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General

The warm sun washes over my skin as I step out of my house. The clear sky is a welcome sight  compared to the storms that have plagued the village for a few days now. In other words, it's the perfect weather to go shopping.

    I skip to the marketplace, hopping over puddles as I go. As I approach, the air becomes sweeter, and I salivate at the smell of cotton candy. My skip turns into a sprint. 

    Out of breath, I arrived at the marketplace. I turn around, devouring all of the sights and smells. It may not be my first time here, but every visit feels new, especially since it's my first time here without the accompaniment of my mother or friends. 

With that thought, nerves start to grow in my stomach like thorns. Mother warned me many times last night about going to the marketplace, and at the time, I confidently told her I could handle myself, but now I’m not as sure. After all, I’m surrounded by all these strangers with no one to protect me.

“Why hello there, Willa.”

I spin around to come face to face with Mrs. Harrelsone, an old woman who sells jewelry in a small, dark part of the marketplace. The shiny things displayed in her shop have always drawn me in, but mother always leads me away when I get close. I’ve never quite realized why she didn’t want me around the shop, and every time I’ve asked she’s turned my question away. She probably just doesn’t want me buying silly, vain things like jewelry.   

“Good morning, Mrs. Harrelsone,” I say, “Did you need anything?”

“Oh no, sweetie, I was actually wondering the same about you,” She says, “You looked scared.”

I laugh and tuck my hair behind my ear. “Sorry, it’s just that this is my first time shopping alone, and there are even more people here than usual.” 

“Don’t apologize, dear,” Mrs.Harrelson says in her ancient voice. “The marketplace can be scary, especially for a pretty young girl like yourself. How about I buy you some cotton candy to make you feel better?”

The fear melts out of my body quicker than butter over a flame. Mrs. Harrelsone chuckles, probably having noticed the way I perked up. She waves her hand, signaling me to follow her. After pushing through a few people and passing a couple shops, we make it to the cotton candy stand. I bounce on my toes as Mrs. Harrelson pays for the largest size of cotton candy possible and hands it to me. 

I take a bite of the pink cloud, and pure sugar dissolves into my mouth. My eyes close and I sigh with delight. Before I can take another bite, a flash of lightning splits the sky, followed by the crash of thunder. People start to run off in various directions as rain pelts the ground. I look up to see that the once unblemished blue sky is now dark with clouds. When I look back down, my heart sinks as I realize that the rain has melted away my cotton candy.

“What a shame,” Mrs. Harrelson says, placing a spindly hand on my shoulder. “Come with me to the shop so we can have shelter from the rain.”

“That’s nice of you to offer, but my mother will probably want me home now that it’s raining. Thanks for the cotton candy.” I say, as I start to turn around.

But before I can start on my way back home, Mrs. Harrelsone grabs me by the wrist with strength you would expect from a grown man, not an old woman. 

“The way home is much too long, and you would surely get your beautiful dress dirty in the mud. Come to my shop. I have a present waiting for you there.” Mrs. Harrelsone says.

I bite my lip. I know mother would want me to come home, but Mrs. Harrelsone just offered me a free gift. And she’s right that if I went home now my clothes would get dirty. But then again, there is something foreboding in Mrs.Harrelson’s eyes, something that tells me that I should sprint home and never return. 

“Did no one teach you to respect your elders, girl?” Mrs. Harrelsone barks. “Come with me!”

I nod vigorously, and Mrs. Harrelsone pulls me forward by the wrist. With the rain still pouring, she leads me deeper and deeper into the marketplace until we get to her jewelry shop. 

She pulls me in, and for the first time I get a good look at the place. Every object in the shop is unique, and nothing is like anything I’ve ever seen in an average jewelry store. Sure, the gems and materials are recognizable, but the way the pieces are shaped make them different. They all seem contorted in some way, twisted into shapes they shouldn't be in. I gulp. The pieces are beautiful, for sure, but they feel wrong, dangerous even. Suddenly, I’m not so drawn to them anymore.

 “I made them all myself.” Mrs. Harrelsone purrs .“Gorgeous, aren’t they?” 

“Yes, very,” I croak out despite my dry throat.

“Well if you like these, you’ll love the one I have for you. Follow me.”

I obey, following her down a short hall and into a little room at the back. She closes the door behind me with a slam, and flicks a lightswitch on, causing a dim light to arise from a small chandelier.

 My eyes adjust to the light, and my focus turns to a showing case in the middle of the room. Inside of the glass casing, and on top of a red velvet pillow, sits a pure white necklace. There aren't any noticeable gems encrusted in the material, and there is an absence of silver or gold. There are only white segments liked together.

Slowly, Mrs. Harrelsone walks towards the showing case and lifts the glass off. In the way that someone would lift their baby from a crib, she takes the necklace from its place and puts the glass back. She unclasps the necklace and lays it in my hands.

The material is cool against my skin, and although not rough, it isn’t completely smooth either. My spine tingles, and I feel the urge to throw the necklace across the room and run. But I don’t. It’s as if the jewelry is weighing me to the room, not allowing me to escape.

“Go ahead dear,” Mrs. Harrelsone says with a smile. “Put it on. I’m sure it will make you look stunning.”

Despite my trembling hands, I’m able to put the necklace around my neck and clasp it together. 

Mrs. Harrelsone sighs. “Even better than I thought it would be. Here, you take a look.”

She gives me a mirror, and with my still shaking hands, I take it. I hold it in front of me and peer at my reflection. If anything, the necklace makes me look dead. The color brings out my pale skin, making it look even a bit green in comparison. It also hardly fits. It’s as if the necklace was made for a small child, or maybe even an infant.

“What do you think?” Mrs. Harrelsone asks.

“It’s a little tight,” I say, tugging at the necklace, still looking in the mirror.

“Oh, you think it's tight now?” Mrs. Harrelsone says, “Wait until later.”

    My brows furrow, and I lower the mirror to look at her. To my horror, a cruel smile is twisted into her wrinkled face, showing off her crooked teeth. Before I can ask what she means, and what's happening, I feel the necklace tighten around me. Panicked, I tug at the necklace, but the more I pull, the more it constricts me. 

I fall to the floor heaving, attempting to suck air into my throat, which is quickly closing. Nothing can get through. I can’t breathe. Darkness begins to frame my vision, and the sound of Mrs. Harrelsone’s manic laughter becomes muffled. I struggle for a moment more before collapsing, body twitching. With the sense of rain still on my skin, the taste of sugar on my lips, and the feeling of the necklace around my throat, my vision goes completely black.


February 08, 2020 04:30

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2 comments

Brittany Rohm
09:43 Feb 13, 2020

Nice little twist there! (Be careful to always stay in present tense if you're writing in present tense, but good job otherwise). Thank you for sharing :)

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Kelsey Hooper
18:18 Feb 13, 2020

Thanks for the feedback! I too have noticed that I sometimes have trouble with tense

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