The dream opens with me seated at a fancy, “upper class” restaurant. Not so upper class that there is an income check just to make reservations. But upper class in that “manners” are expected.
Nice mix of people here. I don’t feel like the Odd Man Out for once. My business dealings have been going well, so well, I can afford to eat here without feeling guilty. Just this once, though. I’m sure when I get home and consider the logistics necessary to spoil me, I’ll feel like shit.
But that’s when I get home. Right now, I’m here to try food combinations I’d never considered. (I don’t understand why one would go to a restaurant to have the same type of food one would cook at home. But then again, there’s a lot to American society and culture that makes Jack Shit of sense to this American.)
I’m making Hell freeze over today. I’m wearing a dress, and heels! (I even shaved my legs.) A little makeup. A little bling. A few more rings, a new bracelet, and two necklaces! The oddly shaped blue pearl pendant lays just above the opal pendant. Normally, I only wear the opal, but it’s a special day. I better be careful, with all this wealth I’m showing off. I chuckle at myself for being silly about my appearance.
I’ve given my order already. The salad was served first. I surprise myself by remembering which is the salad fork and which is the dinner fork. I’m sure I’ll gripe and bitch about the use of so much silverware for dinner, and the resources that will be used to clean up afterward. But in the mean time, is this real Parmesan cheese? Yummy.
“Excuse me, Miss?” I’m sucking on a tender black olive and look up to find the restaurant’s host standing close enough to be discreet, far enough to not be threatening. A long black skirt seemed to melt into the black jacket draped over a crisp white linen blouse. She is smiling in that emotionless way, but her eye betrayed a hint of “want”.
I dispatched with the olive as neatly as I could. “Yes, is there a problem?”
“This is going to sound… odd.” She gave a small nervous chuckle. “Your necklaces. They are beautiful.” I nodded, but said nothing. “Well, my boyfriend is here, and he’s asking me what kind of jewelry I like. I’d love to show him yours, but he doesn’t work here and… ” She looks around furtively. It’s obvious her boyfriend would not be allowed to come onto the serving floor. “So, I was wondering if I may borrow your necklaces and show him in the back room when I go on break.”
I’m flattered. I’m wary. I understand that he can’t come to me. And if I were to go to him, there would be other questions. Awkward. “How long is your break?”
“Only ten minutes.” Hmm.
The opal has been through many adventures with me. The last time I took it off, the stone’s spirit suffered. Never again will I be parted with it. The blue pearl, however, is new to me, and still quite inert. I don’t even wear it all the time. Another ten minutes reprieve from me shouldn’t hurt.
I remove the blue pearl necklace and close the clasp. I place it in her hand, but before I release it, I warn her. “Your break is ten minutes? If I don’t have it back in fifteen, I’ll come after it.” Her well practiced smile slips momentarily.
“Shouldn’t you be on break?”
The smile returns and she nods while she thanks me. Slipping the necklace into her pocket, she took on the cool composure of the restaurant host and quickly strode off the serving floor. A little nagging thought told me to kiss goodbye to the blue pearl. A little louder nagging thought resolved that I will have the blue pearl back, and reminded myself that I’m not above making a helluva scene to do it.
The main course, something with medium rare beef and thinly sliced salmon was served as soon as she walked away. A beautiful dish, comprised of three bites of meat and four licks of some unrecognizable pureed vegetable combination. But what it lacked in mass, it more than made up for in taste. A swirl of delicately opposed flavors made me pause after each nibble. The aroma of the sauce on the warm plate gave the illusion of having a greater amount of food than what was actually there. This was a dinner to discuss over, a dinner to stretch out with careful conversation.
A dinner to distract me with. My silent alarm told me fifteen minutes had passed. My dinner plate already empty, it was time for my next course. Instead of having it brought to me, I had to hunt it down. I placed the card that told the busboy my departure was temporary face up on the table, wiped my mouth, and left towards where I saw the host disappear to.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, the restrooms are over there.” I was stopped the moment I turned around the corner. A nice touch. Instead of humiliating the patrons on the main floor, “confused” patrons are corrected privately.
“I’m looking for the host, I wanted to tell her what a wonderful help she has been for me.” I smiled warmly. The employee smiled and melted a little in response.
“Um, well, the blond woman, right?” I nodded. “Ah, she’s gone for the day.” My smile remained, but I pouted slightly. “Yea, she had to leave for personal business. But I’ll pass on your regards!”
I nodded as if accepting the news with delicate grace. Inside, I was fuming. A sudden idea crossed my mind. “Say, I heard some bright laughter. Is someone having a party today?”
“Yes, Ma’am. A friend of the owner is here today, having her birthday dinner.” What if…
“Thank you, so much. I’ll try to catch the host tomorrow. In the mean time, I have a dinner to finish. Thank you.” I smiled and nodded. He smiled in return, and bowed deeply.
