“Anita didn’t gain consciousness until the inventor’s Abilene was already gone; crippled with grief, the inventor took to improving his clocks. He worked day and night. Anita saw glimpses of the dusty old room, littered with scraps of metal where he worked. She heard stories about Abilene, the inventor’s late wife, and as time went on, Anita took on the personality of Abilene. The inventor made Anita on his honeymoon.”
Anita didn’t gain consciousness until the inventor’s Abilene was already gone; crippled with grief, the inventor took to improving his clocks. He worked day and night. Anita saw glimpses of the dusty old room, littered with scraps of metal where he worked. She heard stories about Abilene, the inventor’s late wife, and as time went on, Anita took on the personality of Abilene. The inventor made Anita on his honeymoon. On the inside of her lid was a piece of glass webbed with cracks. It showed an image of a young man and woman in a loving embrace in front of the Eiffel Tower. When Abilene died, the inventor, who once explored the seven seas and could never stay in one place, shut himself up in his house at the top of the hill, away from civilization, away from the past. He told himself every day that it was for the best, and eventually, he believed it. He forgot about the things he loved.
Anita set out to change him, make him happier, just like Abilene did. She started out by whispering to the inventor while he slept. He thought he had finally found a way to talk to Abilene, and he was ecstatic. She told the inventor stories about him and Abilene, stories that he once told her as she was being built. She had made a connection. Anita carried on and got the inventor to send a message down to the docks to buy tickets on the next ship. He was going back to Paris. Anita had seen the picture of the couple every day, and she knew that she had to see the Eiffel Tower, and so did he. So the next morning as they left the house, she felt relieved she had accomplished her first mission; she was going to see the places Abilene cared about, the places the inventor cared about.
When they got aboard the ship, it was a whole new world. One full of chaos, yelling, and many people. Anita wasn’t used to so many people — the only sound she had heard for the past eleven years was the ticking. The inventor made his way to a beautiful stateroom, and there was a large porthole that looked out on Nantucket. As the ship slowly pulled away from the coast, a feeling in the bottom of Anita’s gears started to grow. It was nervousness. She had never felt this before, but she liked it. It was new, refreshing compared to the boredom she had felt so far. The ship was far from the coast now, and Anita turned her attention to the inventor. He unpacked one of his bags, and to Anita’s dismay, it was full of metal scraps. Not a stitch of clothing. He had buried himself too deep in his work. Anita took this on as her next stage in the mission: the inventor needed compassion, other people, although this could wait until France.
The boat was lush with life. A whole new social scene that Anita had to become a part of. But while at the beginning it was magical and beautiful, the boat became a mess. After four days on the sea, it became wet and smelly. Children screamed with glee and ran about the deck as frantic parents ran after them and sailors skidded and jumped out of the children’s path. People were less enchanted by the sea as they were at the beginning of the journey. To make matters worse, the only view Anita got anymore from the porthole was people constantly leaning over the side of the boat, so green you could see it in their ears. Anita longed for the rose gardens back at home, the peacefulness of just her and the clocks. It was lonely, but it was controlled. But she made up her mind, there was no going back.
Meanwhile the inventor was still tinkering with scraps of metal. He didn’t know what to do with himself; he had Abilene talking to him back at home, but ever since he had gotten on the ship, he hadn’t heard a peep. What if he was going crazy?! He couldn’t go back to France, it would be too painful. As the boat finally moored on the docks of France, Anita and the inventor stepped off the ship with completely different feelings from each other. Anita was ecstatic but her nervousness was growing, while the inventor was plotting, plotting a way to go home. He had had enough of traveling and ghosts.
They were ushered off the boat and onto the mainland, where the inventor called for a carriage. The carriage was pulled by two beautiful black horses, and Anita was mesmerized. The horses’ coats were shiny and smooth. If Anita’s hands could come off her face, she would stroke them. But the inventor was unimpressed; he just climbed into the carriage and told them to go to the Hotel de Crillon. When Anita saw the horses, she was taken aback, so you can imagine how she was when she saw the Eiffel Tower. The glass on her face fogged up, and the cracks spread, almost impairing her vision. The inventor winced and looked down at his hand where a shred of glass had pricked him, and where Anita lay.
She tried to hold back her feelings, but she was too proud of herself. The tears in the inventor’s eyes told her enough, and as the carriage turned around the corner away from the Eiffel Tower, she sighed. But when Anita opened her eyes, she almost screamed. The inventor was looking at her, really looking at her. He had heard her. Anita went stiff and started to pray under her breath, and the inventor’s eyes widened. He knew it, he was going mad. Anita fumbled over her words, trying to explain herself, getting louder and louder. The chauffeur turned around and asked the inventor who he was talking to. The inventor’s ears went red and he quickly cast his head down.
“Pull over,” the inventor grumbled, “now.” Once the inventor was out and the carriage had left once more to take his luggage to the hotel, he turned back to her. “You can talk.”
For the first time in her life, the chatterbox clock was silent, but not for long. “You can hear me?” Anita’s breath got caught in her gears, making her voice sound deep and gruff.
“Yes, apparently everyone can. I’m guessing you’re the Abilene impersonator. That is why we are here in France. But I don’t understand why or how. Let’s go somewhere private.” They moved across the plaza and into the shade of a tree out of earshot and sight from people walking by.
“I am sorry for tricking you. Your life is just so sad, all your friends left you when you moved up the hill, and you just talk to your clocks, and they don’t talk back. Plus, you used to have an interesting life full of adventure. Yes, I know you are grieving, but you need to get back into the world… ” Anita stopped rambling on when she noticed the inventor’s face. He looked sad, embarrassed. She couldn’t have felt more terrible about herself.
