The young woman looked out her bedroom window and wondered if she could live with her decision. She convinced herself she had no other choice. It was only a little lie, she thought as she touched the locket around her neck. She had committed to him and now she had to accept what came with it.
Earlier that day, Johan Pedersen nearly wore a hole in the thin braided rug covering the floor of Mr. Rasmussen’s silver shop. An ordinary looking young man, Johan wasn’t handsome and he wasn’t ugly. He wasn’t tall and he wasn’t short. His hair was thin and a sort of muddy color of brown and his pale features were mainly unmemorable. People often forgot they had met him forcing him to constantly re-introduce himself to those he had met many times before. He simply got used to doing it and didn’t really give it a second thought. It was the way it was. Johan was dull but reliable, though he didn’t know it. Today, dull but reliable Johan perspired as he paced back and forth across the front room of the tiny silver shop. He pulled out his watch for the tenth time and sighed when he saw the lateness of the hour.
“Why was it taking so long?” he wondered. “I absolutely must see Lena today, before it gets too late.” He had something important to ask her and needed Mr. Rasmussen to finish the silver locket. For almost a year, Johan had painstakingly saved the money to have the piece made especially for Lena. He was convinced if he presented the necklace at the same time he asked her the question, there would be a much better outcome.
The front door of the shop was pushed open setting off a little bell that was attached to the top of the door. Mr. Rasmussen heard the tinkle and rushed out from the back of the shop to wait on his new customer.
“Hurry, hurry, please, Mr. Rasmussen,” thought Johan as he fidgeted near the door, “if you stop every five minutes to talk to your customers, I’ll never get out of here before dusk. Then, it will be too late to take Lena for a walk.”
Lena Jensen was in most people’s opinion, the prettiest girl around town. No one was quite able to put their finger on what made Lena so fetching. Each of her facial features on their own were not spectacular. Her bright blue eyes that curved upwards at the corners were small and somewhat closely set. Her lips were possibly too big for her face and her nose turned up almost a little too far. While each feature alone seemed ordinary, together they created a symphony. Her pretty face combined with a thick head of magnificent strawberry blonde hair made her the envy of all the girls and the center of attention for all the boys.
Lena came from a hardscrabble hardworking family that owned a small local general store. She and her two younger sisters worked in the store every day after school. Many of the local young men admired Lena’s charms and secretly wished they would be the one she would ultimately choose. For most of them, she was an unattainable dream — but not for Johan.
Johan walked past Jensen’s General Store every day on his way home to ensure “chance meetings” with Lena would happen frequently. She always smiled and laughed at his jokes whenever he accidentally bumped into her on street. Even if she was busy with a customer, she found time to give him a free piece of candy or cake if she didn’t have time to talk. He was sure she danced with him more than anyone else at the Christmas ball last December. Surely, those were all clear signs of her affection for him. Johan’s love for Lena so overwhelmed him, he presumed she surely felt the same. He was certain they were meant to be together forever.
While Johan thought Lena to be his true love, she barely noticed he existed. Her sights were focused on another. Unbeknownst to Johan, the lovely Lena Jensen had fallen for a roguish actor from a touring theater troupe. Sadly, that actor’s intentions were not entirely honorable.
It had started almost four months before when Lena, her mother and sister had gone to see a play at the local theater. The lead actor was extremely handsome and charming and had many of the girls in the audience swooning. He was tall, muscular and lean with thick wavy dark brown hair and a thick mustache to match. His soulful eyes and devilish demeanor captured Lena’s heart. From the second this actor stepped on the stage, she was smitten. No matter where the action happened in the play, Lena’s eyes never left his face. Her gaze from the front row was so intense that she thought she saw the actor look back directly at her. She had never felt anything like this for anyone before and thought it was the strangest sensation. Her skin felt hot, her heart pounded and she could scarcely catch her breath as she sat in the dark auditorium. She was accustomed to all the boys admiring her, not the other way around. Yet, she had to admit to herself, here she was, completely in love with a total stranger and she liked it.