I exited the nook and looked over the serving floor. I never realized how huge this restaurant is. I wandered with a deliberate pace. Look like you own the place, and no one will challenge you. Indeed, all the other patrons were focused on their dinner or each other. No one paid attention to the wandering woman. Any staff that asked, discretely, were told I had a “woman’s business” to settle. Most nodded knowingly, and left me free to look for my “cheating spouse”.
A family caught my attention. There was no laughter at this table, but the woman’s actions caught my eye. She kept placing her hand on her bare neck, and silently sobbing. A man sat next to her, stern faced and brooding in anger. A younger man tried to console the woman, and kept glancing around in search of someone. Someone, that I suspected would never appear. He saw me, judged me, and dismissed me as not the target of his search. I approached him anyway.
“Excuse me.” The elder man glared at me silently. The woman looked up at me in hope, but seeing I’m not the person she expected, turned away and continued sobbing. The younger man looked at me in hope as well, but said nothing. I noted they had finished their dinner so long ago, the food remnants had dried into colorful scabs on glistening plates. “Did the host ‘borrow’ a necklace from your mother?” The woman looked at me sharply, as if I had uncovered a horrible secret.
“Y-yes. She did. My mother had… has… a black pearl necklace. The host borrowed it to… never mind the excuse. She said she would only be gone ten minutes. It’s been two hours!” He looked at his parents. “My father is refusing to leave without it.” The elder man just grunted in agreement.
Two hours? I look over the serving floor. The restaurant was so vast, and had several floors. It was very easy for the host to scam these folks, and then come to me two hours later without being seen by them.
“Young man, would you be able to recognize your mother’s necklace?” The hope on his face transformed from wistful to awake. “Yes, Ma’am! I made it! I know each and every pearl on it!” I smiled.
“Excellent. Come with me, we have a birthday party to find.” He kissed his mother gently on the face, and promised her he would return with her necklace. He quits the table, and the two of us continue on to a third area of the restaurant.
“I suspect the host, who is a legitimate employee here, was tasked to find some ‘pretties’ to give to someone on the owner’s behalf. Because you and I are of lower social status, a theft from us doesn’t mean much.”
“But that means the person receiving the ‘gifts’ are of such status that our confrontation will cause a problem for us.” He tried to return the staff’s stares but wasn’t always successful. But when the staff tried to stare me down, they quickly looked away. I was in predator mode, and I was close to my prey. Bah, this floor is larger than I thought. “You go that way, and I’ll go this way. I’m sure the ruckus that will rise from our discovery will alert the other.” He nodded and we split up.
I could feel the blue pearl was close, and the young man, while sincere, would slow me down. I needed to be alone for this confrontation. The sounds of bright laughter caught my attention. Followed by the sounds of adoration and light clapping. At a table, off to the side, was a woman of high social standing. She held herself with a warm matronly air, and was surrounded by many adoring fans. (Though some of her ‘fans’ were more social leeches than respecting peers.) Dressed in a voluminous gown of with swirls of sparkling black and glittering blue, she appeared as if dressed by the Night. An array of gift boxes were before her, some opened, some closed. But of her presentation, only one thing caught my eye. The black pearl necklace with the blue pearl pendant. My blue pearl pendant.
I circumnavigate the assembly, so that I approach the woman from slightly behind her. Attendants try to stop me, but I dodge them quietly and quickly. By the time an attendant is able to actually grab me and keep the grip, I am at the woman’s side. She looks up at me in surprise but says nothing.
“Good day, Ma’am.” I address her quietly in personal conversation. The attendant is trying to pull me away from her, but it is like pulling on a concrete pillar. I am unmovable. She waves at the attendant to release me, and he does so, grudgingly. “I will make this quick, as I see I am interrupting your fete. Happy birthday, by the way.” We both smile in forced social engagement. “Ma’am. You, I, and at least one other here have been the victim of a cruel scam. The necklace you are wearing, is comprised of stolen goods.” She placed her hand on the necklace in a protective gesture. The attendant that had been trying to pull me away is now whispering in my ear, promising to give me the cash value of the necklace if I smile and walk away now.
I don’t want money. The amount he is promising me wouldn’t even cover my dinner tonight, much less the cost of a round naturally blue pearl. But mine is oddly shaped, and oddly sized. He starts raising the amount offered. But even if he were to promise me ten times the worth of the blue pearl, I will not accept it. I don’t want money. I want what is mine.
“This necklace was given to me today. I sympathize with your loss, but this was specially commissioned for me by the owner of this establishment. It surely is not the stolen goods you are looking for.” The young man appears, with several more attendants in tow. He spies the necklace and cries out, “My mother’s black pearls! You found them!”. At his cry, the matron gripped the necklace tightly.
“What the hell is going on here!” Ah, the owner. A white business suit, cut to make his portly figure appear slimmer. It’s obvious he tries to control how he is perceived. He bows toward the matron. “My apologies, my friend. I’ll have these con artists removed from your presence at once.” More attendants appear, and the other patrons are clearly enjoying the sudden activity.
