At exactly the moment she needs it most: a surprise. On the doorstep. Behind her, the assault of the city—hackneys’ horns, fishmonger’s cries, women’s heels click-clacking on the curb in a mad dash from the steady drizzle—but in her hands silky handles, embossed parchment bag. From it emanates the scent of the sea. She turns the key in the lock autonomically; slams the door on the smog. Dropping everything else—parcels abandoned in the entryway, blossoms tossed to the table, shoes kicked to the corner—she melts onto the chaise with the gift.
It does not come to her quickly, the magic inside. The layers slow her down. Her name in spiraling scroll on the tag, the crinkle of the liner against the press of her hand…such things command attention. Reaching inside, she retrieves a box wrapped in raw silk. With a soft tug she untethers the ribbon, and the sumptuous fabric unfurls to reveal a jewel in her palms. A miniature treasure chest; the kind of thing children dream of teasing out from beneath beach sand, a king’s long-lost bounty reclaimed at last from the deep.
Somewhere a phone rings, but she neither hears nor heeds it.
Peeking into the mother-of-pearl box, she spies the shell first: an iridescent Siren calling her to sea, as does the invitation upon which it rests. Silver thread binding silver ink, the Farsi words mingling with the English ones. “Please join us,” it entreats, on the Osprey Lawn in Dubai, the twenty-second of May.
The pink carnations will be blooming in abundance at that time of year, the Creek currents warm. She closes her eyes and smiles, the sound of the orchestra rising to greet her, the vision of children laughing and darting in their finery across the grounds. And her friends Niky and Ali there to embrace her, to welcome her back into the company of those she loves. She rises slowly, closes the box with a sweet snap, caresses the lid as she reaches for a pen.
I am coming, she will write. I would not miss it for the world.

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