I’m back with another one of those stories! Once again, this is an image from the writeworld tumblr blog.
Original image source is here
The dull, gray atmosphere of the city rushed past me as I turned up the collars of my coat to shield my face from the cold. Winter in the cities were brutal – at any rate, they certainly didn’t grant me any mercy. It was just like the city itself. Merciless as it went on in its own course, tripping down the unprepared while they scrabbled to get a hold of themselves. Freezing in place the ones who weren’t strong enough to fight, or the ones who simply refused to go on anymore.
I turned a corner to avoid the worst of the wind, and kept my eyes on the ground as I marched forward. People bumped into me as they passed, my mumbled ‘sorry’ deafened by the roar of the wind, and one of them ended up slamming me to a wall. I jerked my head up to see who it had been, maybe shout a few words in anger – not a word of apology, wow, was everyone raised in a barn these days? – only to face a deserted street, the people rushing past as if they hadn’t seen a thing. And they probably hadn’t, ignorant of their surroundings as they were. Oh, how I longed for the warmth that only a civil human could bring me! The warmth that seemed so far away, now, that it had been so long since I had last felt it. The city was truly a miserable place.
I heaved a sigh as I dusted off my jacket and unraveled my scarf. But just as I was about to wind it again, a gust of wind flew it out of my hands because of course everything has to happen to me. I ran after it, cursing my short stature as my fingers brushed the edge as it flew through the alleys. After a minute or two of sprinting around alleyways, it caught on the side of a shop sign, and I momentarily sagged in relief. I retrieved it and glanced at my surroundings. Sure enough, I’d been led into the completely unfamiliar side of town. Looking up to the sign that had saved my scarf, golden embellished letters reading Anciens et Nouveux stared back at me. A quick glance inside told me that the shop was open, and I stepped inside, hoping to ask for directions.
The door opened with a soft ding as I entered. The smell of wood, coupled with what was probably several fine layers of dust rushed into my nostrils, and I inhaled a deep breath. It smelled of home, something that I hadn’t been reminded of for a long time.
In the center was a huge yellow armchair – the kind in which you sit on and drink hot chocolate on a day such as this, if you have the time and space for it. I brushed my fingers across the armrest, feeling a phantom of warmth that was oddly reminiscent of body heat. I lifted my head to look around the shop more carefully. In every corner was an assortment of little things, things that one wouldn’t have any use of in a practical world but for the sentimental value. In every visible nook and cranny was an explosion of colors – so different from the dull gray tones of everything that surrounded me in the outside.
My eyes zeroed on the windowsill, where a steaming mug of something was placed next to an ornate box painted gold. I made my way towards it and noticed that there was a note:
Yours, if you would please.
The steam emitting from the mug indicated that it hadn’t been long since it had been placed there. Pondering about the lack of human presence in the seemingly open shop, I perched myself on the windowsill and flicked open the clasp of the box.
It was a music box, of sorts. A figurine of a ballerina had popped up from the inside, frozen in mid-twirl, waiting for someone to allow her to continue her dance. I tentatively wound up the spring, and the soft notes of Clementine started flowing from the box. I absentmindedly picked up the mug. The note had to be an offer, right? For whoever would enter the shop?
I closed my eyes and took a sip, losing myself in the soft notes coming out from the box.
I jerked awake, my eyes flying open as I sought to make sense of my surroundings. The music had disappeared at some point, and I vaguely remembered sitting down on a windowsill at a shop somewhere, but this place was definitely not the shop that I had been in, but someplace familiar. Someplace that I hadn’t been in in a long time. Someplace that had…
My little sister jumped and squealed in delight as I called her name, having grown so much and yet stayed the same since I had last seen her. She was dressed in a checkered skirt, the knee-length stockings and mary janes bouncing around as she flitted around like the exuberant eight-year old that she was.
“It’s really you! But when did you- when did you come back? You didn’t even give us a call!” She all but squealed, excitement evident and yet summoning a pang of guilt on my part for not having contacted for so long.
“Well, I wasn’t really expecting to come over so soon.” I said, nervously brushing back my hair. “In fact, I don’t even know how I just did.”
Little Elizabeth’s smile faltered for a second, face morphing into one of confusion before focusing back on my face.
“But you’re here, and that’s what matters, right?”
I had to smile back. “Yes, for now.”
After learning that both our parents were out for business in town, and having my little sister escort me on a tour of everything that had changed about my own home, we went down to the beach with a picnic basket to watch the sun set atop of the sea. The sky was flooding with so many colors, colors that filled me with warmth and yet had been lost to me for so long, I felt a strange emotion blooming in my chest. It wasn’t entirely foreign per se; it was something that I had tried to suppress so hard since coming to the city, that, by doing so, prevented me from connecting with everything that had been around me. An invisible barrier of cold that I had despised so much, and yet was projecting myself.
“You ‘kay? You look like you’re going to… I dunno, cry or something.”
I blinked twice at that observation, not realizing that tears had welled up in my eyes. I hastily brushed them aside, and shot her a grin.
She let out a contented hum at that, and started to doze off in the warm sunlight, bundled up against the nonexistent cold as she was. I held her with a fond gaze for a while and picked her up gently, packing up and heading for home.
The sun hadn’t disappeared completely yet when I laid her sleeping form back in the bed. I stared at her peaceful expression for a moment, cherishing the moment that was so common and yet so deprived to me at the same time. My forlorn gaze was interrupted by the sudden ringing of familiar notes floating through the air.
Recognizing the music that had magically brought me here, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sensation of being swept up by the soft melodies carrying me through space and time. When I opened my eyes, I found myself exactly as I had dozed off in the antique shop, perched on the windowsill. Next to me was the music box, slowing down as the spring that I had wound up made its final turns and coming to an end.
I got up to leave, brushing imaginary dust off of my jacket, when another note, one that had decidedly not been there when I had first come in, caught my eye.
Here’s to hoping you had a good experience of your true heart’s desire.
Smiling, and deciding not to inquire about the mystery and magic surrounding the shop, I stepped out the door and onto the sidewalk. I still didn’t know the road home, but my feet stepped onwards with a purpose.
The weather had not eased up any, the wind just as harsh as it had been before, but suddenly, it was feeling so much more bearable. A pleasant warmth had settled itself in my chest, warming my body up to the tips of each finger even as it numbed from the cold. It was as though I had dropped an armful of ice from where it had been freezing me from the inside. The world was still a dull, banal grey of concrete, but it had a glow to it, a sheen of color that had been previously unnoticed because of my own reluctance to see properly. It wasn’t such a desolate environment – not if we decided to see it otherwise.
I glanced around, observing the undertones of color of every passerby walking past. Everyone trying so desperately to hide their warmth, to hold onto the icy coldness unbeknownst to themselves while hating every moment of it.
A faint buzz awoke me from my musings, and I scrambled in my pockets to retrieve my phone. Without looking at the screen, guessing who it might be already, I flipped the screen and held it to my ear.
“Hey, sweetheart. How have you been keeping up?”
I couldn’t help the smile that started to creep up as I answered. “It’s the city, miserable as always, but it’s certainly started to look up lately.”
“That’s good to know, hun. Listen, your sister had the most amazing dream today and told me to pass it on to you….”
I now grinned widely and shamelessly, as an elderly man radiating turquoise walked past. “Tell me all about it.”
“Well, apparently she dreamt that you suddenly showed up at home….”