A knock on the door woke him from a fitful sleep. Jack’s eyes shot open, and he looked frantically around the room. The first rays of sunlight were creeping through the curtains of the window. The knock came again, and Jack leapt from his bed and headed to the front door. Along the way he picked up one of his sturdier canes, but did not use it to aid his stride. When he reached the front room he saw a woman peering in the store window. When she saw him her expression perked up and she waved excitedly at him. Jack wracked his brain about who this woman was, and why she was at his door so early in the morning. It wasn’t until he reached the front door that he remembered her: Krissine’s friend Jannette. Jack opened the door and greeted his guest.
“Good morning, Jannette.”
“Good morning, Jack. I’m sorry if I woke you. I just figured that business would be best handled first thing in the morning. I know that’s when I’m at my best.”
Jannette was peering over and around Jack. “As it is, it should only take a few moments. I know exactly what I’m looking for.” At this point she was starting to lean on the door, pushing it open more. “It won’t be a bother, will it?”
“In fact, it would,” Jack snipped. “Please come back in an hour, to allow me to finish waking up, make the shop presentable, and change out of my night clothes.”
Jannette looked at Jack, really seeming to look at him properly for the first time. “Oh. My apologies. I’ll return later.” She stepped back from the door.
“Thank you,” Jack said, and closed the door on her. He made sure that the lock was tight before walking back to his living chamber. When he closed the door that separated the shop from his room, he noticed that Jannette was still peering in the shop window. Once the door was shut he shook his head and sat at his work bench. For a few moments he only sat silently, staring past the baubles and metals on the table into a void in which even his thoughts were lost. Then he stood and put the kettle on for tea. By the time that was ready he was dressed in a well-tailored shirt and vest, with pants to match and sturdy shoes. He combed out his hair and beard, then took his time enjoying his morning tea. His favorite cardinal was outside the window, and he calmly watched it search for its breakfast.
Finally he gathered himself, chose an elegantly simple cane, and re-entered the shop front. By this time the other shops were beginning to open, and the early wanderers were starting to appear along the street. Jannette was still at the window, but now she seemed to have found someone to tie down into a conversation. Jack walked around, tidying up the shop and inspecting it to make sure everything was presentable for the day. He noticed a couple of dried spots of blood from the night before, and quickly mopped them up. When he turned his attention to the front door, Jannette was back to intently eyeing through the window, this time with her fellow conversationalist. She waved at him with a big smile. Jack forced a smile back. Then he forced himself to open the door and let the women in.
“Thank you so much for letting me take a look. I know it’s early,” Jannette started as if there had been no down time and the earlier exchange had not occurred. “I’m looking for more pieces like the tiara you had made for the wedding. Do you have any? They can be anything really; necklaces, bracelets, headpieces, I’ll take them all!” She was wandering around and inspecting all of the wares around the shop. “The craftsmanship was fantastic, and that jewel. I need jewels like that in my shop. I run a shop, you see, in the city, but you could have guessed that. I sell clothing and accessories fit for the royal family, but priced for the every-woman. We can’t let the upper class have all the nice things, after all.” She looked up at Jack. “Do you have any more pieces with that kind of jewel?”
“I will soon,” Jack responded, now that he had an opportunity. “Is there a style preference or quantity?”
Jannette thought for a moment, posed very poignantly with her finger on her chin. “I should start with maybe ten, to test the waters, in the latest style. No crowns for this first batch, that would be in bad taste. The ladies buying them will likely be wearing them to the royal wedding events and the coronation.”
Whatever Jannette said after that was lost to Jack. The room suddenly was very far away. Jack leaned heavily on his cane and dragged his gaze to the closest object he could find, which happened to be a cut sapphire ring. He focused on every facet of the stone, every divet in the metal. Jannette’s voice was still droning on, but the words did not register. It wasn’t until the other woman in the shop spoke up that he snapped back to the present. He excused himself and went to answer the customer’s questions.
When Jannette left he stared at her order sheet. Even seeing the words “royal wedding” written in ink did not make it any more real. Who? Who did she choose, over him?
The rest of the day was a blur, until Cathy walked in the front door at noon.
“Hi Jack! I brought you a sandwich.” She said cheerily. “Krissine and her friends can’t stop talking about your work. I’m sure soon you’ll be the talk of the whole country.”
Jack was sitting in a wooden chair behind the register, slowly flipping a disk in one hand. “I’m sure,” he said.
Cathy’s tone changed to gentle concern. “Are you still thinking about last night?”
Jack just slid Jannette’s order across the counter.
Cathy read through it. “Oh, Jack,” she said. “I’m sorry. But you knew this was going to happen eventually. This was in the works since, well, since they took you away.”
Jack only looked down at the floor. He kept turning the disk over and over.
“So, what,” Cathy asked, “are you just going to feel sorry for yourself? Just going to sit there and become even more of a mess?” She crossed her arms. “That girl has been under your skin for far too long now. You’re finally making something out of your life, and even miles away she’s ruining it for you. Are you just going to let her win? Just giving up?”
“No,” Jack said. He stood and placed the disk very calmly onto the counter. “I’m going to take my life back.”
Cathy looked down at the medallion of the human’s god.