“Con artists!” The young man is furious. “I’ll tell you who is the con artist! One of your employees sweet talked my mother out of her black pearl necklace! The very necklace that woman is wearing now! How do I know that is my mother’s necklace? Because I made it! I harvested the pearls! I drilled them! I strung them, with special knots in between!”
“Now, see here. You’re interrupting a private affair. Surely, we can come to some agreement about the value of your time and such.” The owner had produced a thick roll of money. At the sight, the young man launched into a litany of accusations and promises. While all eyes were on the loud men, I quietly leaned over and placed a finger on the blue pearl.
“Ma’am. This young man and I had our treasures stolen. The owner thinks because we are lower class, we will not speak up for ourselves. He is mistaken. What you think is yours, isn’t. I do not hold you at fault, but I will not leave without what is mine. If you do not surrender the stolen pearls, they will destroy you.” As I speak, the blue pearl starts to glow under my finger. It feels ice cold and burning hot at the same time. Confident in what I had started, I nod slightly, and stand up allowing the attendants to pull me away from the matron by a few steps.
In a show of ownership, the matron reaches up with her other hand and grasps the pendant tightly. At once, she gives a slight yelp and releases the pendant. Opening her hand, she finds a small bruise in the palm of her hand in the shape of the pendant. She nods to herself, accepting the truth of the matter.
“I… see.” She takes a deep breath. “This is a regrettable action on the part of the gift giver.” She removes the black pearl necklace. “I had no part in this. I thought it was a legitimate gift.” I nod in understanding. She hands me the necklace. “I trust you will give him the portion that is his?” I smile and nod as I take the necklace from her. She waves her attendants away from me as I remove my pendant from the necklace. Tapping the vociferous young man on his shoulder, I hold the string of black pearls in front of him as he turns around. He brightens at once. He counts the string, and finding it intact, thanks me and the matron profusely. He lingers long enough to give the owner a vicious glare, then speeds off to rejoin his family. The blue pearl, in the mean time, has stopped glowing once I held it securely.
The host has appeared with more gifts for the matron. She sees me and blanches in fear. I step to her quickly and dominate the space between us. “Where is my chain? My gold chain?”
She starts to stutter. She claims she never had the necklace, never had the chain, and knows nothing about what I’m asking her. “I will have no compunction from destroying you. I told you when you asked for it, I would come after it. If I have to destroy you to take what is mine, I will delight in doing so. The chain. Please.” She gulped, and produced the gold chain from one of her pockets. I take it from her. She quickly fled from my presence. I did not bother to see where. I had my pendant and chain.
I looked the blue pearl and chain over. They didn’t feel worse for wear. If nothing else, the blue pearl seemed to be warmer to me, now that I fought to retrieve it. I strung the pendant on the chain, and clasp the chain around my neck.
“If there was ever any question to whom it belongs, the resplendent glow it has on you settles that. That is your pearl, not mine.” The matron smiled warmly, despite all the ruckus I have brought to her. For a moment, I thought she enjoyed the chaos I brought. Perhaps it was a welcome change from the usual begging of the social leeches that surrounded her.
I know the cost of my meal, including tip. I take the funds from my wallet and throw it at the owner’s feet. “For a wonderful dinner, prepared exquisitely by the excellent chefs. For the scandalous service, and the manipulations it took to retrieve that which is mine. Don’t bother with a follow up survey. You already know my answers.” I turn to the matron, and bow again, wishing her a year of wonders and delights. She smiles and nods in response. As I turn to go, the owner (he had already quickly picked up the cash I threw down) followed me promising various legal actions against me. Or, rather, he started to.
The matron’s voice was devoid of mirth. No longer playing the role of the familial guide, the matron had taken the throne of matriarch, and Queen. “Tell me, my old friend. These other ‘gifts’ you have brought me. Were they acquired in the same manner as the pearls?” He turned to face her and found himself unable to answer. I smiled as I left the restaurant unimpeded.
I came home quickly and with no adventures along the way. Back home in my apartment, I threw my heels into the corner and swore many expletives against them. Falling over on the couch, I felt the blue pearl and the opal dance against my chest. What a fool I was to surrender the blue pearl. I know better than that. Well, at least good came of it. If I hadn’t become involved, that family may be sitting at the restaurant still, waiting for the return of the black pearls.
The two gems felt warm against my chest. I looked over at my shelves of esoteric items. The skulls seemed to be grinning at me in mirth.
I have no such display. Sitting up, I realize that I don’t even have a living space to myself.
I place a hand to my chest, and find only the opal hanging around my neck.
I nod in understanding and lucidity. I can feel the time in the Waking. The sun is soon to rise. Guess I better do the same as well.
And I did.
Make of that, what you may.