Monday, April 28, 2014

The Pearls, part 4

Throughout the day, Dani checked the mirror, but the ruby necklace remained where it was. To Dani’s great relief, there was no sign of the princess in image or voice. But that evening, after Dani had finished getting ready for bed, the princess appeared, frowning more intensely than ever. “I don’t want your ugly necklace!” she cried. “I want my pearls! Give them back to me!”
            Dani felt trapped. She looked back and forth between the pearls and the princess. Which was worse, giving up those wonderful pearls or being harassed by an angry fairy princess forever? Dani had to look long and hard at the pearls to remember that they were worth it. She approached the mirror, looked the princess in the eye, and said, “I will give you anything else, but I won’t give you the pearls.”
            “They were mine in the first place, you scoundrel!” the princess shouted. “You have no right to keep them! I don’t want any of your things. I want what is mine!”
            “Isn’t there anything at all that you would like more than an old pearl necklace?”
            “If it was only ‘an old pearl necklace,’ you wouldn’t have wanted it for yourself!”
            Dani sighed, opened one of her night table drawers, and took out her jewelry box. She presented her collection of all the jewels, baubles, stones, and precious metals she had acquired over the years to the princess, who looked at it with unconcealed scorn. “You can have anything you want out of this,” said Dani. “I have all kinds of lovely things here.”
            “They are not so lovely,” said the princess. “You haven’t even got one pearl!”
            “You’re right,” said Dani, “I have no pearls. How many pearls have you got?”
            “It doesn’t matter if I’ve got one pearl or a thousand pearls,” said the princess. “There’s no excuse for stealing from me!”
            Dani took another look at the pearls and imagined them resting against the collar of her blue satin dress. “Will you let me keep them for just one day?” she pleaded.
            “No,” said the princess. “You will give them to me tonight, and I will give you no peace until you do!”
            There was no way out. With a heavy heart and tears forming in her eyes, Dani returned the jewelry box and picked up the pearls. She looked at them with longing, and felt pained by having to give up the most precious object she had ever come into contact with—one that belonged to a genuine fairy princess. The other jewels that she owned now seemed as dull and ugly as the princess had said they were. Still, Dani laid the pearls in front of the mirror and said dejectedly, “There are your pearls. Go ahead and take them, and leave me alone.”
            “How do you expect me to pick them up with this glass in my way?” the princess asked testily.
            “Well, how else am I supposed to give them to you?” asked Dani.
            “You will come into my land and give them to me personally,” said the princess.
            “What?” Dani was flabbergasted. “But…but how am I supposed to do that? I’m sure I don’t even have the time to do that! I have work in the morning! Can’t I just give them to you tomorrow?”
            “You will give them to me tonight,” said the princess. “You should have thought of those things before deciding to keep something that doesn’t belong to you.”
            There was nothing else that could be done. “How do I get to your land?” Dani asked with a sigh.
            “Put on the necklace,” said the princess, “and look in the mirror.” Dani obeyed. Looking in the mirror, she saw that the image of the princess had faded behind her own reflection, which was clear and vivid. She felt embarrassed to be wearing the pearls with her pajamas, and she was tempted to ask to change clothes before she discovered that there was no need; she was now wearing a forest-green velvet gown with long, flared sleeves. It very closely resembled the gown that the princess was wearing. Dani gave a start when she realized that it was the gown that the princess was wearing. Her hair, which was tied back, unraveled and shaped itself into ringlets. Their very different faces melded together as if the two of them were becoming one entity. Dani wanted to touch the sleeve of her dress to see if she could really feel the velvet, but she was afraid that the magic would cease if she moved.
           In a moment, Dani was herself again. It was daylight, and she was standing in a field of grass the shade of fine emeralds. A crystal colored brook babbled cheerfully nearby, and its surface dazzled like diamonds. A golden bridge crossed this brook, and beyond the bridge was a magnificent castle of pink, blue, and pearly-white stone. Standing at the castle gate was the princess, in all her forest-green velvet splendor. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Pearls, part 3

The next day was Sunday. Dani decided not to wear, touch, or even think too much about the pearls until tomorrow, when she would wear them to work. There they sat on her night table, and their gleam in the morning sun was not at all as pleasant as it had been the day before—looking at them made Dani think of the frowning princess and her cry of, “Give me my pearls!” She could almost see the princess’ frowning face in the largest pearl.