“I have a life,” the inventor said quietly. “I talked to the milkman just last week. Plus, I didn’t know the clocks could hear me. There is nothing for me to do. My only plan of what to do when I got older was derailed when she died.” His words slowly died off, and he looked into the distance, blinking, trying to get rid of his tears. Neither of them expected the trip to go this way, and it was very unsettling. An awkward silence fell upon them, and they just walked. The inventor held Anita by her chain instead of her base like usual, and she tried to stay as still as possible. Finally, after a couple of minutes that felt like hours, they arrived at the hotel.
The Hotel de Crillon was rich with history, and the life around it was still lively and diverse. Even though it was everything Anita had ever dreamed of, she couldn’t help but feel detached from the whole experience. Like she was watching it from afar. The walk to the hotel confused Anita, made her question who she actually was and if this was what she wanted. She wasn’t Abilene, she couldn’t mend the inventor, make him happy, give him purpose. But without Abilene and her mission, who was she?
Meanwhile, the inventor was having his own midlife crisis. He couldn’t help but feel tricked, but he felt like he had been deceived. The whole charade made him feel like Abilene was there again, helping him, but he knew it was fake. The feelings that he buried alongside Abilene rose to the surface — grief, loss, love. He couldn’t give up the opportunity to get closure, to forgive, forget, and move on. As Anita lost her sense of self, the inventor found his, and as he strode out of the hotel room for the first time in eleven years, he didn’t feel lost.
Anita sat on the dresser, forgotten. The inventor had left her there. She tried to think on the bright side. She had made him happy, he had to forgive her sooner or later. Anita’s day was slow, agonizingly slow; the only interesting thing that had happened all day was the luggage being brought up. Anita tried not to worry about the inventor, but when he walked through the door, she felt more emotions than she ever had before. First she felt relief, but anger burst through her before she could even stop herself.
“Where were you?” she screamed. The inventor slowly turned around with a small bag in his hand.
“Buying some accessories, would you like to see?” He slowly pulled out a bracelet and turned it to face Anita. “It’s a wrist watch, they are new in fashion. I needed an upgrade, my old watch was… faulty.”
Anita was furious. She hadn’t changed, he just started to pay attention, and he was going to replace her. The inventor just chuckled to himself and slowly walked towards Anita. He slowly picked her up and dropped her in the hotel trash.
“I have a life, unlike you, and I intend on living it without you,” he said, stalking back to his bed and strapping the monstrosity he called a “watch” on his wrist. Anita tried to stay awake and watch the inventor to make sure he wouldn’t leave again, but once again a new feeling crept up on her: tiredness.
Anita missed the days where she was simply Anita, when she couldn’t feel, couldn’t get hurt. When Anita finally woke up, she was all alone, just as she had suspected and prophesized. Someone knocked on the door, and Anita’s gears skipped a notch.
“Room service!” A maid around the same age as the inventor walked into the room cautiously and looked around. When she was positive no one was home, she quickly made the bed and grabbed the trashcan where Anita lay. The maid looked into the basket and saw Anita and took her out carefully, holding Anita so she wouldn’t get cut by the cracked glass. Anita saw her chance and took it.
“Hello! I’m Anita, and I need your help. Who are you?” The maid screamed and flung Anita across the room. As Anita collided into the wall, she felt the remaining glass shatter and fall off in pieces. “Well, that was rude.”
“Oh my gosh! I am so sorry.” The maid ran over and knelt down to hold Anita. “What are you?” She slowly turned Anita over and opened the lid. Glass sand fell out onto her apron, but she was more taken by the image on Anita’s lid. “Frederic?”
“Who? Do you mean the inventor? Do you know him? Can you take me to him? He is probably at the Eiffel Tower, please… ” Anita was stumbling, words were pouring off her tongue faster than she could think of them. The maid didn’t respond; she just gathered her skirts and pocketed Anita and walked out the room, shutting the door behind her. Together, they practically ran to the Eiffel Tower. They crossed across the Seine, and eventually they arrived.
The inventor wasn’t that hard to spot. He sat on a bench staring at a sketchpad, a charcoal pencil held limply in his hand like an extension of his hand. He was so completely lost in his art that when the maid ran up to him, he didn’t notice. The maid tapped him on the shoulder and when he looked up, recognition flooded his eyes.
“Jeanne.” He quickly stood up, and his papers slowly fell to the ground. He was so caught up in the moment, a flash from the past. Anita, on the other hand, wasn’t as taken by the moment. While she was happy about the inventor, she was fixated by the sketches that lay on the dusty road. They pictured a beautiful statue with her arm raised above her head holding a torch. The inventor had sketched a name at the top of the paper: Lady Liberty. Anita longed for it. She always knew there was more meant for her, she was destined for something more, this was it.
Fredric and Jeanne sat on the bench, hands clasped together as they reminisced about when they were young. When they were in their teens, they fell in love, but it didn’t work out. The inventor fell right back in love. The hole that had eaten away at his heart was filled. He felt complete, truly happy.
After a couple years of traveling the world with Jeanne, the inventor proposed, and they moved back to Nantucket where they lived out the rest of their lives as key members of the community, happily in love. Anita got her wish and was built into the Statue of Liberty, where she welcomed people from all over the world into America, and even as hundreds of years passed, she remained a key symbol of freedom and opportunity. As for me, I remained where I had been since the beginning of the story, and where I would stay forever, part of something bigger, no longer the Abilene of this story. But I will always love him, which is why I have been watching my dear husband fall in love, and the impersonator who I can’t help but feel indebted to for making the love of my life happy once more.