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General

Laurel Crouch was never one to feel glad being dragged around. Especially by her best friend. Unfortunately, Romilda Finch was a rather merry, curious girl who lost interest in things at the tip of a hat. 

Laurel was in an especially grouchy mood one particular Sunday; her mother had unleashed hell upon her, after discovering her secret stash of ramen packets in the back of her closet.

"Just because you're going on a stupid diet does not mean that I get to suffer as well!" Laurel had roared. "What about my rights as a human living in the twenty-first century? You'd probably be carted off to jail if Social Services had ever found out about what was happening in this house!"

Laurel shuddered, trying to transport herself back to the present. But the present turned out to be just as bad; Romilda had decided that today was the day that the duo would visit a flea market.

flea market. Even the mere title sent chills down Laurel's spine.

"It'll be fun!" Romilda had chirped last Monday, in her desperate attempts to pull Laurel on board. "Let's go, please? I've been dying to go ever since Livy May has been flashing those neon-orange flats at me, and I really really do not want to be out shined by her!"

So Laurel had agreed, after Romilda had promised that they would eat at a fast food restaurant afterwards.

The prospect of eating a XXXL-sized greasy burger, stuffing salty fries into her mouth, and slurping a cold vanilla milkshake brought a small smile to Laurel's sullen face. It would be a drastic difference to the wilted salad her mother had served for dinner last night. 

"I want to go to that stall," Romilda whined, pulling Laurel towards a small white tent. 

The market was bustling with people. Some carried bulging tote bags, some carried cardboard boxes spilling with dog-eared books, and some carried cupboards and fridges, wheezing with exhaustion. The air was thick with noise, and the choking stench of smoke.

Romilda was busy at the jewelry table, squealing at the dainty necklaces and bracelets. Laurel made her way to a rack of clothes, and started absentmindedly going through the various articles of clothing.

"Everything is 10 pounds dear," The owner, a petite grandmotherly woman, said sweetly. She was appeared to be knitting a snow cap. Laurel tried to smile back at the friendly woman, but only managed a painful grimace.

A Beatles Abbey Road t-shirt . . . a pale yellow cardigan . . . a cream-coloured poncho . . . a Velcro miniskirt . . . suddenly, Laurel gasped.

In front of her, was the most beautiful teal coat. It had gleaming buttons, a matching sash, and an upturned collar.

"Wicked!" Laurel whispered, stroking the smooth sleeves. 

It was just the jacket Laurel had always wanted: a coat that screamed style, and would make her mother absolutely furious.

So Laurel bought it. She practically skipped out of the tent, arm in arm with an equally happy Romilda.

"I just bought some uber-cute platform beige-coloured heels, a handful of bracelets, and this uber-cute Beatles t-shirt!" Romilda said, holding up the Abbey Road tee to her body excitedly. "What did you buy?"

"Just a jacket." Laurel tried to look nonchalant as she brought it out to show Romilda, but she could barely stop the elated grin that crossed her face. 

Romilda's jaw just about dropped to the floor.

"No. Way!" she gasped, shakily touching the belt. "It's beautiful! Stunning! You'd look like an actual model in that jacket! But- " Romilda hesitated. "What would your mother say?"

"She'd absolutely hate it." Laurel smiled. "And that's the basis of its appeal."

It was seven in the evening by the time Laurel got back to her house. She had spent many blissful hours eating and drinking to her heart's content. For dinner, she ate pizza; a meal that would make her mother faint in shock.

Laurel had also worn the jacket all day long. To her delight, she had garnered a lot of attention with it. People's eyes were drawn to her like a moth to a flame, and Laurel's crimson face hadn't subsided ever since the first glance. It was the first time she was the one who was the center of attention and not Romilda. 

Romilda was pretty and cute, with shiny jet-black hair that fell down to her waist, deep dimples, and an infectious giggle. Laurel had straw-coloured hair that straggled to about her shoulders, no dimples, and a constant frown. Next to Romilda, Laurel was about as interesting as a dish cloth.

"I'm home!" Laurel yelled, as she banged open the front door of her house. 

"No yelling in the house!" Her mother yelled back. Laurel grinned. "And don't slam the door!"

Her mother stepped into the foyer, with a disgruntled expression on her face. There was no denying it - Lily Crouch was born to become the supermodel she was. For an astonishing thirty-four years, she had graced the covers of global magazines, starting from the tender age of fifteen. With her heart-shaped pout, sultry emerald eyes, and mile-long legs, there was no doubt that she was a legend of the catwalk.

