When I Awoke
a story by
It was the first day of Autumn when I awoke to find that my wife of three years had been replaced by a Patek Philippe 5104P Grand Complications timepiece. The wristwatch rested on her pillow, the minute repeater softly chiming after I turned off the morning alarm. I searched around the house for some cause but found nothing. All the doors were locked, chains set, windows clamped shut.
I stood in the kitchen over my coffee scratching my head for probably fifteen minutes until our three month old daughter Delphine awoke. I placed the watch on the dining table and set to getting on with the day. Delphine had this marvelous expression of surprise at the speed to which I changed her, clothed her, fed her. I gave her the watch to play with and carried her upstairs where she lay on the bed while I dressed in the bathroom. When I came out she had the navy crocodile leather strap in her mouth. I quickly took her mother away and said “No, no, no, darling, we don’t treat Mommy that way.”
I dropped Delphine off at daycare and went to work. On my lunch break I called the house to see if my wife would pick up, if she’d changed back. I left a voicemail: “Jeanne. Jeanne, are you there? Jeanne? I’m leaving work early and will be there soon. Are you there, Jeanne?”
I told my boss I had a small emergency. He wished the family well.
I went home to find Jeanne in the same spot I had put her, on the nightstand. I placed her in the passenger seat of the car and we went to her parents to see what their thoughts were on this new situation. We sat in their baroque parlor for tea, I in my usual armchair, Jeanne on the matching ottoman. “No, no, Jeanne, that’s not for sitting, now. Take the chair next to Louis.” Her mother smiled at the Patek Philippe, awaiting obedience. I gently picked Jeanne up and placed her in the matching armchair next to me. We stayed for an hour, her parents commenting on how well she looked, that we both seemed so happy, that the coming weekend we should bring little Delphine and have dinner. “She has your eyes, Jeanne.”
I said goodbye and drove to the ice cream shop we’d frequented since our dating days. I ordered two cups of coffee and a scoop of vanilla. She rested across from me on the table. I said enough was enough. I asked her why she was doing this. Was it something I did? Was she unhappy? I tried to think of the days prior, weeks, months, had anything gone awry that I may have missed. She seemed tired, but so was I. A new baby does that to anyone. Was she thinking about Delphine? How this passive aggressiveness will affect her?
I became so frustrated at her lack of response that I slammed my fists down, the reverb knocking her from the tabletop and onto the tile floor. I whisked her up and held her cupped in my hands, checking to see that she wasn’t scratched or cracked. I brought her to my face and whispered, “I’m so sorry, baby. I didn’t mean it. Please, forgive me.” When she didn’t say anything I held her closer, dropping some money on the table before leaving to pick up Delphine from daycare.
Back home, with our baby napping in her room, I sat with Jeanne on the sofa. I took her between my fingertips, inspecting every facet of her design. I could see why she chose this form. She was platinum with a rose gold slide for the repeater. The dial was skeletonized. I could see every one of her five hundred fifteen components, each cog and wheel, the small hammers that made her sing. She was perpetual. Even her hand movements were unique, traveling along an arc and jumping back at each new hour instead of going round and round in circles. I pushed on the rose gold slide to activate the repeater, and before I fell asleep to the rhythmic chimes I told her to take as much time as she needed, that I could wait it out.
Eight years later and she’s still in Patek Philippe form. She’s with Delphine most evenings and I watch the baby in the morning. Some days I can’t stomach the sight of Jeanne, so I lock her in the safe at the back of the closet.
When the recession hit, I was laid off and almost pawned her on twelve different occasions. She could have brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of just sitting there not even moping around. Delphine and I almost lost the house. I barely survived on two jobs until the economy picked up and I found better work. I don’t know what stopped me from giving Jeanne up. Maybe love, or hope, or out of respect to the life we’d built. Maybe because I wanted to prove her wrong, prove that she was silly to do this, silly to doubt.
But sometimes I wonder if fear held me back. I know I shouldn’t be so paranoid, but every night after Delphine dozes off I wake up every hour and check on her. I inspect her long and reaching fingers, her twitching ears, her once delicate yet dull face that has since grown more and more in resemblance to Jeanne’s. I look for any sign of metal, of gems, knelling, ticking or tocking, just to make sure I don’t lose her too. When she draws a long breath, I think back to the last night I saw Jeanne, how she carefully arranged her hair along the pillow after getting into bed, how that hair fell against her shoulders and down her back as she leaned to me right after I’d turned off the light because she’d forgotten to say, “Goodnight.”
editor’s note: the Patek Philippe 5104P Grand Complications presently retails for 675k to 900k USD