The Broken Pearl, by Caroline Icke
The house stood atop a small hill, surrounded by gardens, trees, and a charming little stream which had run dry over recent years. The flowers which grew from its damp depths were beautiful, a little wild perhaps, but quite lovely nonetheless. I remembered the house from my youth; the Victorian bay windows had seemed so grand and imposing to a child, and the pillared entrance to the fine doors a rich and impressive touch. It had been years since I had lived in that house, although its grandeur was not at all tarnished. I knew that the gardens were still being taken care of, and was wary of the condition of the interior as I turned the front door key with a memorable clunk and entered the foyer.
The smell was stale. No one had lived here since Granny’s death, the grief too great to be surrounded by her things. It was exactly how I remembered, but the light was gone. It was not dark, but the light of life was missing. I did nothing but walk for a while, inspecting every room, inhaling dust with every breath. I dared not touch anything, for while it remained untouched, it was still Granny’s. Everything was the way she left it, preserved and untainted. The book she had been reading lay open in the parlour, yellowing from too many days under the sun. The drawings she and I had done together one evening when a stray pony had wondered into her gardens were framed and hung sadly on a papered wall. I smiled at the memory, one of so many, and promptly moved along to inspect the upstairs.
I left her bedroom until last. I stood outside for a while, although I wasn’t sure why. My youth had been spent waiting for Granny’s invitation; I would never enter her room without permission and there was a part of my adult self that still feared the invasion. The brass door handle was cool under my fingers and seemed smaller than I remembered; it turned with ease as though recently oiled and fell away from my hand as the door swung open.
A cool sensation enveloped me as I stepped into the sweet smelling room, and I noticed that the bay window was open and a light breeze had picked up. The lace curtains swayed, still as dainty as the day they were first hung. The ceilings were higher than I remembered, despite my growth into adulthood, and the four-poster bed still an object of admiration in its splendour. Nothing was stale here; nothing darkened by a mournful layer of dust. I closed the window and gazed into the gardens. A cat scaled a small garden wall, and then sat proud with its tail swaying as I caught its wandering eye. I never remembered a cat, although if I had it surely would have passed by now. A stray, probably. Its stare never wavered as it watched, full of curiosity.
I sat in one of Granny’s armchairs for a while, gazing upon the room I had admired so much as a child. The vintage décor I now appreciated; the pale mint-green, striped wallpaper a quality I had never much cared for until now. Every detail was important; the carved claws of the desk legs; the filigree of the large gilded mirror; the jewels embedded into the cushions of the vintage armchairs. How had I forgotten the delicate beauty which obsessed me all those years ago?
A glinting caught my eye as the sun shone over the jewellery stand near to the window. A number of rings sparkled, each as grand as the next as they waited in their original boxes to be worn, as did the vast collection of earrings. Gold necklaces hung from a stand nearby, their matching bracelets displayed in a cabinet of open drawers. Granny always liked things on show. My favourite piece of her jewellery rested quite apart from the rest, on a small mahogany table set in the lightest part of her room. A navy velvet bust beheld the string of pinkish pearls which Granny had worn for only the most special of occasions. I had always loved those pearls, especially the shimmer of pink which was so striking as it reflected light and dazzled onlookers. I fingered the small beads softly, for the first time in my life. Overcome with emotion, I barely noticed the pearls slip through my fingers as I allowed myself to grieve once again for the loss of my dear Grandmother.
The light slowly ebbed from the room as I was left with the shattered remains of Granny’s pearl necklace. I gathered them up as best I could, noticing the stale smell once again as my hands and knees gathered dust which seemed suddenly to materialise on the floor. Tears fell from my eyes as though from the child within, at an accident which cost me something very dear to me. With the pearls safely wrapped in a silken handkerchief I shut the door to my Granny’s bedroom and vowed to her spirit that I would have the necklace restored, a promise I knew I would keep no matter what the cost.
As I left the house I lingered momentarily on the porch, a great regret filling my heart. I stroked the cat which now perched next to me on the wall, purring softly as though comforting my sorrow. She lifted her glossy head in a bid for me to scratch her chin, and I marveled as my fingers brushed the pink pearl which dangled loosely from her collar.