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Window shopping was one of Charlotte’s favorite pastimes, and the local jewelry store, Herald’s, was one of her favorite haunts. She looked in on the grand necklace that had been in the shop window for as long as she could remember. The fine emeralds, carefully set into the delicate silver bed, managed to sparkle even through the substantial layer of dust that covered them.
“Every Sunday morning, like clockwork,” a familiar voice chuckled. Charlotte turned toward the voice, and was not surprised to find that it was Dylan. His mother was the proud owner of Herald’s, and because it was a family business, Dylan was allowed the honor of rising early to open the shop on weekends. “Why won’t you ever try it on?” He gestured to the necklace.
Charlotte shrugged. “One thing leads to another. Trying it on will lead it buying it, which will lead me straight out of my apartment and onto the streets.”
Dylan chuckled again, “I’ll hold your checkbook hostage if you like.”
Charlotte sighed as Dylan jammed the key into Heralds’ front door. Her feet carried her into the shop after him, with her better judgment protesting every step.
“It goes so well with your eyes,” he said.
“But it clashes so badly with the finances.” Her finger petted the surface of one of the emeralds, over and over again, cleaning the dust away. Everything about the necklace seemed to tease her as she stared at its reflection in the mirror.
Reluctantly, she unclasped the necklace and laid it gently back down into the display case. Finances. Rent. Bills. All things that refused to cooperate with the $475 dollar price tag. “Wait—what’s this?” She asked.
Sitting on one of the tables near the door was a modest silver band. It was too thin to be a wedding band, but Charlotte had another use in mind. The price tag was agreeable enough, at $20.
“We just got it in, I’m not sure where mom found it.”
“As long as your mother doesn’t mind parting with her new treasure so soon, I’d love to have it.”
Just as Dylan closed the cash register, the church bells began to ding and dong. Their tickling noise reverberated against all of the buildings in town, magnifying their sound.
“Better not be late to mass.” Dylan ushered Charlotte out of the store and quickly locked up. They trotted down Main Street towards the church, located at the center of the town.
“Where are you in your college applications?” Charlotte asked.
“Finished,” Dylan shrugged, “Now all I have to do is twiddle my thumbs and hope I get the aid I need. How about you?”
“I’m getting there. I’ve been helping Patricia with her applications a lot, so time has been a little short for mine. But I’ll get them done,” she said, even though she wasn’t entirely sure she could.
“Where is Patricia applying?”
“Oh, a whole slew of places. She’s shooting quite high, even a couple of ivy leagues.” Charlotte sighed, “I’m a little concerned for her, though. She’s been stressing out, sometimes losing her temper, over all of this college stuff.”
Dylan’s eye brows furrowed and his face darkened. “We must pray for her then.”
Charlotte nodded, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.
“Our Father who art in heaven
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
As earth as it is in heaven”
Patricia looked bad. Her Sunday best was horribly wrinkled, her hair unusually flat and thin, and her lips hardly moved as the rest on the church recited the Lord’s Prayer. Her eyes were angled down to the book of hymns she was holding, but she looked far too glazed to be reading.
“Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us”
Patricia’s voice grew to be just audible in the last two lines, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“And now, a reading from the gospel of Mark.”
Patricia stumbled out of the pew and scurried up to the altar. As usual, all eyes were on the speaker as she strode up to the front, but the church’s gaze was different today. Whisperings of “Is she well?” and “What’s wrong with her?” echoed off the warm oak pews and stained glass windows. Patricia fumbled with the pages of the gospel, looking for her excerpt. Even from the third pew back, Charlotte could see Patricia’s frantic fingers and sweating neck. A good minute had passed since Patricia arrived at the altar, but she still hadn’t found her page.
In a violent thrash, Patricia slammed the gospel shut. The altar wobbled for a sickening moment, and then toppled to the ground. It landed with a heart-stopping thud and sent the gospel to the ground, with its pages unceremoniously rumpled against the floor.
“Oh my God!” Patricia shrieked. The entire church stopped breathing. All that could be heard was the echo of Patricia’s hand clapping across her mouth. She dashed down the aisle and out the door, leaving the entire church speechless.
“What should we do now?” Charlotte whispered to Dylan. He was kneeling and his eyes were scrunched closed, deep in prayer, undoubtedly for Patricia. Charlotte looked all around the church to find that everyone was deeply disturbed. Mothers were aghast, fathers were appalled, and children were quite stunned. Something had to be done, now. Clutching the small silver ring tightly in hand, Charlotte scampered out of the church.
“I’m going to carry that moment for the rest of my life.” Patricia hung her head over the small saucer and cup of tea.
Charlotte frowned, “I can’t see much of a way to forget it.” She cast an eye around Patricia’s apartment. Considering the wreck Patricia was living in, her attire at church was actually pretty impressive.
Patricia nodded, accepting her defeat. Silent words were exchanged between Charlotte and Patricia, with flashes of eye contact between sips of tea. Everyone in town is talking about you. I know. You’ve caused a scandal. I know. No one will ever look at you in the name way they did before. I know. You can’t be here anymore- no one wants you here no that you have sinned beyond forgiveness.
Patricia finished her tea in a huge gulp, as if she was planning to take up competitive drinking, then her eyes widened for a moment. Her mouth hung wide open and let out the tiniest sound. “Auhhhh?” The whites of her eyes ballooned until her irises were just specks. Her face went pale.
“Auh- auh- auh,” Patricia said as she clutched her throat.
“Are you alright?” Charlotte inquired, sipping her tea.
“AUH, AUH, AUH!”
Patricia’s noises stopped all of the sudden, and Charlotte sipped her tea contentedly. Although, she did wish she would’ve gotten to see Patricia wear the little silver ring. She cleaned her teacup and took the liberty of straightening up a couple of the throw pillows on the couch before leaving Patricia’s apartment.
Just as Charlotte was leaving, she noticed a pile of mail sitting by the door. The letter on top of the stack was from Brown University. Charlotte stopped. Her fingers stroked the letter, and without much thought, soon there were little shreds of envelop all over the floor.
Dear Patricia Whitney Truman,
We are pleased to inform you that your financial need has been recognized by Brown University. Due to your outstanding academic promise, you have been selected for a full scholarship covering the costs of room, board, and tuition….
Charlotte didn’t need to read any further. She took Patricia’s purse, pocketed the letter, and scurried out the door, having fallen victim to a similar ailment that claimed Patricia.