I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter 2, Part 2
Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1
I See Me (Oracle 1)
A bus got me back to Cambie Street within a dozen or so minutes, but then I had to wait for the next SkyTrain to get to my ultimate destination. I actually had enough time that I considered dropping by the Starbucks up the hill on West Broadway to see if a friend of mine was working. Then I spotted the jewelry store just a couple of blocks up.
This neighborhood was undergoing gentrification … you know, a cleansing. A bunch of the single-level storefronts had been torn down and replaced with big-brand big-boxes disguised in brick, steel beams, and smooth concrete with upscale apartments above. However, a few holdouts remained to sully the block. The jewelry store was one of them. I’d never actually noticed it before. But then, I hadn’t owned a piece of jewelry that had any real worth before.
Even if the stone were only quartz, it would be cool to get the chain fixed. I might be able to mend it myself by squeezing the broken link back around the eyelet that was drilled into the stone with needle-nose pliers. I wasn’t sure I had the strength, though. Gold was supposed to be soft, but the links of the necklace were really thick. A jeweler could probably do it properly, and it would hold better.
The dirty windows and door of the place were covered in security bars. The twenty-percent sale sign taped to the inside of the window was seriously sun bleached. The display case was half full of watches. Who wore watches anymore? The other half was filled with what appeared to be hundreds of different wedding bands. I never knew there were so many choices. But then, I’d never even fantasied about getting married.
I had to buzz to be let in, so I did.
Then I waited.
I waited so long that I glanced around for the security camera that I was pretty sure would accompany the buzzer and the bars. It was in the upper right corner of the doorframe.
I removed my tinted glasses and depressed the intercom next to the buzzer button.
“Hi.” I spoke into the black box while looking up at the camera. I’m sure I looked ridiculous doing so. “I have a gold necklace that needs to be fixed … and the money to pay for it.”
I didn’t mind that most adults found me a little off-putting. That was the point, after all. I couldn’t blend in — I know, because I’d tried for years — so I didn’t bother. However, most old people could be made to feel really stupid about their prejudice with a simple friendly smile. Though I only bothered smiling in that way when I wanted something, which wasn’t often.
The door buzzed, and I grabbed the handle quickly before it could lock on me again.
The store was divided by three rows of waist-high glass cases, with more ringing the walls. It was less dusty inside than I’d imagined it would be. The cash register was at the back, next to a short Formica countertop.
Not bothering to look at anything, I headed back to the counter as the jeweler wandered out of the back office. He wasn’t that old. Old enough that he was graying at the temples, but I had friends going gray, so sometimes that didn’t mean much. Still, he was old enough to be my father, if he’d been Asian rather than East Indian. Not that I knew for sure my biological dad was full Asian, but I looked to be at least a quarter by my size and the shape of my face. This was why my white blond hair and big, pale eyes — supposedly inherited from my mother — were weird if I didn’t keep them covered.
He was young enough that my appearance shouldn’t have bothered him.
“Sorry,” he said. “I was in the can.”
Great. “Okay,” I said as I fished the necklace out of the inner pocket of my bag.
“Cool bag,” he said. “Did you get that on Etsy?”
“No,” I answered — again lying, though I really hated doing so — because I really wasn’t into the chatting part of human interaction. “My necklace is broken.”
I placed my mother’s necklace on the counter, stone first. The heavy linked chain pooled to one side. It was long enough that it would probably fall almost halfway to my belly button if I wore it. By that, I gathered my mother had been tall. I hadn’t known that before.
“What’s this?” the jeweler asked. But he was speaking to himself, not me, so I didn’t bother answering.
He lifted the chain. “Yes, broken, I see, but …” He stared at the stone, then looked at me. He was acting weird. Concerned, maybe. But then also freaked out around the edges.
He picked up a magnifying glass — one of those ones that jewelers somehow wore in their eye — and looked at the broken link, then closer at the stone.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked. His tone was weirdly harsh, but also excited.
“Quartz?” I said with a shrug. “Can you fix it?”
“Can I fix it …”
He looked at me instead of the necklace, sizing me up for some reason.
