“What can you offer me?”
His voice seemed prepared with a kind of sterility.
“Well, I can bring a number of things to the table,” she said. The metaphor wasn’t all together inaccurate. Her hands were pressed into the pine surface, right hand over the other, as if the left hand was unwired and attempting to do something dangerous. There was also a pen, half-gutted of ink and a slightly creased promotional flyer. The creases seemed to coordinate to those in her brow, half-filled with a powder which added a sense of thickness to her face. It had weighed on her skull to long, she thought, the impulse always flickering, flickering, in the wish to unzip her skin and flee.
But she had put out her best today too.
For there she offered her ware, jewellery. She laid out the first to him at eye-level, so they captured the light, his gaze, in all the right places. Those two discs of milky porcelain, confessing to a kind of weakness people were so keen to capture.
“My mother made these,” she said slowly “Real antiques, you could call them, they’ve been through a lot.”
Yet with not even a finger-press she illustrated the opening and closing of their clasps – and announced “Of course, still immaculate.”
They glinted and glittered as she managed to hold them up, and he watched their curves fight with the infestation of light. In his ideals, perhaps, they looked like droplets of pearl – but how could he be sure? The way the light seemed to fizz within them made him unsure, almost uneasy. There was something uneasy about their beauty, like an expensive marble undercut with impurity.
But perhaps he was looking for something more versatile.
Raising up those uncomfortable hands, she spread out a chain. Initially, it appeared only a silvery thinness, like a shot of steam before it disperses into warmth. Yet it grew she unravelled it. Within the space of seconds it seemed to swell marvellously, exposing shimmering links of rose- gold which seemed to almost have a liquidity to them. Perhaps she was tired of selling or digging for a darker humour, something instinctive, as she drew the chain upwards and downwards, contracted it, struggled to hold it stationary. It was like a game in which a child plays with an imaginary snake – there is no danger, only flickering movement and the hope of the moment to be more enhanced than it actually is.
She was to an extent indifferent as to whether he would take up her offer on the jewellery - whether he would hand the akin-polished coins or well-coarsed card over.
For they stayed there for the next customer, the next customers – the eyes and the smile, their slight, saleslike movement. Sometimes people would accept them as an offer.
But they always took them, anyway.