Charmian first receives the mysterious picture...
|Main story folder & table of contents: "Manitou Island"
Previous chapter: "Part 1: The Dream Begins"
The Gem & The Photo
THE ANTIQUES STORE was located in Petoskey, Michigan's fancy Gaslight District. Which was why Charmian knew going in that she wasn't going to buy anything.
Still, her inability to afford any of the more interesting or beautiful objects offered in the store never stopped her from checking it out on her way home from school. She actually looked forward to the end of summer vacation when she could stop in at the place daily again. By now she knew the lady who ran the place, and it never bothered the woman one bit that Charmian never bought anything. In fact the two of them had become close friends, at least, as much as a fourteen-year-old junior high student and a fortysomething antiques store owner could get.
Today was a crisp autumn day...Charmian's mouth twitched with disgust that her mind dredged up such an overused autumnal adjective, crisp...but it was the only word she could think of that applied. The trees were changing but so far they hadn't lost enough of their leaves to achieve that ugly, bare, blackened winter look. Charmian scuffed her shoes along the sidewalk, bookbag slung over her shoulder, watching the few fallen leaves scatter out of her path as she made her way to the little store. She didn't hate school--in fact, she loved it--but she was almost always one of the first out of the building at the final bell, just so she could make it to the store to spend as much of her afternoon time as she could staring at the frail sculptures, elegant dresses, and unusual knick-knacks which occupied every corner.
She wondered what new things she would find today.
"Charm! Hey, CHARM!"
She stopped in her tracks and turned to look behind her. A boy came running her way, shoes slapping the pavement. About halfway to her he tripped over his own foot and nearly went down on his face. Charmian rolled her eyes and continued on her way to the store. He caught up with her just as she reached the door with its stained-glass window and was pushing on the handle.
"Hey, Charm," he panted, out of breath and flushed from the cool air. "Didn...didn't you hear me? I said hey."
"I know. I heard you. I think half the city did, too."
"Oh, c'mon. You always have such a snitty attitude."
"Is there something you want, Drake?"
Drake was Charmian's...sort-of friend. She didn't wish to think of him as a friend because every time she did her other friends--her FEMALE friends--always saw fit to giggle stupidly as if something more were meant by the word. She wasn't sure why he liked her, and sometimes she wasn't even certain he did. Sometimes she felt he lived to irritate her. Just his name irritated her. Drake? It sounded like a MAN'S name, like some hokey thing out of a romance novel. Most certainly not the name of a gawky fourteen-year-old boy who had the bad habit of tripping over his own feet and following her around like a lost puppy dog, just so he could find out what she was doing.
He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes again. Even his grin was irritating. "Naw, nothing really."
"Then why are you following me and blaring my name around the neighborhood? Shouldn't you be working on your algebra?"
"Yeah, well, shouldn't you too?"
"You come to this store every day instead of going home and doing your homework, or hanging out at Burger King or something. Nobody else I know hangs out in antiques stores. What is it about this place? They have anything real interesting?"
"It's 'really,' Drake. And no, I just like to come here to get away from you. So far it's worked."
Another grin. "Well, not anymore. I don't believe you; I'm going in to see what's so special about this place myself."
He took the doorhandle from Charmian's hand and, pushing it open, stomped inside. He just about tripped over the lintel. Charmian, alarmed, grabbed his arm and had to escort him in. "For God's sake, Drake!" she said, hating how it rhymed. "You better let me show you in else you'll BREAK everything!"
Drake allowed Charmian to show him across the threshold, but then he pulled his arm away and started gawking at the miscellaneous objects lining the walls on shelves, perched in windows, sitting on the floor or in glass cases. "Hey, look at all this stuff! There's a lot of old junk in here."
"Duh, that's because it's an antiques store. If it were all NEW stuff it wouldn't be an antiques store."
"Fff. No need to get snitty, Miss Charming."
"Whatever." Charmian decided to ignore him for the rest of her stay; it was the only way she could get any enjoyment out of this. She drifted over to the glass counter in the main part of the store. Anne, the woman who owned the place, wasn't in sight at the moment. Charmian leaned over to look at some pieces of glass and rhinestone jewelry sitting on display within. Sure, they weren't real stones; but they were beautiful anyway. She wished she could afford one of them.
"Hey, Charm! Look at me!"
