A soft breeze caressed her in the face when she closed the box. The many belts were secured in less than a second after she pressed the black bottom hidden inside a pocket with an embroidered seven-pointed star. It was one of the very few things she never left when moving from one city to the other.
This one was particularly interesting. It was filled with markets and libraries, there were a couple of bars here and there, but thankfully not as many as in the past one. Steamya seemed to be more descent than she expected.
The thing she found most attractive on it was the big amount of rivers and lakes, both natural and artificial, in order to have enough power. Honoring the root of its name, 99% of the technology in the city was generated with steam, and the rest from water and the wind, new systems implemented a few days after she arrived.
While she walked, going to her new home, the girl watched each of the buildings on her way. All of them were thin and tall, trying to save enough space for the streets and informal markets, little shops were humble people worked every day, commonly entire families with a different member each time. That night, there weren’t many of them as she expected, just a couple separated by many meters. One was selling mechanical puppets, the other, last minute gifts, a third shop was about shoes and clothing from people that died with no family… and the forth one, which was selling clocks.
Many wooden boxes, all of them combined to make an almost-solid and structure, were the actual store. There were curtains all over it in order to create some sense of order, a gypsylike style, and that added a certain ouch of mystery to the whole place.
Inside, in shelves formed with the same boxes and a little help of the fabric, the clocks were placed. The girl saw the forms, the wood, the metal, the glass, the sand and the many different designs for each of them.
One had the shape of a castle which towers became blue candles, another seemed to be a rose, marking the hours and minutes with emerald thorns, and another, more than curious, that was a mirror with strange black marks on it.
“Oh, sorry, I was about to close,” said a feminine voice from behind a shelf covered with a cream colored cloth. A girl came from behind, dressed with brown tones, matching her hair, a long hat, a simple corset and ragged jeans. “Looking for something specific?” She said with a smile, although the girl saw dark circles under her eyes.
Not at all, I was just watching…” said the girl. “Really? I think you are interested in some of my clocks,” said the seller with a smile. “What? Not, not at all. Sorry, I mean, you have great…” “Don’t worry,” she interrupted the girl. “It didn’t offend me.” The girl felt calmer when she heard it. “But, if you have time, maybe you could watch a little, don’t buy if you don’t want, but maybe you’ll discover something in here.” “Are you sure?” The idea was tempting, although maybe later could be a better time. “It’s already late and I wouldn’t want to bother you for nothing.” “Not a bother at all, I haven’t had any company for a while, and we could speak a little, in case you don’t have plans.”
A shy smile formed in the girl’s face. That one was clear with her intentions, and her inner system, the machines inside of her, didn’t alert about any danger, so maybe that one was just a seller and nothing else. Besides, she was really interested in that strange mirror.
“Maybe a couple of minutes won’t do any harm,” she finally said. “Great, come here,” the clock seller opened a hidden door between two boxes and let her walk in.
Dressed with a long, black dress, a cameo hanging from her neck and her hair combed in an elegant bow, it was obvious that the girl wasn’t properly dressed for a night walk, so she thanked the seller when she offered her a chair. The girl sat down, putting down her box.
“So, late night, you alone and I can see you weren’t expecting someone, can I ask?” Said the seller. “Just enjoying the silence, I really like the night. Day is so noisy I cannot even hear my thoughts, but by night, I feel like my mind can breathe,” said the girl watching at the store’s ground. “I think the same, the night shouldn’t be wasted sleeping. It is too beautiful to lose it that way.”
“By the way,” remembered the girl, “aren’t you scared of being alone by night?” “No, I can defend myself,” said the seller after she laughed. “What about you? I’ve never seen you around here before.” “I just moved here, this is my first day, to be honest,” said the girl, controlling the shivers down her spine because of a soft breeze. “Welcome then, hope Steamya makes you feel like home or give you something precious if not.” “Thanks.” “You may think I’m crazy,” commented the seller after a while, “but working with clocks makes you see and thing in unusual things, and one of them is that we are never in a place just because, there’s a reason to be in there, or here, in your case,” she said, winking an eye at the girl. “Actually, I was really impressed with that mirror-like clock.” She raised a finger, pointing at it. The seller raised a curious eyebrow. “That one? It was one of my first attempts to do a clock, it’s like a talisman for me.” “It’s beautiful, not that the recent ones are not or something,” she corrected herself immediately. “I know, I know,” said the seller. “That one seems to be different, for some reason you don’t get. Is it like that?” “Yes.” The girl looked at it, noticing that some marks had moved from their initial places. “How can you see what time is it on it?” “It’s more like an artistic project, I created a strange system for it, something unique for me to remind me the special moments in life.” “Sounds like a poem,” said the girl. Not intending to do it, she saw another clock. “Oh dear sweat… I didn’t know it was that late.” It was becoming more than just late, it was almost midnight, and there she was, talking about nothing with someone who was surely tired and eager to finish a busy day. “Sorry for bothering you so much, you must want to rest right now,” she said getting out of the chair and taking her box.
“Hey, you didn’t bother me,” said the seller. “I told you, it has been a while since I had someone to talk with.” “Still, I’m sorry for taking much of your time.” The seller, knowing she was really ashamed, made her way to the door and opened it. “Come back then, it was nice time.” “Sure, I would like to.” Her cheeks turned pink as soon as the words came out between her lips. “Also,” said the seller, suddenly nervous, “I’m looking for someone to give a hand here. If you don’t have something to do during the evenings, consider this an offer.” “Thank you,” said the girl, surprised. “I promise to think about it. Maybe tomorrow…” “Of course, I’ll be waiting then.”
The girl smiled to say goodbye, turned and began to walk hastily, still feeling ashamed for all the time she was there entertaining the seller. She pressed the box against herself in a reflex gesture. Had she gone completely mad? A voice inside her head was saying ‘Yes’ again and again.
When she was almost in her home, the girl remembered that, because of the nerves and how strange it had all been, she forgot to introduce herself and to ask her name. The blush covered her cheeks again, but she tried to think that, instead of being rude, she now had a reason to go see her the next day.
A solitary butterfly fluttered in her stomach as she opened the door to her apartment. She was smiling again.
SHORT STORY BY ALAN D.D.