            Dani avoided looking at mirrors. She chose to wear an old t-shirt and tattered old shorts so she wouldn’t have a reason to look at herself. She took a breakfast muffin from the bread box and made herself comfortable on the living room sofa with a book. She rested her feet on the arm of the sofa, nibbled at her muffin, and realized that she wasn’t taking in a word of what she was reading. The princess’ shrill little voice blocked out her thoughts so that she couldn’t concentrate—“Give me my pearls!” She closed the book and growled in frustration. Is she a ghost? Dani wondered. Is she haunting me? She hadn’t seemed very much like a ghost. She was more like a fairy. Dani was angry for having to think about her at all. “They’re my pearls now,” she said to the air out in front of her, “and you are very irresponsible for losing them!”  She returned to her book, hoping that would be the end of it. But sure enough, that shrill voice made its way back into her mind to say, “Being irresponsible is not as bad as being a dishonest thief!”
            “I’m not a thief,” Dani said aloud. “I didn’t come into your house and take them from you. You carelessly dropped them and you didn’t bother to come back for them. Clearly, I know how to take better care of them than you do, and so I deserve them more!” Dani knew that what she said was wrong, but she would rather be wrong than have to give up the finest jewelry she had ever owned. “I refuse to continue this argument,” Dani said before the voice could have a chance to say anything else. She couldn’t go on reading; she had been interrupted enough times to have gotten bored of reading. She decided that she wanted to go to her room and play with her jewelry and makeup, before she remembered that she would have to look in the mirror for that. More than anything, Dani did not want to look in the mirror. She knew what she would see.
            It was the beginning of May, and the day was warm and bright. It was a good time to begin working on a golden summer suntan. Dani went outside and began moving her lawn chair to the sunniest spot she could see…
            “Thief! Scoundrel!
            Dani ignored the voice. She smiled satisfactorily at the patch of sun she had placed her lawn chair in. She took off her shoes, sat down, and stretched out her legs…
            “Wretched scum!
            She covered her ears, but what good was that when the voice was inside her head? She shook her head as if trying to shake it from her mind.
            “Villain! Devil! Trash!
            Dani groaned, pulled at her hair, and smacked her head. Still, the voice continued to shout every name and horrible insult it could come up with. She couldn’t find any peace. She didn’t want to tan, and the day was no longer pleasant. Suddenly, she hated those pearls. As beautiful as they were, she didn’t want them anymore if they were going to cause so much trouble.
            Dani stomped back inside, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the picture frames on the wall and the knickknacks on the shelves. The voice in her head subsided as she headed for her room, and ceased completely as she eyed the pearls lying on her night table. But the moment she laid eyes on them, she realized that she had been mistaken; she couldn’t give them up, not to anyone, for any reason. They were hers, and their beauty would be tarnished if they were worn by anyone but her. She had looked like a real princess at the bar last night—nobody had noticed, but she had. She had to keep them for work the next day. She would wear them with her blue satin dress and rose-printed tights.
         Dani went to her jewelry box and took out a gold necklace with a pendant featuring three large ruby drops. It had been a gift from an old boyfriend of hers. She approached the mirror, placed the necklace in front of it, and said, “I am keeping the pearls, but you can have this necklace. Rubies are much showier than pearls anyway.” She knew that no ruby could be more splendid than those pearls, but still she hoped that the princess would accept the gift and give her some peace. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Pearls, part 2

            The next morning, Dani took the pearls off of her night table and put them on just to smile at herself wearing them again. In the morning sun that shone through her window, they looked even more spectacular. In those pearls and her pink dress, she would look almost like a princess when she went out that night; all she needed was a silver tiara and to curl her blonde hair into big ringlets, and perhaps a lace collar that the pearls could rest against. And though velour was a lovely material, her pink dress would be so much better if it was satin, with puffy bell-shaped sleeves that flared at the cuffs…
            Dani jumped as if she had touched a hot coal. Her fantasy was interrupted when she realized that it was not a fantasy at all, but the image in the mirror! Her reflection had twisted into the image she was sure she had only been picturing in her mind: silver crown, long blonde ringlets, pink satin dress, and the pearls. The face had changed from Dani’s own face into a sweet, delicate face like that of a porcelain doll. Dani had been smiling until now, but the face in the mirror was frowning.  
