Pearl became a crone gradually. It started when she shed her pastel, party-mint-colored clothes, the pinks, the baby blues and pale yellows. Suddenly she found herself attracted to burgundy, teal, and aubergine. She stopped dyeing her hair yellow blond, gave up the tinted contacts, the high heeled pumps. She traipsed around in dark green Birkenstocks or brown leather clogs.
It all happened so gradually that her co-workers didn’t notice. Until they did. Whereas she had once been a peachy yellow rose, now she was a tumble weed, dusty brown and plain, but unstoppable. She had always been a live wire, a sassy buxom babe who’d say anything for a laugh and a wink, but now when she spoke people would say, “huh,” and walk away musing. The next day they’d stop her in the hall, say, “Gosh, Pearl, I couldn’t stop thinking about what you said!”
She took to whispering, chanting in Sanskrit, handing out dried apricots instead of M&M’s. Everyone walked a little slower and talked a little softer when she was in the room. All the supervisors wanted her on their teams, if only so she’d come to their staff meetings and share her sage observations. She had a way of fostering friendliness, cooperation and consensus.
Then one day, Pearl showed up with a crow on her shoulder. “This is Olive,” she announced. The crow nodded in silence, its glossy black eyes intensely staring. Everyone stepped back and gave Pearl and Olive room. Even the supervisors were in awe.
Olive went everywhere with Pearl, to meetings and conferences, the cafeteria, the library and the ladies’ room. Olive was a silent sentry, a live bird who occasionally stretched her wings and her toes, but for the most part her presence was unobtrusive and didn’t change a thing. Pearl’s work was impeccable, her team contributions unrivaled.
But sometimes, late in the afternoon, Pearl and Olive could be heard cackling uproariously at the back table in the staff room, sharing a granola bar and herbal tea in saucer and mug. The office would become quiet, glances might be exchanged and eyebrows raised. But everyone knew to stick to his own cubicle. No one dared move. No one dared break the spell.
Read more stories like this in my collection, Wild Imaginings, available for free download when you fill out the form on your right.