by Michelle Watson

I am wandering through Bloomers, one of my favorite shops in West Port plaza. It's crowded and full of neat things. Like these transparent plastic bags with flowers embedded into them. Or silk scarves, cool and snazzy. Or these hummingbird feeders that look like Christmas Ornaments. Or the single bud orchids, their petals like sinuous satin.

When I reach the back of the shop, my breath quickens. Jewelry. The girl who sells it, Jennifer, is thin-lipped and tall, with agile wrists and a multi-colored scarf enfolding her shoulders. She always wears the jewelry from the shop. Today, it is amber, necklace and earrings, both set inside filigreed silver.

"I love this," I say and point at the necklace, at the stones that shine with all the magic of ancient pine. "Are they cold?"

"No. Amber is warm. Want to touch?"

"You're right," I say, fingering the beads. "It's strange, they look so cold and glassy."

She smiles and says, "They are on sale today. Fifty percent off. Want to try them?"

I really want this necklace; the beads around my neck, protecting me with their primal warmth. I glance at the price tag. Even on sale, I can't afford them.

"We take credit cards," Jennifer says. She's dangling the necklace on her slim finger now and the colors--ochre and honey and tinges of red--glow and flicker like the spirit of fire.

I give her a fluttery smile and a credit card. “Sold.”

She carefully wraps the necklace in paper, thin as encyclopedia insert.

On the way home I switch the radio on, listen to Cindy Lauper's "Girls Just want to have fun. That's all they waaaaant..."
I turn it up louder and snap my fingers to the beat.

Back home, I plop down on my bed and unwrap the package. The sun is setting now, throwing a pillar of light across the bed, exploding my beads, and I clasp them around my neck, then stand in front of the dresser mirror.

What was I thinking?

I am wearing jeans, tattered and so washed out the blue is paler then the moon. And my t-shirt! There's a rip in the seam, a grape stain on the left shoulder.

A startled understanding pulses through me, like a heartbeat. These beads are from another time that’s yet to make an imprint on my life; the time of dancing to Mireille Mathieu’s “Parisian Tango”, of kissing my lover under the Orion, of walking along Saint Petersburg’s Neva on White Nights.

I take my beautiful beads and wrap them up again, in their pretty protective paper.

Maybe someday.

Michelle was born and raised in Odessa, Ukraine. She now lives in the suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri with her husband and two sons.  Michelle is a member of Monday Night Writers of Saint Louis. She is currently working on a novel about Russian immigrants.  Contact Michelle.