplexed than persecuting variety. And atonement for adultery was most certainly not the reason he had chosen that necklace for his wife. Still, the seeming strange simulacrum had given him pause.

As for why he had, Grissom began a little chagrined, “It was supposed to be a surprise.”

And he could hear the truth in her “It still is.”

Which it was. But then Gil Grissom was as it strangely turned out, rather regularly full of surprises. Or so Sara had soon swiftly discovered.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice,” he was saying sheepishly. “Not yet at least. But I forgot this is you we’re talking about.” Then after a beat he added, the fondness plainly evident in his assertion, “I should have known better. You seldom miss anything.”

Sara couldn’t help but smile. “You should take that as a compliment. After all, I learned from the best,” she replied equally warm. “But, Gil, you’re a little late for Christmas.”

“Wasn’t supposed to be for Christmas.”

Of course it wasn’t.

“Care to fill me in on the occasion then?”

That proved simple enough. “I thought you could wear it to the Gilbert Foundation party.”

To which Sara let out an involuntary chuckle. “I never thought you one to stoop to bribery. Besides, I did already agree to go.”

Even if she hadn’t been all that keen on the prospect. Nor had her husband really. He didn’t like parties and all the attendant dressing up to spend an evening in a crowd of strangers it entailed any more than she did. In fact, Grissom liked it even less. But Betty Grissom had asked and Sara had the feeling Betty Grissom wasn’t a woman who heard the word No very often, if ever.

So when her husband had hesitantly offered, “We don’t have to go,” Sara had replied, “Yeah, I have the feeling your mother might not agree with you on that.”

Plus, when he’d sprung it on her at the last minute, well, during those last hours right before she was set to leave Paris, he’d been so cutely, awkwardly apologetic about the whole thing, she couldn’t refuse him.

Like she could ever usually refuse him anything anyway, particularly when the plea came in person. There was just something about the Grissom charm — well, that of the Gil Grissom variety — which had in her experience always proved utterly irresistible no matter what he might be asking.

Of course there had also been the added inducement of getting to see him in a suit, a sight Sara could never see too often. Unfortunately, that did little to cancel out the hassle of her having to get a dress. But she had said yes and had already made an appointment to see Sandra. So there was no real need for a sweetener.

“Or have you forgotten?” asked Sara when he made no ready reply.

“No. And it’s not a bribe. I just thought it would suit you,” he said. “Not that you need the amendment.”

Like all her husband’s simple, honest admissions, this one took Sara aback and there was that smile again threatening to overtake her. Perhaps it was a good thing this wasn’t a video call. Grissom didn’t need any more encouragement. He was frequently incorrigible enough as it was.

Still, she couldn’t keep herself from murmuring in frank admiration, “It’s… it’s beautiful,” or inquiring, “Where on earth did you find it? M. Morel come through for you again?”

It was Grissom’s turn to laugh. “No, not this time.”

“Then?”

For genuine amber, particularly with this quality of inclusions, tended to be rather rare. Prized since the Stone Age as it was for the making of ornaments and jewelry, its popularity had for the better part of the last six centuries, often led to the rather rampant creation of forgeries. And knowing as she did Grissom’s thoroughness in everything and anything he did, there was no way this piece was a fake.

But from the determined caginess of his “I have my sources,” Sara also knew no further information would be forthcoming, ask what she would, so instead she set to better puzzle out the precise species included in the near half-dollar sized shape.

“Early form of Apis?” she asked after a moment.

“Naturally.”

Bees, she should have known, she thought, her fingers taking in the natural warmth of the stone as they brushed over its smooth surface. Grissom and his bugs. Even his most romantic of gestures tended towards the entomic variety. But then Sara rather liked that about him.

Although once she let the long beaded chain slip through her fingers to its full length, she was struck with a thought far less innocent.

“Gil, you do realize where it falls it’s a little…”

“A little what?” he prompted when her voice trailed off.

“Uh… suggestive.”

Not for a moment did Sara believe his airily nonchalant, “I hadn’t noticed.”

So she simply stood there shaking her head before she said in a rejoining tease, “And here I thought you had a good imagination.”

*******

More carefully this time, Sara returned the pendant to its proper place in the box. As with the dress, Grissom would just have to wait for her to wear the necklace.

Served him right, even if he wasn’t technically in the doghouse for leaving her  –and at the last minute, too — to deal with the party and his mother all on her own. True, by the time she’d finally gotten to talk to her husband about it, she’d been able to smile, even joke with him. But during not so much.

And Betty, Betty had honestly been the worst of it.

No matter how much things between the two of them had improved, at the returning thought of her mother-in-law and the evening which lay ahead, Sara took another long, deep steadying breath.

*******

Continued in The Particular Problem with Parents and other Random Pensées on Marriage, Love and Family

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: