In the introduction to “Your Story,” having recently lost her mother, Olivia Dunquist went to the family home to clean it out and get it ready to be sold.
The loss was especially difficult since the Christmas holiday was right around the corner.
Olivia’s only consolation was in the house’s attic. It was her mother’s most-beloved possession – a necklace originally belonging to Olivia’s grandmother.
Olivia’s mother often told her stories about how, as a child, she would put the necklace on and model it in front of the mirror, watching how it sparkled in the light.
As Olivia got older, she was able to wear the family heirloom on special occasions. She always made sure to take great care of it and was at ease once it was back in her mother’s jewelry box. Her mother always told her it would someday be hers – and she knew she would someday pass it on to her own oldest daughter.
So, in the wake of her mother’s death, she knew that the treasured necklace would keep her memories of her mother alive.
But when she entered the home, Olivia saw that it was in disarray. Boxes were everywhere. Papers were strewn across the floor.
Olivia’s younger brother, Steven Hamilton, had already started cleaning the house out.
He had sent some boxes to various charity organizations and thrown others into the trash.
Olivia went into a panic and began to search the house for the necklace, but it was nowhere to be found. She asked Steven if he had seen it, but he hadn’t. Quite a few people had already been in and out of the house, hauling items away, so anything might have happened to it.
Olivia was devastated. That necklace meant everything to her and her mother, and now it was gone.
All she knew was that she had to get it back, but she had no idea how.
Suddenly, she had a thought.
“Yes,” she said aloud. “That’s what I need to do.”
And then ...
Olivia remembered that her mother had a safe deposit box.
After finding the key in the kitchen, she drove to the bank to see if the necklace might be inside.
She recalled that James, a man she dated the year she moved back home after college, worked there and she dreaded seeing him.
Upon entering the bank, Olivia went up to James and, skipping the formalities, told him she needed access to safe deposit box 136.
James showed her to the safe deposit box, and she hurriedly thanked him and took it to the desk behind the privacy curtain.
Olivia remembered wearing the necklace on her wedding day. She cherished her memories of the pre-ceremony talk her mother gave her – a talk she hoped to someday give to her own daughter.
But she didn’t have time to reminisce and opened the safe deposit box.
It contained birth certificates, tax documents, legal documents and the deed to the house.
As Olivia sifted through the documents, she felt a hard object underneath the last few pieces of paper.
She recognized it immediately – it was the case of the necklace she had been searching for.
Thrilled, she opened it without any hesitation, but the necklace was not inside.
All that was inside was one piece of paper. On the back was a note scribbled in her mother’s handwriting.
“Call her. 555-0854.” ...
As Olivia hurried out of the bank and to her car, she tried to hold back her anxiety.
On one hand, she couldn’t wait to dial the number written in her mother’s scrawl – but, on the other hand, she had no clue who she was calling. How do you even start such a conversation?
Olivia carefully dialed the number, but the call switched over to voicemail.
As calmly as she could, she left a brief voice message: “Hi, this is Olivia Dunquist, Elaine Hamilton’s daughter. I’m looking for a necklace of my mother’s, and I found a note in the empty case that told me to call this number. If you know anything about this necklace, would you please call me as soon as possible?”
Realizing that there was nothing else she could do at this point but wait for the mysterious person to call her back, she decided to go back to her parents’ house and help Steven pack a few boxes.
While packing up her mother’s belongings, her phone started to vibrate.
The woman on the other line identified herself as Alice and said she’d met Olivia’s mother when they both had cancer. Alice had good news and bad news to share. ...
Alice explained that earlier in the year she received a surprising package in the mail from Olivia’s mother. It was the necklace and her mother said she needed Alice’s help with something.
Olivia questioned why her mother would tell Alice about her heirloom necklace.
Alice said that she and Elaine became friends during their cancer treatments. Elaine spoke about her family and how the necklace would be Olivia’s one day.
For Olivia, hearing the story and Elaine’s intentions to give the necklace to her caused her to be even more confused since it is now missing.
Alice said she could help, but probably not in the way Olivia would prefer.
She told Olivia that sitting in adjacent recliners during chemotherapy the two women had a lot of time to get to know one another.
Alice said she was an antiques dealer, so one day Elaine brought the necklace to show her. She immediately recognized it as a very rare, nearly perfect example of an early Cartier creation.
Olivia remembered that her mother sent the necklace to Alice and she asked where it was now.
Alice said she honored Elaine’s request and sold it. ...
By Rick Pavic
“You did what?” shrieked Olivia, realizing that any thoughts she was keeping to herself were now out of the bag and were going to be audible from here on out.
“How could you have done that, Alice? That necklace … that necklace was a family heirloom, and it was supposed to be a gift from my mother. I just don’t understand, Alice. Why?”
Olivia burst into tears. A day’s worth of emotion that was pent up inside had now found its way out, and she found herself sobbing.
None of this made any sense to her and the frustration of the mystery was all she could handle. Olivia wanted answers. Alice remained silent, biding her time.
The awkward silence that ensued was finally broken by Alice on the other end of the phone.
“Oh dear, I am so sorry to tell you this news, Olivia, but this was your mother’s wish. I was just doing what she asked me to do.”
Olivia tried to find the words to say, but now confusion took over, and she found herself babbling, as if trying to figure it all out in one fell swoop.
“Who? When? Alice, who did you sell the necklace to ... why did ... oh, Alice. Was she out of her mind?” Olivia asked, not sure if her mother was even thinking clearly when she asked Alice to sell the precious necklace.
Alice remained steadfast through the inquisition, realizing that this day would eventually come and she would have to explain everything.
“Olivia, your mother was a very strong woman. She was in a very good state of mind, and she knew exactly what she was doing, dear. I know that it makes no sense at all, but believe me, you will understand everything in due time. In due time, Olivia.”
Olivia wiped the tears away as Steven was now very attentive to the situation, dropping what he was doing to come to Olivia’s aid.
Olivia finally spoke, gathering her thoughts into some semblance of order.
“So, what is there to understand, Alice? There was a necklace, a very beautiful, expensive necklace. It was destined to be mine upon her death, and now a woman that I do not know is telling me that it is now gone, never to be seen again.”
The words sounded harsh, but there was no time for filters in Olivia’s mind.
The mystery was over with a very improbable and sad ending – or was it?
Alice began to speak, and now Olivia was hanging on every word.
“Olivia, I know that you are heartbroken and that you really wanted this necklace, but you have to understand what was at stake and really what this piece was worth. Your mother had a plan, and she asked me to help her.”
Olivia remained silent as Alice continued to speak.
“My dear, understand that your mother loved you and your brother very much, and she knew what this necklace could do for her, for you and for the family. It was truly a rare necklace in these parts of the world, so a necklace of this sort could truly change lives. And it did.”
Olivia was stunned. The roller coaster ride was not done yet, and now Alice was about to land the final bombshell in this saga.
“Olivia, the day that your mother brought me the necklace to be sold, she also handed me an envelope that she made me promise to give to you should anything happen to her. It was an odd request, what with my age and all, but I promised her that I would give you this envelope. I think it will explain everything.”
They agreed to meet in Central Park later that evening, at the now-famous Central Park Christmas tree, so that Alice could deliver what would certainly be the most important letter of Olivia’s life. ...