Please if you can for a moment picture this. You and I stand side by side at one of the greatest tragedies of modern history. Fires are still burning in the rubble, and all around us, people run for help. Most are crying. Police sirens mingle with screams of terror and pain on the otherwise peaceful September day. Lying silently at our feet, lost and forgotten in the rubble, are two melted lumps of silver, gleaming in the gloom.
Before I tell you my tale, perhaps it would be best if I introduced myself. My name is Time, and contrary to popular belief, I do not exist solely to tick sixty times a minute. I am, in all modesty, a great historian. As days roll into weeks and weeks into years, I record the greatest stories of the people on this little earth I’m set to watch. There is one story, however, that will always remain close to my heart. It was a story of hardship, a story of love, and most of all, a story of hope. But why do I of all people find myself sharing this story with you? It’s quite simple, really. I’m the only one who knows it all.
It began one fall morning in the year 1900. The air was crisp, the sun shining, and the London bustle was at its peak as Samuel Evans made his way to work. He was a young man, not quite twenty, with green eyes, brown hair, and a smile that proved to all that ever met him that he was content in the world.
When he reached Century’s Silversmith Shop, his boss looked up from his polishing suspiciously. “Why are you smiling?” he growled, narrowing his eyes.
“I’m just happy to be alive,” said Samuel with a smile, lifting his apron over his head.
“Well, wipe that smile off your face,” directed the old man, tossing him a bottle of polisher. “I’ve already had a very wealthy gentleman come in today, and he got me thinking.”
Samuel smiled to himself as he began polishing one of the ornate ringlets in the corner. “Never a good sign.”
The old man grunted. “He asked where the new pieces were to celebrate the new century.”
“I don’t have any!”
“So… you’re telling me I’ll need to watch the shop more often while you try to create some new, brilliant work of art in the shop?”
The old man huffed. “Exactly!”
So, it happened that as the days turned into weeks and the weather grew colder over London, Samuel found himself more and more often running the shop as his employer grumbled loudly as he worked in the back room, exclaiming fervently every half an hour or so that his two new silver candlesticks would “last ‘til the next century!” As he spent his time running the front, Samuel began to notice something. Every evening, as the lamp lighters began their task, a young woman slowed as she passed the shop. Her coat was thin and worn, her dark hair pulled back into a single braid, and as the weeks went by, her form began to change as a new life grew slowly inside her body.
Near the middle of December, on a particularly cold evening, Samuel went out to meet her. “Why don’t you come inside and have a look around,” he offered, beckoning her towards the door and out of the cold. “My master’s things are far more impressive when not seen through a window.”
She laughed softly, but shook her head sadly. “No thank you.” She smiled slightly as she turned back toward the window. “Your master is talented, but I could never afford his wares. My husband is a good, caring man, but we are far from wealthy. We live in a humble home on Rallin Avenue.”
“Forgive my curiosity,” ventured Samuel, moving to stand closer beside her, “but if that’s the case, why is it you always stop to look inside the shop? ”
She blushed. “When I was a little girl, I always wanted to have silver shabbat candlesticks,” she replied quietly, staring through the window at the lit wonders inside the shop. “I know it’s a childish dream, but it seemed as though we were the only Jewish family in the world in want of them. Time went on, but now, with my own little girl coming, I feel my old childish wish stirring up in me again. I wish I could give her that one simple pleasure.” Samuel stared into the window too, his eyes refocusing in the dim light to watch her reflection in the glass.
On Christmas Eve, Samuel sat quietly in the shop, staring off out the window in silence. She hadn’t come by since they’d spoken. “Well, I’m going home,” growled his boss coming out of the back room as he pulled on his coat. “I’ll see you after the holidays, Sammy boy.”
“Of course,” murmured Samuel, not moving.
The man paused. “You’re thinking of that Jewish girl again, aren’t you?”
Samuel sighed. “Her name is Ariela.” The man raised a bushy eyebrow. Samuel shrugged. “I had to ask around.”
“Well, you can think about her on your own time,” growled the old man, raising his key. “I want you to come see my new work of art.” Samuel straightened slowly and followed the old man to the workshop. There they were. Stunning enough to make all the rest of the shop seem dull by comparison, the two silver pillars shone in the dim light.
“They’re beautiful,” breathed Samuel, gazing at them.
The man grunted. “You bet they are. I’m putting them on the shelves tomorrow. They should fetch a good price.” He moved to the back door as if to lock up but then turned back slowly. “Are you sure you don’t have something to ask me before then?”
Samuel met his gaze slowly. “Yes, I do. Though, I admit I’ve been afraid to ask.”
His boss scratched his scruffy beard. “If it were anyone else, I’d laugh in their face, but for you…” He smiled.
As evening fell into night that Christmas Eve, Samuel trudged through the snowy streets of London, a special brown paper package under one arm. When he reached the old broken-down home on Rallin Avenue, he stopped a moment on the front step, stomping the snow off his boots. Glancing nervously in the window, he quickly laid the package down on the step, lifted one gloved hand, and knocked. When the young woman opened the door, the street was empty. Samuel watched from behind the nearest corner as she slowly lifted the package and retreated into the house. He stayed there solemnly for several minutes, his heart still racing inside his thin, patched coat. Then, something happened. From the old front window, overlooking the forgotten, forlorn avenue, two pinpricks of light shone out on the falling snow, sparkling above their silver bases. A warm feeling crept down into his core, and Samuel smiled in spite of himself as for the first time in years, the old broken-down home was lit with hope.