Each afternoon for the next few days, Lena managed to scrape together a few kroner from the store’s money till to buy tickets to the play. She would sneak out of the store early, meet a friend on the corner and together they would go sit in the front row of the theater. On the second day, the handsome actor noticed the same pretty young woman with strawberry blonde hair gazing up at him adoringly. Lena enlisted different friends to accompany her for the first three performances but on the fourth day, everyone was otherwise engaged. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to see her actor, she ventured to the theater alone and sat in her regular front row seat.
On this fourth day, the handsome actor sent her a note at intermission, inviting her to join him in his dressing room after the performance. Lena could hardly believe it when the stagehand gave her the note. Of course, she would go meet him, she thought. This was a sign that possibly he felt the same way she did. He must love me the same way I love him, she thought. Lena could hardly wait for the second act to end.
When the last curtain call was taken where her actor got a standing ovation, Lena walked out of the theater and around to the side stage door entrance of the building. Her heart nearly beat out of her chest as she approached an old man sitting on a stool reading a newspaper. Shaking, Lena handed him the note from the actor.
She was prettier than a lot of the others who had shown up with similar notes, the old man thought. He remembered a few of the young girls had been downright plain and one had enormous feet. But this one he reckoned, was quite attractive and smelled of honey and rosewater. The old man looked at the eager young girl, shook his head with a mixture of pity and disdain and pointed to a door down a hallway.
“You sure you want to go in there, Miss?” grumbled the old man with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m sure I do,” said Lena defiantly lifting her chin with superiority. She breezed by with such determination that the movement of her skirts caused the newspapers on the old man’s table to blow onto the floor. She marched to the dressing room door and knocked confidently, mainly for the old man’s benefit. Then she heard the unmistakable baritone voice of her actor through the closed door.
“I’m getting changed, but the door is open, come in, close it behind you,” he called out.
Until this point in her short eighteen years, Lena had been nothing but appropriate. This day she succumbed completely to the actor’s charms right there on the threadbare gold brocade chaise lounge in his dressing room. When they were through, Lena dressed and made sure everything was back in its proper place. The actor walked over to her and smiled. He kissed her on the forehead and told her he hoped to see her in the audience again.
She walked out of the theater past the old man and heard him mutter something she couldn’t quite make out. She didn’t care what that old man thought. She only cared what the actor thought. She was in love and she was almost certain her actor loved her too. He must love her. How could she possibly feel so much for him unless they were meant to be together?
For the next six afternoons, Lena attended each matinee performance. Afterwards, she gave the actor a private performance on his gold chaise lounge. On the sixth day, as Lena buttoned the cuff of her sleeve, the actor shared some news.
“You know something, I will truly miss you, Lena,” said the actor admiring himself in the mirror while he smoothed his thick mustache. “Our company is leaving tomorrow to travel around Europe and then we’re off to America. We’ve got performances in twenty-eight cities already scheduled. It will be at least a year or two before I’ll return to Copenhagen.”
Lena’s ears started to ring and she couldn’t get air into her lungs. He was leaving her. He didn’t love her the way she loved him. They were supposed to be in love.
“You’ll be gone for a year,” she cried. “But I thought we were going to be together. I don’t understand. I thought we would get married.”
The actor wondered to himself why all the young girls always read so much into everything. They all had a good time. He sighed and walked over to his trunk and opened it. At the bottom of the trunk was a wooden cigar box filled with several dozen beaded bracelets each with a single charm in the shape of a flower. On each charm was engraved, “with love, J. W. B.”. The actor extracted a single bracelet, closed the trunk and turned around to face Lena.
“Put your right arm out, Lena. I have a very special gift for you.” Then with great fanfare, he placed the beaded bracelet on Lena’s wrist and stood back to admire it.
“I hope you like it, Lena, I had it made especially for you to remember me,” he boasted.
