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Student Journal: Heirloom

The Student Journal showcases the work of the local high schoolers.

By Noelle Muddiman

“Um, sorry. That one’s not for sale.”

I set the bracelet I was holding down on the glass countertop and turned to face the timid saleswoman addressing me. I smiled.

“Oh I know,” I said, keeping my voice pleasant. “Still, it’s such a beautiful piece. So rare. One might even go as far as to say that it’s the only one of its kind.”

The saleswoman smiled nervously, obviously confused and too intimidated by my unwarranted passive aggression to say anything. I sighed inwardly. Being rude to a random employee would get me nowhere. I decided to change tactics.

“So this bracelet is just for display then? Or…” I trailed off, waiting for the saleswoman to fill in the missing information

“Oh! Um, well it’s a new piece. The uh, the owner of this store designed it specially for Lady Mativa for her fashion show. There’s a whole collection of pieces just like this one!” The saleswoman lifted the bracelet with a trembling hand. “I mean, it’s beautiful. Just um, look at the…craftsmanship — and the gems!”

Her voice spiked unnaturally high on the last word. I leaned in to take a closer look at the bracelet, but I didn’t even need my eyes open to know what it looked like. When something spends 13 years on your wrist, you get familiar with it. I could picture every pale pink diamond, each nestled in a bed of pearls and smaller white diamonds of various shapes.

I knew the way the bracelet felt: weighty and comfortable, the white gold worn smooth from generations of love. I knew that the clasp had a tiny scratch on it from when it had fallen off my grandmother’s wrist while she was participating in a late night horse race at a party. That bracelet had been a part of my family for years, and now it was sitting in a high-class jewelry shop, being passed off as some overrated jeweler’s design. I took a deep breath. I had to go about this carefully.

“So, the owner of this store, does he make custom pieces?” I asked, straightening up.

“Oh yes! Are you looking for um, anything in particular? I can give you his email if you want or I could see if he has an appointment available in the near future. He’s very busy as you know, what with this um, show coming up. He has to design another complete collection! And so soon after he just finished the Lady Mativa one. He’s so creative. I don’t know how he does it!” the saleswoman babbled.

He steals family heirlooms and bases all his pieces off them, that’s how he does it, I thought. But I held my tongue.

“Yes, I’d like to see him in person, as soon as can possibly be arranged. Tell him that Audrey Hess would like to hire his services in creating a very important bracelet.”

“Oh, yes. Um, just uh, give me one second.”

The saleswoman turned shakily and then darted across the store and up a grand flight of stairs with a silver runner. I watched her leave, then turned to the bracelet. I picked it up and ran my thumb over one of the large pale pink diamonds. I could just take it now and be done with this whole thing. But the saleswoman knew that I was interested in it and I would be the first suspect if it went missing. Then I would be no better than the owner of the shop, Mr. Jack Cariahm himself.

I lifted the bracelet into a bright shaft of light, watching as the diamonds caught and refracted the sun’s glow, painting the walls of the small shop in beautiful rainbow hues. I closed my eyes for a brief moment, soaking in this time spent with my most prized possession.

I must have looked ridiculous, standing in the middle of a jewelry shop with my eyes closed, clutching a priceless bracelet as though it was the only thing tying me to reality. In truth, it probably was. Ever since my bracelet was stolen, my whole life has been dedicated to getting it back. I was so close now, I could almost taste victory. All I had to do now was get an audience with Cariahm. I opened my eyes and set the bracelet down, staring blankly out at the bustling street as I went over my plan in my head for the millionth time. I had spent the past three months gathering evidence against Cariahm, and now I was finally going to confront him. I heard quick-moving footsteps behind me and turned to see the saleswoman weaving between display counters.

“Ma’am!” she called out. “Mr. Cariahm has time to see you right now!”

“Thank you,” I purred, a satisfied smile spreading over my face.

So, he recognised the name of the person that he stole from. The flustered saleswoman led me up the stairs and down a long, brightly lit hallway with floor to ceiling windows on one side and photographs of previous jewelry collections on the other. We turned a corner and reached a small waiting area with a pair of loveseats upholstered in rosey velvet and a bored looking secretary slumped at a desk. The secretary sat up as we neared him, then exchanged a nod with the saleswoman and went to open the large set of overly-ornate double doors that I assumed led to Cariahm’s office.

“He’s ready for you ma’am,” drawled the secretary in an unexpected southern accent.

“Thank you.” I smiled without using my eyes and stepped into the office of my nemesis.

The room was pentagonal in shape and huge, with cream coloured walls and floors of dark wood covered by a thick sheepskin rug. A set of french doors were thrown open to admit a light breeze, and the dusty pink drapes on either side of the windows matched the loveseats outside. Jack Cariahm sat behind a huge desk along the back wall, and a pair of comfortable-looking chairs faced him. I stepped lightly across the room, controlling my rage very well and came to stand in front of the desk. I ran my finger lightly over the wooden surface, then brushed it against my thumb as though I was checking for dust. Cariahm frowned at this, then returned his face to its pleasant mask.

“Audrey Hess.” He folded his hands on the desk and shifted in his seat. “I must say that I’m not surprised to see you here, although I am a little surprised that it took you so long. I expected you to come beating down my door with crazy accusations the minute you realized that your costume jewelry went missing.”

“Well, my jewelry is neither costume nor are my accusations anything but valid. The only reason that it took me so long to come here is that I needed proof. And I have it.”

I reached into the tote slung over my shoulder and pulled out a leather folder. It made a deeply satisfying smack as I threw it onto the desk. Cariahm reached for the folder and opened it with a quick, slither-like motion of his thin fingers. I watched, a smug smile rooted on my face as he fished around in the folder. His own expression was one of confusion, as he had been expecting documents or pictures but found none.

The truth was, there were no photos or documents. Cariahm was paranoid, but I was determined. The answer to my salvation lay in those scarily long and skinny fingers of his. See, I had watched him carefully at the Lady Mativa show, and through the half hour performance, I had noticed what no one else ever had. A slight twitch, a spasm of the muscles in his hand. He hid it well, but there was no mistaking the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

The fact that he rushed out of the show as soon as it finished and spent the limo ride back to his penthouse cradling his hands to his chest was almost enough to confirm my suspicions. After spreading some cash around, I was able to discover that he had been in a car crash at the age of seven. No one else was injured, but Cariahm’s failure to wear a seatbelt had resulted in him breaking both wrists.

He was admitted into the public hospital eight times that year, before his files were transferred to a private hospital in Switzerland. I was able to bribe a retired nurse to retrieve a copy of his medical history for me, and that’s how I discovered that he had been given a prescription of OxyCotin at age 34.

“I think the public would be very interested to learn about your little pill problem, sir,” I said by way of explanation for the empty folder.

Cariahm was silent for a moment, his pasted-on smile looking a lot more like a pained grimace. “Very well,” he finally said.

“I’ll have Courtney wrap it up for you.”

Read the conclusion of Heirloom in next week’s issue or, visit the Clearwater Times website to read the full story. Noelle Muddiman just finished Grade 10 at Clearwater Secondary School. The Student Journal is a section of The Times that showcases the work of the local high schoolers.