The tight cars cram into the school parking lot on an otherwise pleasant Sunday morning. The crisp autumn air stings her cheeks as the leaves flooding the sidewalk crunch under her feet. She stands behind the other zealots, clutching her favorite thermos of earl grey tea, to her chest. Inside the lobby the aroma of baked goods and scented candles blend with floor polish and gym mats. People dressed in coats and scarves, clutching reusable shopping bags, crowd around the folding table at the entrance.
She hugs her thermos, until her turn, and pays the elderly man with the cash box at the table. As expected in such instances, she scribbles her contact info on a slip of paper for the raffle prize. A fussing baby drowns out his pitch for the prize basket but it’s of no consequence to her. Worse case scenario, she’s on a mailing list, or at best she gets something for free.
Slipping through the group of strollers and chatting grandmas she steps into the gym. The bright florescent lights hum as craft fair goers browse the stalls. The scent of chai and lavender candles hits her nose. Their floral and spicy scents beckon her, but she must resist. Today she has a mission, and unfortunately candles or dessert squares aren’t on the list. Well… maybe on the way out. She smiles, eyeing the fudge brownies packaged in to go trays and cellophane.
Passed the ‘certified organic’ honey grown from local beehives and the stall of scarves, she finds a jewelry stand. An assortment of glittering stones on sparkling chains hang from black velvet displays. An ocean of oranges, azures, rhinestones, and violets spread across the black tablecloth. The merchant, in a thick knit sweater, hugs her arm across her chest and grips a thermos with the other hand. No doubt a forgetful custodian forgot to turn the heat on for the weekend. Her smile is warm and welcoming, and despite the chattering teeth, she points to the various sales. But there’s one thing she wants, and when she spies the plastic bowls at the end of the booth, her heart flutters.
Countless bowls in various colors house a hoard of multicolored glass beads. Grouped by color, size or hung from a wire stand on strings; a tantalizing rainbow is in her grasp. Like a magpie on the hunt, she stirs the bowls with her fingers, their smooth cool surface caresses her skin. She studies each one like a doctor studies the patient’s chart before making an incision. She examines the placement of the hole, scrutinizes deformities, and the shade.
In her pocket is her sketch of a pedant. The idea came to her late at night as her copious cups of tea wore off. Work was draining and, despite her efforts, was monopolizing her creativity. But once realized, her brain latched on to the thought like a thirsty desert traveler. Her fingers itch to weave the wire, slide the beads along the smooth metallic surface. She pays the lady, who drops her precious selection into a velvet bag. She draws the strings with a flourish and hands it back.
She repeats the selection process throughout the morning, collecting the pieces she needs. Referring to her sketch she seeks out the most important piece. The center stone, which will be the heart of the pendant. Something this size could be hard to find and it might not be cheap, but its critical to her design. She finds a quiet spot between stalls and survey’s the booths, so far no one has what she needs. Surely this can’t be all the stalls? Someone must have something somewhere.
She circles the gym again, hoping to see a stall she missed. But after passing the expensive jams for the third time, her hope evaporates. As she heads to the exit, she catches a whiff of cloves and nutmeg mixed with a citrus scent. She passed this area three times and that scent wasn’t there before. Her gut beckoned her to leave, but the energized scent revitalized her hope. Following the aroma, she finds herself in front of a stall crammed between the corner and the bleachers.
It was a single table, modest compared to the rest, with a black fabric canopy over head. Behind the table sat an old woman, knitting off to the side. She wore black with a vibrant red scarf and dangling gold hoops in her ears. Her wavy grey hair curls beyond her shoulders. But it was the table that caught her attention. Not only bowls of beads but long rows of pendants for her choosing.
The sparkling glass and stones shimmer under the flickering light above the table. The woman doesn’t speak but watches from her stool, peering over her knitting needles. The stunning collection unfolds before her eyes, never in her life has she seen such wonderous pieces. How come I didn’t see this table before? At the far end, third stone from the left in the second row, she gasps. There it was; the perfect center piece. A beautiful black glass diamond with a cushion cut. Her eyes widen, adrenaline races through her body, and she licks her lips like a lioness about to pounce.
“Did you see something you like dear?” she hums from behind the scarf.
“Yes, this one, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
“Oh yes,” she smiles standing from the stool, “this is fit for royalty,” she grins studying the pendant.
“I don’t know about that, but it’ll be perfect for the piece I’m working on.”
“Are you sure you want this one though? There are many more vibrant colors over here.” She surveys the reds, blues, and oranges but none of them calls to her. “This amethyst, for example, will protect you from negative forces. Not to mention the step cut is very classic and elegant.”
The woman offers a sickly-sweet smile and holds the stone for her to inspect. The violet layering is remarkable, beginning with a deep ocean plum fading to a pale mist at the bottom. Despite her fingers itching for the stone, her heart decries the betrayal. The heart wants what the heart wants, her mother’s lovesick sigh rings through her ears.
“I rather the other one please, how much?” She doesn’t know if it was the devilish smile on the vendor’s lips or the nagging voice in her head. But something sent a chill through her body. The vendor named her price, and with money in her withered hand, the painted red nails pluck the stone from the row.
The weighted stone drops in her palm. The sparkling surface enchanted her; images of the memorizing jewelry designs danced across her eyes. As she rolled the pristine surface in her hand, the pendant grew warm. Unlike when the drink glass gets warm after holding it, this was a small furnace radiating heat. it slithers across her wrist, through her veins until it reaches her chest. Her heart races, as the world around her spins, blurring the stalls and bleachers together. The woman’s triumphant cackle cuts the air, terrifying her in place.
“Too bad, if you bought the amethyst the outcome would’ve been different.” The room shrinks, pushing against her body; squeezing her head until it’s about to burst. Her throat shuts and her lungs force the vital air from her lungs. When she’s about to break the world expands, swelling into larger-than-life proportions. The edges of the room bend at a gentle curve, the ceiling extends for miles, and there’s a shimmer around her vision. A large wrinkle hand plucks her from the floor. A stretched face grins through the glimmering glass. “How pretty you are,” the woman’s sugar sweet voice echoes, “yes, you’ll be lovely right here next to the rest.”
The witch, laughing to herself, places her on a hard surface and the fluorescent light beams down on her.