Tuesday, 2 June 2015
"Three dollars left, I must treat myself to something," said Sybil. "There's a fete down at the church, I'll get down there early in case it's hot later."
Sybil, was a lonely woman who lived by herself. She immediately answered with her other self. "No, no. Its better to go later when they sell off the goods cheap." Again the first Sybil took over to indicate that all good stuff would be gone by then. Eventually the conversation ended when she persuaded herself to go early after all.
The sun was already very warm as she left home and her trusty brolly which was her faithful companion was used as a sunshade. It was a ten minute walk to the fete and every step was a trial and she arrived panting. Little beads of sweat had formed around her lips and her arms felt prickly in her dress.
The brightly colored booths were busy with activity as the stallholders finished stocking their tables and readied themselves for the opening. Already there were a few anxious customers like Sybil hoping to pick over the wares. Sybil could also see the dealers ganging together, chatting among themselves waiting for the official to let them all in. Glancing at his watch and array of stalls he looked at the eager crowd of buyers and said "Off you go then!"
The stampede of men women and children took him by surprise and he was lucky not to be bowled over. Sybil too was caught up in the rush and a few seconds found herself close to a bric-a-brac and junk jewellery stall. She was bent over the trestle when she spied a black necklace and a matching set of black earrings in a bowl of oddments. With one movement she grasped them both and asked the pretty snub nosed teenage stall holder, "How much for these?"
The girl replied almost without looking at Sybil, "A dollar each in that bowl."
The girl was distracted by another customer and took the two dollars offered with barely a nod of her head. Sybil slipped away from the stall and stood in the shade of a tree to better examine her find.
When she opened her hand she examined the two pieces. They reminded her of some Victorian mourning jewellery that her own grandmother had possessed many years ago. The earrings were a tapering three stone pendant of faceted jet with a gold screw fastener. The necklace used the same sized stones in a repetitive pattern and were fastened with a gold snap at the back.
Sybil looked lovingly at them and placed them in her handbag.
"What have you got there?" she coyly asked herself.
"You have done very well Sybil," she replied.
She continued to browse the stalls but felt so tired that had to find somewhere to sit down. At the tea and coffee stall she sat down on an empty seat to rest. The sun was really hot now and the crowd was thick and noisy. She considered going home but it seemed so far. She just remained seated.
She closed her eyes and let the sounds and smells of fete wash over her. She heard the clinking of tea cups, the buzz of conversation and smell of barbecued sausages and onions. There were some children shouting and screaming with glee on the bouncy castle and she imagined she was young again too. She remembered playing in the stream with her brother, fishing for tiddlers and sticklebacks. Now she could see her Jack looking so proud of her on their wedding day. Then she lifted her baby Tessie in her arms and hugged her tight to her breast.
As she did so the others in the refreshment stall could see her grasp herself round her chest as she rocked her baby in her arms so many years ago. She sat there like that with her eyes closed for some time and was only brought out of her reverie by a gentle shaking of her shoulders by a priest.
"Are you all right? He asked her gently. Then he continued, "would you like a lift home?
Sybil looked up and nodded. he quickly summoned help and in no time she was riding in a car back to her little apartment. The lady who drove her back helped inside and fussed around her ensuring she was settled in a chair and tried to make tea for her too.
Safe inside her own home Sybil just wanted to be alone. She endured the woman's presence until she was recovered then said to her, "I mustn't keep you any more, you should get back to your job at the fete." The woman looked doubtful but eventually agreed that she should.
Sybil breathed a sigh of relief when she had gone. She drew her handbag close to her and opened it eagerly. As she drew out the shiny black jewelry and put it on she crooned, "Now who is a clever girl, Sybil?"