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Because of roadworks, they either had to take a lengthy detour to reach the supermarket or park a block from it. It was simpler to park the block away, and they were walking along the road when Blair suddenly stopped.
Blair was staring into the window of the antique shop, and gave no reply.
"Chief? What's so interesting?"
"I'll just be a minute... " Blair mumbled and headed for the door. Fascinated, Jim followed.
As the door opened, the assistant looked up from the book he was reading and got to his feet. "Can I help you?"
"In the window... a small bowl... "
The assistant crossed to the window, reached in, and took out a bowl about four inches in diameter, decorated with a pattern that Jim decided he couldn't describe but seemed to be made up of leaves and flowers. The young man gave it to Blair, who handled it very carefully as he checked it.
"I'll take it."
He paid using his credit card, took the well-wrapped bowl and slipped it very carefully into his backpack. "Thank you."
As they left the shop, Jim said, "An old bowl, Chief? I didn't think you'd be interested in anything like that."
"Ah, well, it's not for me. Would you... "
"Drive you somewhere?"
"Yes." Blair's car was in the shop again, and Jim wasn't sure that Blair hadn't spent much of the money he'd earmarked for the repair on buying the bowl. "But we can get the groceries first"
An hour later, Jim pulled up outside a small house on the outskirts of Cascade.
"I'll only be a minute." Blair took the wrapped bowl from his pack and went up the path to the door.
The woman who answered his knock looked to be about fifty. Blair hugged her, exchanged a few words - Jim listened, curious, as Blair gave her the parcel, saying, "I know it's not the same, this doesn't have the sentimental value, but... well... I owe you this. Now I can't stop - Jim's waiting, and we don't have much time - but I'll come and see you one evening next week."
"Bring Jim with you," the woman suggested.
"I'll ask him, but I won't promise anything," Blair said. He leaned forward, kissed her cheek, and walked back to the truck. As he reached it, she waved, Blair waved back, and she retreated inside the house. By the time Blair climbed into the truck, the door was closed.
"Okay, Chief - who was that?"
"A cousin of Naomi's. I do come to see her at least once a month. Some of the dates you think I've been on? Etta accounts for quite a lot of them."
"So what's with that bowl?"
"Most of Naomi's family live in Texas, near Fort Worth. Etta's father had his own business, but it failed and everything had to be sold to pay his debts. He was so ashamed for failing, blaming his mismanagement though it wasn't actually his fault, that he killed himself, once he knew the debts were paid. The one thing that his widow managed to keep was a small bowl that was actually hers, that had belonged to her parents, and when she died soon after - the family always said of a broken heart - the bowl went to Etta. She came to Cascade when she married, and Naomi often visited her, sometimes left me with her for a week or two.
"One day... I was seven at the time... when we were here, I got careless and knocked the bowl onto the floor. Etta said it didn't matter, it was only a bowl, but even I could see that she was heartbroken - it had been her mother's, her grandmother's... I tried to repair it, glue it together, but there were too many tiny, tiny bits. I don't say an expert, like a museum conservationist, couldn't have done a good repair job, but I couldn't.
"That bowl today - it was the same as the one I broke. I know it isn't the same, but... well... I felt I owed it to her."
"I suspect she'll value it, if only because you gave it to her," Jim said quietly.
"At least she'll know that I didn't just forget about it," Blair replied. "Oh, and she wants you to go with me, next time I visit her."
"I'll be happy to," Jim said.