          “Give me back my pearls!” a shrill voice uttered. “Give them back to me now!  Dani shrieked and ran into the hallway. I’m dreaming, she thought, her heart pounding rapidly. Or else I’m still so tired that I’m seeing things! Hesitantly, she crept back into the room. She blinked a few times, rubbed her eyes, and approached the mirror. Her heart was still pounding, and the thought of seeing that face again terrified her, even if it was a pretty face. But it was only her own plain face looking at her from the mirror, with the pearls resting over her owl-printed pajama top. Dani took off the pearls and set them on her night table, then went back to bed, sure that the whole thing had been a tired hallucination.
            Dani left the pearls alone until that evening, when she went out to the bar to show them off. She had forgotten all about what had happened with the mirror that morning, and she was admiring the look of the pearls with her pink dress, sapphire drop earrings, and Grecian hair updo, when her reflection began to twist and she found herself looking back at the frowning princess’ face. She yelped and ran away, and decided that her experience from the morning had caused her already quite active imagination to run away with her.
            At the bar, Dani took her usual seat, which always allowed her to be seen by the most eyes, and greeted the bartender: “Hi, James!”
            “Hey there, Dani,” James replied with a friendly, familiar smile. “What will it be tonight?”
            “A watered down appletini for now,” said Dani. Then she flashed a smile of her own and asked, “Don’t you notice anything different about me?”
            “When somebody asks me that,” said James, “it usually means one of two things: a tattoo or a piercing, sometimes both. Which one are you hiding?”
            “Neither,” said Dani. “Here’s a hint, though: take a look at my neck area.”
            “Oh, so you’re hiding a love bite.”
            “James!” Dani hid her face in embarrassment as her bar company howled with laughter, but she was secretly pleased by the idea of using the pearls to hide a love bite. “No, James, I have a new pearl necklace! That’s what I’m getting at here!”
            James shrugged. “Dani, you coming in here with some fancy new jewelry is nothing new.”
            “I’ve never shown up in anything like this!”
            “It doesn’t look any different from the stuff you wear all the time,” said a friend of Dani’s, who was sitting across from her at the bar.
            “Yes it does!” Dani insisted. “I have never owned anything as nice as these pearls!” Her friend shrugged and turned to face the TV on the wall.
            Dani was livid. It was true that her finery didn’t usually command too much attention from her bar company, but she had expected the pearls to be an exception, and was mortally offended when they were not. These were the most splendid pearls that any of them would ever see in their lifetimes. She had expected stares, gazes, for all eyes to be on her and her pearls. She sipped at her appletini and figured that eventually at least one person (but hopefully more) would gawk at her pearls and ask where she got them—to which she would answer, “Oh, they were made especially for me.” She lapsed into small talk with the bartender and other bar-goers as she started to realize that it wasn’t going to happen. By the time she finished off two watered down appletinis and half of a cheese-and-vegetable panini, and still no one had said anything about the pearls, she felt that this outing had been a complete waste.
            When Dani returned home that night, she took a look at herself in the mirror just to make sure she was still as beautiful as she thought she was. But instead of her own face, there was the frowning princess, who was wrinkling her nose in anger. Dani gasped and took a step back.
            “Give me my pearls!” cried the frowning princess. “They are mine, and you have no right to keep them!”
            Dani was forced to admit that this was real, but she was not at all willing to give up the beautiful pearl necklace that she had found through good luck. “Well, I would give them to you,” she said sarcastically, “but there’s something in the way! Sorry about that!” She laughed and gave the mirror glass a taunting smack, then she set the pearls on her night table before getting ready for bed.