Speechless, Lena gently touched the charm so her fingertips could feel the roughness of the engraving on its surface. It says, “with love” she thought. Maybe he does love me, she told herself with a sense of relief.
The actor continued his announcement in a professorial and disinterested tone.
“My acting career requires me to move around freely to experience the world. I hope you didn’t misconstrue the nature of our most pleasant relationship. Of course, I have deep affection for you which is why I had the bracelet made just for you. Being an actor requires me to maintain independence for my art. Surely, you understand that, sweet Lena.” He kissed her quickly on the forehead and went back to his dressing table to continue his grooming.
“Will you close the door tightly Lena, when you leave? I’ve got to get changed for dinner.”
Lena didn’t remember leaving the theater but somehow made her way home and went straight to bed. Her brain and her heart were at war with each other. Everything was firing inside her head. What have I done, she thought. I have been so stupid. He doesn’t care at all about me. I was so gullible. No one will ever find out, what a horribly foolish girl I have been. She vowed she would never speak of him ever, to anyone.
Lena never did speak of the actor to anyone but less than three months later she discovered that she was undeniably pregnant. The changes in her body were clear and she knew what was coming in six or seven months. The day she realized this, was the same day Johan Pedersen came calling with his silver locket. She thought Johan was nice enough but he didn’t stand out any more than the dozens of other boys who competed for her attention. They say timing is everything so when Johan showed up with his shiny silver locket the same day Lena realized she was going to be a mother, the distance between them narrowed.
It was a windy Saturday afternoon. Lena had just finished stacking boxes of shoes at the store when Johan stopped by to ask if she was free to go for a walk. Normally, she would have given him a piece of candy to get rid of him and tell him she was too busy but today, she was glad for an excuse to get out of the store. She asked her mother if she could go for a walk and got her cloak. The red, yellow and brown fall leaves blew around their ankles as they walked along the streets of Copenhagen. Johan talked about ordinary things like the goings on about town and local gossip. Lena barely focused on his words as she tried to come up with a solution to her tremendous problem.
When they turned a corner, a big gust of wind blew heaps of leaves and debris at the couple. Johan stopped to block Lena from the wind and in doing so faced her very closely. He decided this was his moment. He took her hand and told her there was something extremely important he wanted to say. Lena looked up at his blotchy red face. He’s perspiring and breathing so hard. It’s not even warm out today, she thought and wished more than anything he would go away. He is squeezing my hand so hard, she thought, trying to pull it away. I have a big problem and this foolish idiot is prattling on about nothing.
Then, right there on the blustery street corner, Johan blurted out his big question.
“Lena, I have loved you from the first moment I saw you and I’ve come to believe over the years that you may feel the same way,” said Johan. “If you would agree to be my wife, I promise you a lifetime of love. You will never have to worry about anything and I will always take care of you.” Lena’s mouth hung open and her eyes widened. She had not anticipated this at all. Before she could respond, Johan nervously pulled out a small blue box and opened it.
“I saved up for a nearly a year to have this made for you, sweet Lena,” he proudly announced. Inside the box sat a shiny oval-shaped silver locket with a granulated point on each end. The locket hung from a thick silver chain and had a very fancy clasp. There was an engraved heart on the front and when you turned it over it said “LENA”. He opened the locket and inside was engraved, “You are my Heart”.
Over the years, Lena Jensen had received a few marriage proposals but she had never been pregnant before. The wheels in her mind turned. Johan was a decent man, she thought, though rather ordinary and dull and he keeps breathing so hard. On the other hand, she thought, he did go to an awful lot of trouble and expense to have that locket made for me, that was rather sweet.
She didn’t have much time to play with because the baby would soon start to show. After a few moments of internal debate seeing no other immediate solutions or marriage proposals on the horizon, Lena smiled and accepted his proposal along with the locket. She agreed to marry him, providing he agreed to marry right away.