She sighed and stood straight, looking, although she feared to. What was Drake getting into? She was somewhat relieved to see he merely held a fancy silver serving tray on one hand, an embroidered towel draped over his arm and a smug snooty look on his face. "Jeeves at your service, ma'am."
"Put it down, Drake, before you break it."
"Hey, it's just silver. Even I know that doesn't break."
"Then put it down before I break your head with it."
Drake snorted but did as he was told. His attention was immediately caught by something in the far corner and he disappeared from Charmian's sight.
Good riddance. She returned to staring at the rhinestones. A slight noise from the door behind the counter drew her attention, and she smiled when Anne came out.
"Hi, Miss Anne."
"Hello again, Charmian. Find anything interesting?"
Charmian liked Anne a lot. There was something to her appearance and demeanor that to Charmian seemed to imply friendly aunt. She had known the woman only about a year now, but she felt as if she'd known her forever.
"Yeah, just looking at this rhinestone jewelry," Charmian said, pointing out a silver piece inset with green stones. "Funny how it's just little pieces of glass but it looks authentic anyway. And it's not expensive because of the glass, it's expensive because it's old."
"Yes, it is. This piece is pre-1920's, I believe." Anne opened the case to take the silver-and-green necklace out, spreading it out on top of the counter so Charmian could take a closer look. Charmian didn't have to fear making some excuse as to why she couldn't afford it; Anne knew she came around merely to look. She looked at the green stones and could just barely see her reflection, fragmented and multiplied by the facets. It was as if she looked at herself in cool green water.
"Beautiful," she murmured, unable to think of any better words.
"Yes, isn't it? This piece actually has a story behind it. The woman who owned it was what you'd now call a 'flapper.' Very well off. A man gave her this piece as a token of his affection. From what I know of the story he wished to give her something more expensive, something authentic, but as he wasn't a rich man himself, giving her something fancier, even if he could afford it, wouldn't have been proper in his mind; he knew she'd see his supposedly 'rich' present as an imposture, a mere attempt to appear more well off than he really was. The way it went, she accepted this necklace but rejected him; so he was out a gift and a possible girlfriend. So much for his attempt to be sincere..."
Charmian's mind wandered as Anne told the necklace's story. She wondered what kind of person would accept a gift only to turn on the person giving it, what the man had felt, who the necklace had gone to after the woman had died, what would have happened if he'd gotten her a necklace with real emeralds, the numerous owners this necklace itself had had...
"Charm! Hey, Charm!"
Charmian growled to herself. She'd forgotten about Drake. What was he up to now? "Please excuse me," she said to Anne, "my stupid friend's calling," and stormed away from the counter into the far corner of the store, where the books were kept on high cramped shelves. Here the store became increasingly difficult to navigate, and she had to squeeze around the corner to reach Drake, who was huddled back by a dusty shelf, holding something rectangular in his hands.
"WHAT, Drake? Didn't I tell you to leave me alone?"
"No, not really. But that's not the point. I wanted you to see this. Take a look at this old thing, take a look at this lady here, doesn't she look like an Indian or something?"
Charmian snatched the silver-framed picture from Drake's hands. She swept a layer of dust off the glass and peered at it hard in the dim light. It was just a black-and-white--or rather, sepia-toned--photo of a small group of three people. But for some strange reason her eyes were immediately riveted by the person seated on the lower right. Drake had been correct. The woman posed there, wearing a delicate white dress, had the darker skin and even darker eyes of a native. She was peering at the camera as if wondering what it was, a shy, uncertain smile on her face...but what drew Charmian's attention in particular was her hair. It wasn't black...if she had to say anything, Charmian would have guessed it was red.
A red-haired native?
She turned the picture over, as if to find more information inscribed on the back of the frame. Nothing. She couldn't even tell where the photo had been taken, or when. And the worst thing was...she was suddenly filled with an intense curiosity about it, and about the woman, a sudden need to know who she was and what she was doing posing in this photo...what had happened to her since.
A slight cough from behind them. Charmian and Drake nearly jumped out of their skins. Turning, they saw Miss Anne at the end of the cramped little aisle, the light from the larger section of the store casting her into silhouette. She stood with her hands clasped, eyes slightly luminous, staring their way. Her glance fell on the picture. And after a moment she spoke.
"There is a story behind that, as well."
"Part 3: The Story Of An Island"
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