Last night, I started writing my story for this week’s flash fiction challenge. It was dark in spite of its description as a “Christmas” story. It was unexpected. It had unconventional characters and a nice twist. I nearly finished it.
Today, I threw it away.
Because today, I learned my dear friend is in her final days of life. And everything about my story seemed off after that. So I started over.
The challenge itself is straightforward: use a random title generator and pick one to be the title. This has the same title as the story I tossed, but it is a very different tale.
The Eye of the Fairy
The wind blows snow in my face as I near the building. I turn away but continue my forward progress, letting the storm hit the side of my parka’s hood. My hands chap as I clutch the box against my body, and I curse again at my inability to find my lost glove.
A brass bell jingles as I enter the dingy place. On the right, a long counter made of glass cases stretches from where I stand to the back wall. Shelves filled with antiques fill the rest of the space. A familiar smell meets me – an old smell, like my grandpa’s basement.
A plump, middle-aged woman appears through a door on the back wall. She has a wide smile as she approaches, as if she’d been expecting me. “Can I help you, dear?”
I set the box on the first glass case and lower my hood. “I need to sell some things.”
“Of course. We always get more people selling this time of year. Let’s see what you have.” She walks around the end of the counter and faces me on the opposite side.
I open the box and remove the items I decided weren’t valuable to me but may be valuable to someone: a wooden jewelry box, a small vase with a Chinese pattern, and a fairy doll, among other things. Hopefully, they will be valuable to this woman. I had spent hours going through the boxes in my crawl space to find them.
“Such nice pieces.” She picks up the fairy doll, a porcelain figure dressed in a lacy blue gown. At one point, it had two tiny purple jewels for eyes. “This is missing an eye. Do you know what happened to it? She’d be worth quite a bit more with both.”
I shake my head. My memory of the doll is fuzzy at best. “I think my mom gave it to me. She died when I was little.”
“Oh, that’s so sad. May I ask why you would sell it?”
“I don’t remember getting it. It’s been in a box for years. And I need the money.” I glance at the nearly empty purse hanging from my arm. “Christmas, you know?”
She offers an understanding smile. “It is a difficult time for many.” She names a price for each item, which I accept.
As I pocket the cash and head for the door, she stops me. “I can hold these things in the back for a couple of days, in case you change your mind.”
I pull up my hood. “Thanks. But I won’t change my mind.” I can’t if I want to buy presents and have heat this month. I still haven’t figured out what to get my dad, and I’d like to spend more than twenty dollars on his gift.
I stuff my hands in my coat pockets and turn my face against the wind as I reach my car, hating the old thing for a moment. If it hadn’t needed brakes, I wouldn’t have had to come here.
Back at home, I close the boxes I’d left in the middle of the family room and shove them into the crawl space. One doesn’t go as far back as I expect. “What the hell?” I creep into the dusty space to investigate. I didn’t see anything that would be in the way when I pulled these out earlier.
A shoe box rests against the wall. It’s so dirty it blends with the floor. No wonder I missed it. I shove it aside, enough for the other boxes to reach the wall. Then, I stare at it.
I went through all the other boxes. I’d wonder what’s in this one if I buried it.
I place the shoe box on an end table in the family room and finish putting the other boxes away. As I sit in the recliner to go through the remaining box, the front door slams shut and a voice calls out, “Claire?”
“I’m in here, Dad.”
He appears at the top of the small staircase leading to the family room at the same time I remove the shoe box’s lid.
He jogs down the stairs. “What’s that?”
“I found it in the crawlspace. I was going through some things today.”
“Find anything good? I didn’t look through them before I gave them to you.”
I shrug. I’m not about to tell him I sold some of the treasures he’d stored for me until I found my own place.
The box holds a mess of junk: a tarnished heart necklace, coins, a cassette tape, and a small envelope. I pick up the envelope and turn it over, reading the cursive handwriting on the other side. “What does ‘the eye of the fairy’ mean?” Without waiting for an answer, I open the envelope.
I grasp a tiny purple jewel between my fingers. It matches the one on the fairy doll I sold an hour ago.
Dad gasps, and he crouches next to my chair. “I remember this!” He holds out his hand, and I place the jewel in his palm. “This goes to a doll, I think.”
“A fairy, right?”
He smiles. “Yeah, that’s it. Your mother bought it for your fourth birthday.” He stares at the jewel, his eyes becoming distant. “This fell off not too long after. She saved it, said she would fix it when she got the chance. Then she got sick.” He clears his throat, swallows, and returns the jewel to the envelope. “Guess she never got the chance. Do you still have the doll?”
“Um…” I put the lid back on the box. “I know where it is.”
“So let’s fix it.”
I pat his hand. “I’ll take care of it. Come on, dinner’s probably ready by now.”
As we walk up the stairs to the kitchen, I plan my return trip to the antique store, hoping the perfect gift for my dad is still there.