“Once I make up my mind Johan, I simply cannot wait,” she told him. Johan clapped his hands with delight and proclaimed he was the “luckiest man in the world”. Gingerly, he placed the silver necklace around her long white neck and made Lena promise she would never take it off, ever. The locket would be the symbol of their eternal love.
The following week the two families met at the chapel where Father Schmidt united Lena and Johan in the eyes of God. At the end of the ceremony, Johan kissed his new bride. He was delighted. She was relieved.
Seven months later, a daughter was born, “prematurely,” Johan was told. Despite the baby’s early arrival, she was quite large, much to everyone’s surprise. The baby girl was the spitting image of the actor. Lena hoped no one would notice and fortunately, no one ever did.
As promised, Lena wore the silver locket every day of her marriage. It was a constant reminder of her love lost, the embarrassing rejection by the actor and the loveless life and marriage she had accepted and lived with. She hated that locket more than anything.
Eighteen years later, on her daughter’s wedding day, the wheels in Lena’s head turned once again. She had a plan to finally rid herself of the onerous locket. She told Johan she should like to give the necklace to their daughter as a wedding gift. She convinced him the locket would bring love and luck to their daughter as it had to them.
“I will hate to take it off,” Lena said, “but wouldn’t it be nice to pass the symbol of our love to our beautiful daughter?” It took Johan a few moments to process the notion but he eventually agreed.
As Lena dressed for her daughter’s wedding, she stood in front of the mirror and admired her bare neck. She smiled and took a moment to congratulate herself. It had always felt like that necklace was strangling her. Now, it was finally off her neck and she could breathe again.
Lena's daughter wore that locket from that day forward. In the first ten years of her marriage she had four boys and two stillbirths that were girls. Finally, on the eleventh year, a baby girl was born and given the locket that same day because her poor mother had died during childbirth.
The baby girl wore her dead mother's locket every day and in 1915, she married in Copenhagen. She and her new husband immediately set sail for a new life in America, settled in Queens, NY and had three children. When the first World War broke out, her husband joined the U.S. Army and went to fight the Germans, leaving his wife pregnant with their third child. Her husband never came home having died from mustard gas poisoning on the fields of France.
With three children to feed, the new widow did the best she could with her husband’s small army pension but still had to take in washing and sewing to make ends meet. During a polio outbreak, her oldest daughter lingered for many months, and finally died. That's how the younger sister Mae, came to possess her great grandmother Lena's silver locket. Mae's mother gave her the locket in 1943 on the day Mae married Joe.
“Mae, this was your great grandmother’s locket. My grandfather gave it to her as a symbol of their great love. Wear it always and one day pass it to your eldest daughter as I am passing it to you.” Mae treasured the locket and proudly wore it every day of her life, just as she had promised.
Five generations of women who proudly wore Johan’s silver locket were not even related to Johan. All were descendants of a self-absorbed actor who didn't know or care that they existed. The moment Lena accepted Johan's love and the silver locket under false pretenses, she and all her descendants had to live with the consequences of her lie.
New York, Summer 1988
While she waited to check her backpack at the Air India counter, Trina Holmgard played with the silver locket around her neck. It had been her grandmother’s and Trina cherished it more than anything. A year later she would give the precious locket away, an act that would ruin her life and cause thousands to die.
The international terminal at JFK International Airport was packed with summer travelers and after months of planning, Trina was one of them. Jenn Fairchild stood next to her absorbed in a celebrity magazine, oblivious to the airport chaos. Inseparable since freshman year of college, she and Jenn had bonded over their mutual dream of becoming editors at a magazine likeVogue, Rolling StoneorGlamour.Practically carbon copies of each other, both women were exactly five foot five inches tall with fair complexions and shoulder length dirty blonde bobs. They shared their clothes and their dreams with equal passion and always had each other’s backs. Sisters forever.
As she and Jenn walked to their gate, Trina felt a lump in her throat as she thought about Nanna Mae and the year she had lived without her. Trina took in a deep cleansing breath through her nose, blew out through her mouth and forced herself to smile.
