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Friday, January 31, 2014

First pages of a new novel in progress

"What do you think?" the elderly shop owner asked with a barely detectable accent.

Danai stood in the middle of the antique shop holding the necklace he'd handed her. A little trill ran through her as she inspected the necklace. It was perfect. Danai had seen other jewelry equally if not more beautiful, but the necklace's fragile simplicity was more to her taste. The delicate chain dangled as her fingers caressed the bluish lapis lazuli tear-drop setting and the gold filagree that bound it. There was something so old world about it.

"It's nearly a hundred years old," the white-haired owner continued enthusiastically, as though reading her mind. A mutton-chop mustache obscured his upper lip as he said, "Has passed through very few hands. Rumor has it that it was once owned by an old San Francisco dowager who willed it to a wayward niece. The niece was named Joyce Venture, and she was famously 0 or infamously - known for her flamboyant parties. The 'twenties and all, you understand. Flappers and the like. Not too far off from Fitzgerald's world."

"It's lovely," Danai sighed. "But it's probably more than I can afford. I'm just looking for a piece of jewelry to go with a costume for a play I'm in."

"Well, I'm a reasonable man and I'm in the business of pairing folk with the right items. That lapis would go well with whatever you chose to wear."

It really would, she decided. Since she'd come all this way out to _________, she might as well leave with something in hand.

"So, how much?"

"Well, I'd had initially priced it at seventy-five..."

Danai started to hand the necklace back to him, already shaking her head. That was much too extravagant for her tight budget.

He held up his hand, ignoring the proffered necklace.

"But again, I'm in the business of seeing that an item gets to its rightful owner. I don't know why but I believe that there necklace belongs with you. And so, I'll give it to you for...hmmm...let's say five."

"Five? That's way too generous. I can do maybe, uhh...twenty?" Her left hand subconsciously patted the suede of the purse hanging from her shoulder.

"No, five dollars is all I need. I'll get satisfaction knowing that all is alright with the world and the necklace is where it belongs."

Danai smiled at her luck. The day was waning, the sun shooting out its last rays through the large glass pane of the shop. She had to get home.

The rays lit the store's interior and its dusty wares with an ambient glow of soft gold. The light touched softly against a myriad of vases, furnishings, dolls, the glass case that held antique fob watches, rings, bracelets and of course necklaces. The smooth lapis of the one in her hand gave off a soft gleam under the dying sunlight.

Danai reached inside her purse, pulled out a five bill and handed it to the genial shop owner. He took it, straightened it with his hand on top of the counter, then placed it carefully inside the till.

"Do you want me to put it in a bag for you?" he offered.

She shook her head. "No, thanks. I'll just put it in my purse. Saves you the paper and plastic waste. And saves the ecosystem," she said with a soft laugh. He gave her an appreciative nod as she left the shop.

On the short walk to her car, Danai pictured herself in the flapper costume that the play's assistant director had chosen for her. Grey and blue with dark embroidery and crystal beads, the dress along with lapis would really accentuate the deep tones of her skin. She couldn't wait for the coming Saturday when they would have their first dress rehearsal.


Minutes later, back at the shop the elderly owner, whose name was Saul, lowered his head and clutched the counter edge as though he were in pain. He hadn't been sure she was the one, but from the moment the woman had entered the shop, he had felt impressed to lead her to the necklace, even though initially she'd been searching for a bracelet.

Time was of the essence here. Actually, time was essence. It was an ephemeral door through which only a few could pass. It didn't travel in a straight line, but was more like a Mobius strip over which one could step forward and find one's self back at a former point, a point that might be the past, or a road that moved concurrently with the present.

Again, only a few were chosen. He prayed for her journey...and its inevitable outcome.

He walked to the door and turned the "Open" sign facing outward to "Closed" then walked as fast as his arthritic leg would allow toward the door leading to the back room of the shop. He disappeared behind the door and if anyone would have sought him, they would have found no one in the shop. No one in the little back room. No one at all.


The back area of the theatre was in havoc. Bodies barely eluded one another in their haste to get to their positions on stage. In costumes, actors whispered lines, their minds engrossed in their roles. Dress rehearsal was in full throttle.

The Monte Carla only scheduled about six productions a year and the Queen Lion Troupe had scored a coup with their summer date of late June. This was the time when theatre goers came out in force, eager to be mesmerized by avant garde mimicry.

Danai was one of the wandering bodies, moving from the crowded room where at least three other actors were in various stages of dress as they readied for their own appearances on stage.

The energy was palpable and it fed Danai, killed her fluttering butterflies. She was as ready as she was going to get at this stage. The only nervousness she felt now fed into the energy, an almost tangible force driving her.

Theatre was in her blood, passed down from a wayward actor father, and subsequently fostered by her abandoned mother who had taken Danai to plays and other productions beginning when Danai was just three. Maybe around the age of seven Danai began to understand the pull of plays, movies, books - particularly the escape they provided. By nineteen she'd wanted to enjoy that escape up close and personal.

This current production was the first with Danai in a starring role since she'd joined the acting group nearly three years ago. The production was perfectly timed as it was during a serious lull at Monique's the restaurant where she worked. Each day she was grateful that she hadn't received a pink slip from her position as an executive chef, especially in this floundering economy.

"OK, everybody knows his or her mark. On it now," Roz the director called out. Roslyn Hardy was totally proficient in her new role of director. Her dreads hung around a determined, oval face, her eyes burned with a no-nonsense kick-ass fervor that everything go right tonight. Opening night was next Saturday, so the schedule was tight.

The bead fringe hem of the flapper dress caressed against Danai's calves and her hair was styled in a marcel. She'd resisted Evelyn's suggestion at first. And had been bowled over at the transformation. Never would she question the costume director again. The one thing that had been her own personal decision about the ensemble was the necklace...

She touched her throat and suddenly realized she'd forgotten the necklace. She'd left it back in the dressing room on one of the tables. The butterflies came back with a vengeance, beating against their confines in her stomach as she pivoted and raced back to the room.

She chided herself as she half ran: "You don't need it. It doesn't matter. Get to the stage now!"

But her legs refused to answer to that logic. The illogical desire to wear the necklace during the dress rehearsal was a personal superstition of hers. To be in full costume from head to toe for dress rehearsal otherwise something could go wrong on opening night.

She opened the door to find Adele at Danai's personal dresser about to fasten the necklace at her nape. Adele spotted her in the mirror and turned to her with a sheepish smile.

"Oh, hey girl...I just was trying it on. I was going to put it back."

Adele was always borrowing shit without asking. She was also not above sabotaging her fellow actors if she thought it would get her a better role. In their last production, one unfortunate actor had found a garden snake in her shoe. Had nearly screamed down the theatre. Danai had immediately looked in Adele's direction to find the bitch smiling.

As the bitch was smiling now at Danai.

"Hand it over," Danai demanded, her hand out.

The woman walked reluctantly toward Danai and placed the necklace in Danai's hand.

"All good?" Adele had the nerve to ask.

Danai gave her a scathing look and turned to leave the room.

In the hallway, she heard Roz yell out, "Where the hell is Danai?"

Danai was literally running now, the necklace still clasped in her hand.

[stay tuned for more excerpts as I write my ass off]

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 1/31/2014 11:07:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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