Jax, five years ago, had walked into the chocolate shop and bought five chocolate ducks which Jessie had packaged for him in their special Easter edition boxes printed with bright bunnies, chicks and oddly, ducks. It was her grandmother’s whimsy that had made her release a line of little chocolate ducks one Easter. She liked ducks and thought they should be celebrated as much as the ubiquitous bunny or chick.
Everyone else in town liked ducks too, so it would seem, for the line sold out in two days and every year thereafter there were hundreds of preorders for the Easter ducks.
This year Jessie was finding it hard to get the chocolate to set. She had already ruined two entire orders and Mrs. Potts, head teacher at the elementary school was in a funk because she had ordered one hundred Easter ducks, perfectly packaged with yellow ribbon, to hand out to her best students. ‘I need those ducks by Thursday at the latest,’ she fumed, glasses quivering on the bridge of her nose. ‘At the latest.’
Jessie stayed up all night making Mrs. Potts’ ducks. This time they set. She knew why the last two batches had been ruined. Chocolate and tears didn’t mix. Jessie had been mixing chocolate and crying over her grandmother.
One year ago Penelope Good had died of a broken heart at the age of 82. The doctor wrote natural causes on her death certificate but Jessie knew the real cause of death. Her grandmother had pined for forty years for her beloved Albert Good, a policeman, who had died in the line of duty.
Jessie had never met her grandfather but she had heard tell of his bravery and manliness from the gossip in the town. ‘Oh he was a good man,’ said Mrs. Moody who always wore an apron, even to Church. ‘Good by name, good by nature.’ ‘He looked like a movie star,’ said Mrs. Bigge, whose stockings were always wrinkled. ‘A regular Montgomery Clift.’
On the darkest of days Jessie’s parents were killed when a truck collided with them on the mountain road leading to the city. Jessie’s grandmother took the scared little girl to live with her and taught her everything about chocolate-making.
They had a happy life, a simple, uneventful life, but sometimes Jessie saw a shadow of sorrow cross her grandmother’s face. ‘You still miss him, don’t you?’ she asked one sunny afternoon as they planted daffodil bulbs in the garden beneath the kitchen window. ‘My heart will not mend until I see him again,’ her grandmother replied.
Penelope Good liked Jax straight away. He was a photographer who photographed common objects like lamp posts and soup ladles and made them into something beautiful. His photograph of a fallen log floating downstream won him a trip to the city. Bit by bit he began to become famous.
Penelope worried that Jax might decide to move to the city but she found he didn’t like it there. ‘People walk around with their eyes closed,’ he said. ‘The breathing in is endless. The air is full of sighs waiting to be exhaled.’
Penelope watched her granddaughter blossom. She almost envied her iridescence. She would have like to drink it if she could. She knew Jax loved Jessie, as sure as his own heartbeat.
One day Penelope knew it was time. She and Albert were to be reunited. The daffodils were blooming just in time for Easter.
Jessie caught her grandmother packing away her clothes, getting her paperwork in order. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked, feeling a twinge of panic.
Her grandmother took Jessie’s hand. ‘I could never leave you until I knew for sure you had found someone who truly loved you. Now I know. It is time for me to go.’
‘But you are healthy. You are well.’ Jessie was in tears.
‘My heart is weary of beating alone. It has been broken for so long.It is time to mend it.’
Penelope Good died on Good Friday as the church bells rang for morning service. ‘How apt, said Mrs. Moody wearing a freshly starched apron for the occasion. ‘It’s as if the day was named for her.’
She left her granddaughter the chocolate shop and a note which read:
I will always be with you,
but most of all when the daffodils bloom.
On Good Friday morn as Jessie and Jax ate chocolate ducks with their morning tea they noticed the freshly blooming daffodils by the kitchen windows, clutching at the sun. It was as if someone had prepared the garden for a party. ‘Your grandmother is here,’ said Jax as if he had always known she would be.
Jessie smiled, basking in the glow of the daffodils gleaming like lemon butter. And all at once she knew she would never be alone.