“Just put a smile on your pretty face,” Nanna Mae used to say with a wink, “It will trick your brain into thinking you’re happy, even when you’re not. Trust me, Cookie, it works.”
Trina visualized her tiny, wiry Nanna Mae wearing one of her blue house dresses banging two pot lids together as makeshift symbols while dancing around the kitchen on the day she learned Trina had won a scholarship to college. Hours later, Trina found out the boy she had a huge crush on had asked another girl to go to the senior prom. One moment she had been so happy and the next, misery. Nanna had wrapped her arms around Trina, hugged her and told her that everything would be alright and Trina had almost believed her.
“There will be plenty of other boys out there for you, Cookie. Better than that stupid Tommy what’s-his-name,” said Nanna Mae giving her another squeeze. “I promise you that. That Tommy obviously has terrible taste and that’s all I’m going to say about him.”
Nanna Mae had been her mother, teacher and most importantly, her champion. Their small two-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens used to have the delicious aroma of one of Nanna Mae’s homemade soups endlessly cooking on the stove or her special coffee cake muffins fresh from of the oven. Now, there was only the faint odor of mildew mixed with stale cigar smoke that drifted up through the floor boards from the fat guy who lived downstairs. Her last conversation with Nanna Mae continued to play on an endless loop in Trina’s head. She had made promises to her grandmother and in exchange, Nanna Mae gave Trina her antique silver locket. It was Nanna Mae’s greatest treasure and had been given to her by her mother. Trina took the locket reluctantly, knowing what taking it meant. When she held it up, the sun reflected off its shiny face and cast a tiny dancing light onto the wall above Nanna Mae’s bed. Trina moved her hand causing the light to flicker down onto Nanna Mae’s face.
“Trina, don’t stand there playing with the locket,” Nanna Mae gently scolded, as she squinted from the light in her eyes. “Put it on,” she said. “It’s yours, now. Wear it every day, like I did, until the time comes for you to give it to your own daughter. Remember, the locket will protect you like it did for all the generations of women in our family.” Trina quickly turned her face away so her grandmother wouldn’t see the tears welling up in her eyes and put the locket on for the very first time.
“As long as you wear it, you’ll know I’m there right next to you,” said Nanna Mae softly. Trina nodded with understanding and acceptance.
“Never take it off, promise me,” Nanna Mae said and Trina promised her grandmother with all her heart. Satisfied, Nanna Mae smiled, closed her eyes and a moment later, she was gone.
The voice on the plane’s loudspeaker pulled Trina back to the present as it warned passengers to make sure their carry-on bag was not too big for the overhead compartment. Trina and Jenn slowly made their way down the aisle of the plane, took their seats and settled in for the long trip. Hours later, after a connection in Frankfurt, the plane made a smooth landing in New Delhi, India. As the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac, Trina felt a new-found sense of purpose. She would soon fulfill her grandmother’s lifelong dream of going to the Taj Mahal.
Later that day, as the two American women walked through the downtown streets of Delhi, they could see the clear fingerprints of former British rule intermingled with a decidedly Asian culture. India was like nothing they had ever seen before. The sprawling city of Delhi was overrun with swarms of people moving through crowded dilapidated streets and along deteriorating sidewalks. The buildings appeared to crumble before their eyes. There was no order of any kind on the streets. People moved in every direction but seemed to go nowhere. Indian women in saris of every color wore stacks of shiny yellow-gold bangles up the length of their arms. Many had different sizes of colored dots on their foreheads and most had tiny jeweled studs in their noses. The two Americans walked by endless rows of makeshift stalls that sold food and trinkets and lined the roads as far as they could see. Trina nearly fell over a loose goat in a marketplace as roaming livestock darted in and out of alleyways looking for scraps food or water. Pedi-cabs by the hundreds tried to persuade Trina and Jenn to take a ride with them. Constantly waving people away, the American women explored their decrepit wonderland.
