She took up the box and tapped the lid

The last of the writing prompts taken from Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie.

Elle loved a good browse around an antiques shop. Not that she ever bought anything. Antiques were expensive, and Elle had only her pension to live off.

antique store vintage

There were two stores in the village, both of which were well-patronised because this was a tourist town in an area where visitors expected antique shops.

It also boasted a significant population of well-to-dos with weekenders from the big city or comfortably-off retirees wanting to furnish their renovated cottages just so.

Elle’s unrenovated cottage contained no antiques. Simply old furniture, most of which she’d owned since she and Ted were newly married and furnishing their first home. Cheap and/or second hand, bought in thrift shops and from ads in the local paper.

‘Double bedstead. Dark wood. Excellent condition. Mattress not included. Must collect. £5 ONO.’

Elle slept to this day on that bed, which hadn’t been in excellent condition and needed to be re-stained by Elle. It had gone through three mattresses by now and was due for a new one when Elle could afford it. If ever.

Once upon a time Elle cherished a dream of owning an antique shop. When she was young, before the children were born, she read books, scoured stores for examples, and learned to tell her Chippendale from her Hepplewhite. But Chippendale and toddlers make an unsatisfactory pairing, and Elle’s dream drowned in the sea of reality.

Today Elle was indulging her love of browsing in McFadden’s Antiques. Kindly and tolerant Mr McFadden, the original owner, had recently retired. His daughter ran the shop now and she was a different kettle of fish altogether. Her height exaggerated by spindly heels, her blonde hair piled high above a sharp-cheeked face, and expensively scarfed and perfumed, she carried the air of one who was more at home on the customer side of the counter, preferably at Harrods. 

Elle looked over a row of newly arrived ornamental boxes, her neck warming with the heat of the woman’s narrow-eyed gaze on her back. Elle pretended insouciance. She’d been glared at by the best of them in her time, and it was her right as a customer – well, a potential customer – to inspect the offered merchandise.

‘Can I help you?’ Clipped tones which contained no suggestion of a desire to help.

‘Thank you, no.’ Elle glanced up briefly, avoiding eye contact, and back to the boxes.

‘Those arrived yesterday,’ Miss McFadden (or was she married and a Mrs Something? Elle couldn’t tell if there was a wedding ring among all the jewellery decorating the woman’s hands and wrists) said. ‘Highly valuable.’ Her voice rose and dragged out the ‘highly’ in case Elle missed the point.

No price tags, but that didn’t matter. Elle wasn’t buying, and if she did have money she would have kept her cash in her scuffed and worn purse rather than hand it over here.

silver jewellery box

There was, however, one box which drew her more than the others, to a state of wishing she could afford it and perhaps be gracious enough to overlook the shop keeper’s derisory stares. About six inches square, made of silver which was tarnished – she wondered why Miss M hadn’t polished it up before displaying it – with a delicate wavy pattern at the edges inlaid with rough cut gemstones, and a tempting ‘take hold of me’ knob on the lid.

Elle’s hand reached for it. She took up the box and tapped the lid, as if trying to decide whether to purchase or not.

Miss M (or Mrs whatever) was beside her in an instant.

‘Not that one!’ she cried, suddenly flummoxed. ‘How did it even get here? I left it in the storeroom, it’s not meant–’

Whatever was not meant, Elle never found out. Although she guessed it might have something to do with her instant transportation to a very fancy indeed antiques store – the third in the village it would turn out to be, until McFadden’s closed a short time later –  where Elle, beautifully dressed, perfectly groomed hair, manicured nails – stood behind the polished mahogany and oak counter.

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2 thoughts on “She took up the box and tapped the lid”

  1. Sounds like Elle is a very lucky girl.

    My contribution:

    It had an interesting feel with its ornate Oriental carvings, so she took up the box and tapped the lid.
    A hollow sound. Maybe there was nothing in it.
    She tapped again and the lid slowly opened. Just as she thought – empty.
    Ah well, the carvings were nice, it would make a good decoration for her bedroom and would be good to store jewellery – so she turned to the shop assistant who had been balefully eyeing her and asked how much.
    “One hundred dollars,” the girl replied. “It’s imported,” she said by way of explanation.
    Leeanne could see that, but said nothing.
    After a moment’s deliberation, she said “Ok, I’ll take it.”
    With the box now wrapped and in a paper bag, Leeanne headed for home.
    Just as she thought, it looked gorgeous in her bedroom – a fitting adornment.
    Her jewellery which, until now, had resided in a bedside table drawer was duly transferred to her new acquisition.
    Leeanne close the lid and was startled by a loud rumbling sound that appeared to be coming from the base.
    Almost from reflex, she snapped the lid open again – only to discover all her jewellery, including her mother’s precious eternity ring, had disappeared.
    “Oh no!!” she screamed. “Where did it go?”
    A wisp of purple pink smoke and there before her was what she could only presume was a genie – the most handsome creature she had ever seen.
    He had somehow managed to wangle all her jewellery onto his hands, feet, neck – in fact, you name the body part and it was adorned with one of her trinkets.
    “Wh..what’s going on?” she demanded, terrified.
    “I am Ahmed,” he replied. “Your friendly genie, at your service, madam.”
    “Not possible,” responded Leeanne. “Genies aren’t real. They only exist in story books or as TV programs.”
    “I can assure you, madam, I am very real.” And with that he moved forward and planted a sloppy kiss full on her lips.
    Leeanne almost passed out. Good God, she thought, he is real and not a bad kisser, either.
    “Well, what are you doing wearing all my jewellery?” she squeaked.
    “Just wanted to see how it looked,” he smiled. “Not bad, eh?”
    “Y..yes – but it’s mine, not yours, so please take it off and put it back in the box.”
    “Ok, ok keep your shirt on. Besides, I can give you as much jewellery as you could ever desire, free of charge.”
    “Is that so,” spluttered Leeanne.
    “Yep,” the genie said. “I don’t just do never ending Tim Tams you know.”
    Leeanne looked at him long and hard. Then a smile brightened her pretty face. This might turn out to be the best $100 I ever spent, she thought, and moved into his waiting arms.

    1. Ha ha! Love it. Especially never ending Tim Tams (which no one outside Aus knows what they are, so even better).

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