"Why are you so late?" Lily snapped. "I was under the impression that you'd be back for dinner."

"Sorry," said Laurel in a tone that highly indicated that she was definitely not sorry. "Lost track of time."

"What do you mean by 'lost track of time?'" Lily said. "I bet you were perfectly aware of the time young lady."

"Don't worry Mum, I already ate dinner." Laurel tried to skirt around her mother to go up the stairs and to her bedroom, but her mother clamped a hand onto her shoulder.

"What are you wearing?" Lily snarled, her lips curling up in contempt. 

" A coat." Laurel said airily.

"You look like a homeless ruffian in it." Lily said, her voice dripping with disdain. "And why is it so . . . colourful? You look like some sort of hippie in it. And don't you remember? You look fat in teal. You'd be much better off in beige, or cream, or black, or - "

"I don't mind." Laurel said shortly. She suddenly smiled. "And the best part: it's secondhand!"

Reveling in the sound of her mother's shrill screech of shock, she ran up the stairs.

Once Laurel was back in solitary in her bedroom, she locked the door with a sigh of relief. She threw herself onto her bed, glad that she was no longer in the presence of her deplorable mother.

It wasn't that mother and daughter did not love each other at all. It was just that Lily held certain expectations on her only daughter, and pushed them onto her in a most unpleasant manner. Lily's outlook on life was to be successful and beautiful; Laurel just wanted to be happy and comfortable in her own skin. And that was not to be an easy feat, what with the Lily Crouch as her mother. 

Next to her mother, Laurel was constantly getting compared and ignored, leaving her rather bitter. It didn't help that Laurel's mother was the one who did most of the comparing.

A chilly breeze swept over Laurel. She sat up abruptly, and saw that her window was still wide open, therefore letting in the cold December night air.

"Honestly," Laurel muttered, slamming it shut. She dug her hands into her pockets to generate some warmth. "Oh!"

To her amazement, she retrieved a ring. But not just any ring; it had a thin gold band, complete with a milky opal. There were small chinks of glittering silver set around the circular opal, giving the ring an additional iridescent glow.

Laurel stared at it in wonder, for she had never seen such a beautiful ring. 

With shaking fingers, she slipped it onto her left middle finger. A perfect fit!, thought Laurel gleefully. She held out her hand at arm's length, admiring the way the ring shone underneath the buttery light of her lamp.

Laurel slept peacefully that night, with the ring sitting next to her on her bedside table.

-

The next day, Laurel began a search for where the ring must've come from.

Her first stop was Wickstroms, the jewelry store that was famous for their beautiful engagement and wedding jewelry. It was the oldest jewelry store in Hampshire, being around since the seventeenth century, so Laurel was sure that the former owner must have bought it from Wickstroms. 

"It's beautiful!" Mr Cole, the owner of the store said in fascination, peering at the ring through his magnifying glass. "Where did you get it?"

"I found it in this coat. I bought it at the flea market down on Sixth Avenue." Laurel patted the coat, which she was wearing. "Is it one of your designs, sir?"

"Not that I know of," Mr Cole murmured. "I've been working at this store for a good fifty-five years, and we've never worked with opals. I could check the files for you, if we have ever sold any jewelry with opals. Who knows? We could've back during the pirating times!"

"Thanks Mr Cole!" Laurel laughed. 

Fifteen minutes later, Mr Cole returned from the back room, his face sweaty and flushed.

"Sorry Laurel. We've never sold any jewelry with opals," he said. Laurel's heart sank.

"Thanks for trying though!" Laurel tried to keep her voice upbeat. She left the store in a grey cloud.

By the time Thursday rolled by, Laurel must've visited all of the jewelry stores in Hampshire. After all of the visits, Laurel made a conclusion: the ring had not come from around here.

"With my luck, it must have been made and sold somewhere far away, like Malaysia or something," Laurel grumbled, flopping down onto her bed with such aggression that Romilda jumped up from the bed at least six inches.

"Oh come on, don't let it bother you so much," Romilda said perkily. "It'll turn up soon! Don't worry!"

"Easy for you to say. Your conscience hasn't been nagging you for the past five days." Laurel said moodily. "I might as well put a notice in the paper. Think of it: Anybody missing an opal ring please contact Laurel Crouch, a.k.a the daughter of Lily Crouch, the worldwide fashionista. Rommie, I'm getting so desperate to find answers, that I'm thinking about using my mother's fame to aid me. How disgusting!"