After half a day of wandering, they noticed something at the same time. Every few blocks they saw long lines of Indians patiently waiting on street corners but they couldn’t figure out what they were lining up for. Curious, the women stopped to chat with a group tourists from Canada who looked like they knew their way around and asked them if they knew what the long lines were for.
“Oh that,” said a Canadian tourist laughing and rolling her eyes, “Hold on to your hats, girls. See that little man there at the end, the one standing in front of the chair with the long metal tool?” Jenn and Trina nodded. “Those people are queuing up for that guy. They’re all waiting for him to clean their ears.”
“Ewww!” screamed Trina and Jenn at the same time as they looked across the street at one of the lines. That’s when they spotted a little old man at the end of the line holding a long rusty metal rod. They watched him insert the metal rod into the ear of a surprisingly relaxed customer seated on a stool. Trina and Jenn screamed again as they watched and ran away leaving the Canadians laughing behind them.
The drama of the organized Asian chaos played out on a British backdrop. The architecture, roadways, roundabouts and left side of the road driving were the lasting remnants of former British rule making it feel as if the cast of a Bollywood movie had been dropped into the middle of a Dickens novel. Cars had no mufflers and gas exhaust visibly puffed thick black smoke out of tailpipes. The women heard sirens blare from every direction and the incessant honking of car horns for what seemed like no reason at all. Everyone shouted, pushed and tried to sell them something. The air was filled with a mixture of odors; gasoline, cigarettes, roasting meats and curry followed by the stench of rotting garbage. Then, there were the flies. Massive numbers of big fat black flies everywhere and on everything. Flies were on their food, on their faces, in their eyes, in their ears. The two friends agreed that India was a total sensory assault, both good and bad, exciting and horrifying all at the same time. Yet, despite the cacophony around them, the American women were exhilarated, all their senses dialed in, for better or for worse.
Before they left New York, their travel agent, who was a woman and had been to India several times, advised them to cover up and keep a low profile when they walked through the streets. They had been warned that young, Indian women never walked alone without a chaperone. The two friends tried their best to blend in with the locals and keep a low profile and wore headscarves, long skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses. Their costumes didn’t fool anyone. Their height and skin color gave them away. They were significantly taller and had much lighter complexions than the local people of Delhi and stood out. Young Indian men cat-called to them and said things in Hindi that they didn’t understand but knew weren’t nice. Because of all the American movies Indian men watched, many believed young Western women actually wanted sexual advances from them. Jenn and Trina were poked, squeezed, pushed and groped by men on the street. Warm hands grabbed at their thighs and thrust between their legs. Rough fingers brazenly grabbed at their breasts or cupped their buttocks. Hands in the crowds reached under their skirts and up the front of their shirts for a fast squeeze. After a few hours of being physically violated, Trina and Jenn decided they needed to take a more defensive stance.
“If one more guy puts his hands near my upper thighs” said Jenn defiantly raising her knee in the air, “he’s going to feel some real pain right in his boy toy.” From that moment, they consciously changed their body language from low profile and demure to “fierce warrior princess” as Jenn called it, and things changed. Instead of being victims, they walked boldly and looked everyone they passed, especially men, directly in the eye. Any future physical contact by men was met with a slap, kick or punch along with some choice American expressions.
While they walked through the streets, in addition to groping hands, they were also often surrounded by beggars. Old men and women reached their arms out, hands extended and begged the Americans for money. Some were missing a hand or a foot forcing them to hobble around on makeshift crutches. Packs of emaciated children, some who looked to be as young as three or four, dressed in tatters, followed and encircled the Americans. The children asked endlessly for money or food and grabbed at the women’s skirts and pointed towards their own open mouths and cried, “baksheesh, baksheesh” which meant “donation”.
When the two friends finally made it back to their small hotel, they asked the concierge at the front desk about the large numbers of beggars they saw with missing hands and feet. The concierge looked uncomfortable and took a deep breath before he answered their question.
