The Deal

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Chamois in hand, the shopgirl dusted absentmindedly with her right hand while balancing a massive book with left. Instead of being behind the register she had stationed herself close to the fading sunlight of Tartini’s curved window front. The shop, geared to look like an exotic bazaar, was curated to ensnare hipsters and boho soccer moms with pricey reproductions and the occasional antique. It was packed to the gills with gravy boats, temple bells, African masks, and stoic buddhas. Cello Suite no. 1 in G Major swam in and out of the crystal chandeliers and mismatched china cups. Dust shimmered in a halo over her head as she read and dusted.

Perched on a dodgy red stool she curled deeper into her book. Sweet and smoky, a familiar scent snaked under the shop door. She sniffed. The door opened and closed. The shopgirl turned a page. Bagatelle No. 25 danced up and down the glass display cases. Warm air chuffed against her back as the visitor walked around her and deeper into the store. He was humming Beethoven.

Beneath the sweep of her heavy hair she watched the visitor pretend to shop. A hatbox, a baroque fan, a pair of oil lamps, he touched things at random but with great interest. In the reflection of the vintage medicine cabinet she could see the stranger moved like a dancer, deliberate and graceful. Over and over, he turned an ornate gold-plated punchbowl maybe looking for a price tag. He caught her looking and smiled. Bowl in hand, the customer approached the shopgirl. She returned to her book as Vivaldi’s Summer in G Minor gamboled up and down the aisles.

The customer’s heat lay a firm hand on her shoulder. Brimstone thick as ganache enveloped her. Waving away the grey wisps, the shopgirl pulled an ebony hair pin from her bun and used it as a bookmark.

“How much?” the customer asked. His tone was casual as he appraised the graceful curl of her back, the sliver of skin peeking out rom her fallen cascade of hair, and the grimoire she had been reading.
“More than you’re willing to pay,” the shopgirl answered turning to finally face him.
The Devil’s Trill Sonata flared up. They both chuckled as nighttime approached. Negotiations began.

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