"You've only checked jewelry stores?" Romilda asked, looking at Laurel's checklist of stores to visit. Each store had been crossed out with a thick red marker. 

"Yeah." Laurel said. Romilda tried to stifle a giggle, but ultimately failed.

"Are you laughing at me?" Laurel frowned. Romilda smiled and flipped her hair.

"Haven't you thought about the one place that may hold all the answers to your ring?"

"No."

"Think Laurel, think. Think super carefully."

"I'm trying to!" Laurel was beginning to feel very annoyed by the tone of airy smugness in Romilda's voice. "Can you just tell me?"

"The stall at the flea market of course!" Romilda exclaimed, exasperated. "The place where you got your coat?!"

"Oh my god, you're right!" Excitement began to dawn upon Laurel.

"You're welcome!" Romilda sang. Laurel beamed (which was very unusual for her) at her best friend, and raced out of her room, down the stairs, and out of her house. 

She arrived at the said stall huffing and puffing, severely out of breath.

"What ever is the matter darling?" The same woman who manned the stall the day Laurel and Romilda visited together asked concernedly. A look of realization came upon her wrinkled face. "You came to my store a few days ago, didn't you?"

"Yes . . . ma'am." Laurel said hesitantly. "I have questions about this coat . . . and this ring."

Laurel held up the ring. The woman's eyes widened.

"That is a beautiful ring, sweetheart. But . . . why would you want to ask me about it?" The woman looked confused, and Laurel's heart sank into her shoes. 

"I found it in this coat." Laurel mumbled, all the hope leaving her at once. "I-I'll go now."

"Wait!" The woman yelled. "You have questions about the coat you're wearing?"

"Well . . . yes. But if you don't know anything about it, then that's alright I guess."

"My dear, I may not know the whole story behind the coat and the ring, but I may have a slight inkling about it." Hope fluttered in Laurel's stomach. "Why don't you sit down dear, while I go get us some tea?"

She ushered Laurel to sit at a small circular table behind the counter, while she bustled off to boil hot water. Once two steaming mugs of jasmine tea were perched in front of them, the woman began her story. 

"My name is Miranda May. You may call me Ms May." She said, her voice similar to a soothing lullaby. "My grandmother's name was Belle, and the coat you're wearing? That was once hers. 

My grandmother was the daughter of an important clergyman in a seaside town, not far from here. She was betrothed to a much older man, a man that she did not love at all, for her heart was already taken by another. Or more specifically, a gypsy by the name of Charles Lee.

On the eve of her wedding, she ran away to live with the gypsy community in which Charles was a part of. They married instead, and Belle was the happiest she had ever been. When they grew too old for roaming around, they settled down in a house. I found that very coat in a trunk hidden deep in her closet, a few days after her funeral.

I suppose that that was the engagement ring that was given to her by her betrothed; the man her father had arranged for her. After all, it looks incredibly expensive and well made. And from what I recall from my mother's stories, my grandmother and my grandfather did not exchange rings at their wedding ceremony."

"Why did you sell the coat?" Laurel asked.

"The trunk was locked with a heavy steel padlock. We had to bash it up with an axe. It was clear that she never wanted to open it." Miranda said heavily. "The trunk was full of things from her past, from her life with her mother and father. Her life before Charles was painful and full of heartache, evident from the diary entries we found in the same trunk."

"That's . . . " Laurel broke off, staring at the ring in silence, mulling over its history.

With a heavy heart, she slipped it off her finger and shrugged off her coat. "I guess you'd like to have it back then?"

"Oh no dear, you keep it." Miranda said hurriedly, pushing the items back towards Laurel. "I've got enough coats, and that ring has had a sad past in my family. You should start a fresh new chapter with that ring."

A smile stretched upon Laurel's face. "You mean it?"

"Sure I do."

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Laurel squealed, (which was very uncharacteristic of her), and hugged Miranda. 

She ran back home, cheeks flushed, and her arms wrapped firmly around her teal coat. The opal ring shimmered rightfully on her finger; she couldn't wait to tell Romilda all about it. 

December 07, 2019 03:48

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1 comment

Agnes Sharan
22:10 Dec 11, 2019

I like the language, especially the descriptions of the coat and the ring. I think its a nice and sweet story, a change to the usual plot twists I've now seen in stories. Its nice fleshed out but I think it is better as a part of a bigger story. great work!

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