It sat beside her computer at work for three weeks before she picked it up and looked at it again. After all, it was only a candy cane. How bad could it taste? A black and white striped candy cane. A year old candy cane. A year old licorice mint candy cane. She shook her head, unsure whether she really wanted it.
Her preschooler, Billy, had given it to her after a Christmas party at preschool three weeks before, and its wrapper still bore the stickiness of his small fingers. He’d held it up to her as she came in from work that day, his little face aglow.
“Look, Momma! I gotst it at school!”
“How nice, sweetie. What is it?”
“A present. Mrs. Martin buyed it affer las’ Ch’istmas when the stores had their big sales. Mines is lik’rish mint. She gave ever’body one! Johnny Beemen gots a red one that tasteses like cinn’mon.” He held it up. “Mrs. Martin says if you have somethin’ special y’oughta share it with somebody you love. So I saveded mines for you, Momma.”
That dimpled chin and bright eyes of his melted her heart. At that moment Billy could have handed her worms and she’d have taken them gladly, so the licorice mint candy cane went into her purse to take to work for a snack.
With a smile, she decided to go ahead and taste it, even though she didn’t really care for licorice, and the idea of licorice with mint… But she couldn’t throw it away without tasting it. It was a gift from Billy, and at least ought to be enjoyed for the spirit in which it was given. And one little taste couldn’t be that bad.
She broke off the crooked part and unwrapped it, then snapped off a small piece of that and placed it in her mouth. “Not too bad.”
The phone rang, and she answered it, moving the candy to the corner of her mouth.
“Hello, Mrs. Walters? This is His Kid’s Day Care. First, let me assure you, nothing’s wrong with Billy. It isn’t an emergency call.”
“That’s a relief. What’s up?”
“Billy’s teacher, Mrs. Martin, died in her sleep last night.”
“Oh, my goodness! What happened?”
“Well, she didn’t come to work this morning, so our superintendent called to check on her. When she got no answer, she went over to see if she was all right. She found her. Mrs. Martin’s been quite ill, you know.” There was a pause. “Cancer.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Her doctors didn’t think she’d get to go home last time, but she surprised them. Her class was so important to her. She really loved those children. Back at Christmas, she wasn’t strong enough to go shopping the way she usually does. This is Billy’s first year with us, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Mrs. Martin always used to pick up a special toy or treat for each child. She told me last year that she was worried she wouldn’t be able to do that this year, so she was going to buy whatever she could afford then so she could still give them each a gift. You know, in case. She didn’t have much, what with doctor bills and all, but she wanted to give each one of them something. We wanted to let the parents know. In case you wanted to send flowers or anything. I have the address of the funeral home.”
“Yes, please. I would appreciate that.” Mrs. Walters copied the address, thanked the receptionist for calling and hung up.
She looked down at the broken candy cane lying on her desk. A licorice mint candy cane. An old licorice mint candy cane. Black and white striped. Covered in sticky cellophane. A very special gift handed down from a big heart full of love to a smaller one just as loving. She broke off another piece. And it was absolutely delicious.