“There is a highly illegal practice within the ranks of the extremely poor in India known as Untouchables,” said the concierge. “The parents of Untouchable children sometimes deliberately maim their own kids. They think a child with a missing hand or foot would bring in more sympathy money from begging and better help support the family.” Trina and Jenn’s eyes grew wide and their mouths hung open. “The Indian authorities try to stop this practice but sadly, it still happens,” he said shaking his head.
The next morning the women left their hotel to take the train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, just as Trina had promised her grandmother she would. They had been advised by their hotel to spend the extra money for First Class tickets for the two to three-hour trip to Agra. First Class, was clean, private and guaranteed an assigned seat. Second Class, not so clean and Third Class, the way most Indians traveled, was cheap, filthy and crammed with as many bodies as could be wedged in. Many people stood for an entire trip because there was only a tiny fraction of the number of seats as there were passengers. People might stand for as long as ten to twenty hours or be forced to sit on the floor. When the Americans arrived at the train station and saw the conditions, they were grateful they had spent the extra money for first class.
From the Agra station, they went directly to their hotel to change clothes to make it to the Taj Mahal for the sunset. The Taj Mahal was situated on the banks of the Yamuna River and had been commissioned in 1632 by the emperor, Shah Jahan, as a mausoleum for his favorite wife. The enormous building was constructed almost entirely of white marble. Nanna Mae had read extensively about the Taj and had made her promise to see the building both at sunset and sunrise. It was supposed to look completely different at different times of day when the light changed.
As evening approached, Trina and Jenn walked through the streets towards the one of the man made wonders of the world. The closer they got, the more crowded the roads became with foot traffic. Numerous signs saying, “Taj Mahal - This Way” dotted the streets. Crowds of tourists began to swell as they all walked in the same direction towards the prize. Soon, everyone’s pace collectively picked up, as they all moved almost as one, closer to their destination. The two friends could feel the electricity and expectation that filled the air. Everyone felt it. They all knew they were about to see something special.
“This better be good after all the hype,” moaned Jenn.
“Don’t worry, it will be,” Trina assured her. Nanna Mae had talked about the Taj Mahal endlessly over the years and Trina knew for sure they were both in for the experience of a lifetime. They moved along with the crowds and passed through an oversized, ornately carved stone archway. Then, just like that, there it was. Standing right in front of them was the massive Taj Mahal.
“Wow,” said Trina placing her hand on her throat touching the locket.
“Whoa,” said Jenn, “It’s incredible.”
The light hit the building in such a way that it glowed and looked surreal as if it was two-dimensional and painted onto the horizon. The colors of the sunset cast a pinkish melon hue over the entire building. Long reflecting pools leading up to the structure mirrored the building’s pink reflection in the water below. It was simply beautiful. The women walked around the grounds to look at the Taj from every angle and commented on the changing colors of the building as the sun continued to set. Over the next thirty minutes, the Taj Mahal went from melon to hot pink to black.
“You know, I hate to admit it, but seeing this might have been worth that long hideous plane ride over here,” said Jenn with unusual sincerity. Trina couldn’t have agreed more. The Taj was breathtaking. Nanna had been so right, she thought, as she rubbed the locket between her fingers.
The next morning, they got up before it was light and repeated their trek to the Taj to see it at sunrise. This time the building went from orange to pale yellow and then finally to a bright glowing white. Trina thought it looked as if it was lit from inside because the light seemed to glow right through its gleaming white marble walls. The building seemed translucent and indeed looked entirely different than it had the night before.
After spending a couple of hours at the Taj and with nothing else to see in Agra, the two friends collected their luggage from their hotel and headed back to the train station for their return trip to Delhi. The following day they would take a long bus ride to Kashmir in the north of India to stay on a houseboat on Dal Lake for a few weeks. Nanna Mae had always said she wanted to sleep on a houseboat in Kashmir and now Trina would do it for her.