The back of my neck started to itch. I was really aware of the locked door behind me. Could I get out of the store without him letting me out? I hadn’t thought of that before coming in. Why would I? I wanted to glance back to check to see if there was a release lever on the door, but I held the guy’s gaze instead.
“Where did you get this?”
“It was just handed to me by my social worker. It was my mother’s. My dead mother’s. But I’m not sure how that’s your business.”
“You didn’t steal it?”
“What? No. Why would I be stupid enough to bring it in here if I ripped it off?”
“To sell it.”
“I just want it fixed. Can you fix it or not?”
The guy stared at me for a moment longer. His eyes were really dark brown. Wet seal-pelt brown, but not warm and fuzzy like that image would imply. Slick and nimble seal brown. Tricky … maybe not to be trusted.
“It’s not a quartz,” he finally said, returning his gaze to the necklace. “The chain is rose gold, eighteen karat. I’d have to weigh it to be sure, but this is thousands of dollars’ worth of gold in this market.”
He looked at me for a reaction, so I shrugged. He looked at the rough-cut milky stone through the magnifying glass again, turning it in his fingers. “I don’t know what idiot just drills gold eyelets into a diamond this size and simply hangs it from a chain.”
He looked at me. The stone was now hidden in the palm of his hand, which he was practically clutching to his chest.
“Do you know what this is worth? The gold or stone alone? I could sell it —”
“No,” I blurted. “Not interested. It was my mother’s.”
“The stone is almost the size of a nickel,” he continued, as if I hadn’t spoken. “Depending on clarity, the depth of the damage from the eyelets, and estimating on the low end, it’s worth easily fifty grand. And the gold —”
“I don’t want to sell it,” I said. I was on the verge of yelling. I placed the palms of my hands on the counter to stop myself from snatching the necklace away from him. I didn’t like the way he was holding it. I didn’t like him holding it at all.
“It was my mother’s,” I repeated, carefully articulating my words.
“Yes, what a great gift —”
“It isn’t a gift. It’s an inheritance. Give it back please.”
“Yes, exactly —”
“My mother died in a car crash before I was born,” I said, getting angry as I heard the suppressed tears in my own voice. I didn’t cry, not ever. I wasn’t going to cry for this jerk. “Do you get it? She died. Before I was born.”
He nodded slowly, like he was just starting to hear me.
“Give it back to me, please.”
He passed the necklace back to me. I snatched it from his hand. Not even bothering to put it in my bag, I immediately turned away to cross to the door.
“Wait,” he said. “I can fix it for you. And clean it.”
“Never mind,” I answered without turning back. “Just let me out.”
I reached the door and wrapped my right hand around the handle. I was still clutching the necklace in my left.
“You really should wear it,” he said, almost pleading now, though he stayed behind the counter. “You don’t want to lose it.”
“Just let me out. Please.” I rattled the door, though I would have preferred not to. I didn’t like freaking out in front of anyone. “Please.”
He buzzed the door and it unlocked. I yanked it open and leaped out onto the street.
The cool air hit me like a breath of freedom. I bent my head down and hustled back down the hill to the SkyTrain station as fast as I could without running.
Only once I was there — seated in the fast-moving train with the houses and buildings along Cambie Street blurring past outside — only then did I carefully coil the necklace into the inner pocket of my bag.
I zipped the pocket closed.
I tucked the bag securely underneath my arm.
I didn’t care what the guy said about the necklace. Didn’t care about that money, if he was even telling the truth. But other people would.
I didn’t like people wanting things from me. Obviously, I didn’t mind selling my sketches, but that was a fair exchange — money for my art. I was an adult. Adults worked to pay for their lives.
I had been lucky that I wasn’t an obvious target. I kept my head down, didn’t own much in the way of valuables, and people generally left me alone. I wasn’t interested in changing that dynamic in any way.
If I minded my own business, other people should as well, but nothing in life tended to be that fair.
Chapter 3, part 1 & 2 (Oct 1)
Chapter 3, part 2 & 3 (Oct 2)
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