This short story is somewhat different from my others. It was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine who told me he was horribly allergic to silver. No, not the alloys often found in the metal, but silver itself. It’s rare, but it happens. Of course, the inevitable teasing about being a werewolf ensued. I’m sure I thought it was funnier than he did, but he was good humored about it. Shortly after that, I got the idea for “Tarnished”. I didn’t finish it right away. It had to sit on a back burner for quite awhile, until I was looking at my work for something to submit to an anthology. It wasn’t accepted, but I was pleased with the results. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. ~ D
Hannah Simpson had married well and divorced better. In fact, her divorce had been so successful, she decided to do it again, liking it more the second time around. By then, Hannah had come to the conclusion that marrying and divorcing well was its own art form.
Bernie Shipman was prospective husband number seven, though he thought he was lucky number three. Being new in town had its advantages. She could lie ever so much more effectively. She had moved to the east coast a few weeks ago, her fiancé in tow. When anyone asked where she was from, she’d answer vaguely, “Out West.”
Her accent was innocuous. She’d spent three years with a drama coach after her first divorce, doing her best to lose her Southern backwoods twang. She was from out West, all right—West Virginia.
Hannah caught a glimpse of herself in the hardware store window as she passed. Her dark brown hair was naturally wavy and cut short in a sassy style which accentuated her almond shaped eyes and pixie features. Her granny used to tell Hannah’s mother that she was sure Hannah was a changeling.
“Switched at birth, that’s my belief! You mark my words, she’s gonna be trouble!”
Granny was a superstitious old bag. Anytime Hannah came to visit, there would be garlands of rowan berries over the doors and windows.
“That’s to ward off evil,” she’d tell Hannah. She was always surprised when her granddaughter could walk under them unaffected.
At the age of seven, Hannah developed a severe allergy to silver. She’d only have to touch it and she would break out in weals and welts.
“I told you she was a changeling, Sophie,” Granny told Hannah’s mother. “The little people can’t tolerate silver.”
“Mother, that’s a tale from the Old Country,” Hannah’s mother protested.
“What’s good enough for the Old Country is good enough for me! And so should it be for you!”
Granny had died three winters ago when her cabin burned to the ground. She’d knocked over her old kerosene space heater and the whole place had gone up like kindling. Hannah didn’t attend the old woman’s funeral, but she sent a wreath of rowan berries.
Hannah pushed these unhappy thoughts aside, glad to have that behind her. She was shopping for her wedding dress and trousseau, as well as tying up the last details before the big day. Bernie intended to go with her, but he’d been held up in a meeting. It was getting late and she wasn’t done with her list. They were doing a Medieval style wedding and she still needed scented beeswax candles and incense.
There was a shop around the corner from her hairdresser that sold such specialty items. She’d never been inside, but the crystals and porcelain figurines in the window seemed to call to her whenever she passed.
“Whole Lotta Scents,” the shop sign declared garishly in chartreuse, magenta and violet. She wrinkled her nose at the color combination, but the aroma of the shop enticed her, drawing her in.
A string of tiny bells tinkled when she opened the door. The shop was full of an amazingly diverse assortment of items. In front of her was a black lacquer table decorated in Oriental motif, advertising Feng Shui. Special compasses and rulers were available along with books and pamphlets on their use.
To the right of this display was a table covered with a lace cloth. It held rosaries, crucifixes and bottles of holy water. To the left of the Feng Shui items was another black table. This one had very little decoration. Instead its somewhat Spartan display consisted of a large, golden candelabrum, three wicked looking, intricately decorated silver daggers and six boxes of scented beeswax candles. Finding something she had come in for, Hannah walked briskly forward, right hand reaching for the candle boxes. She grabbed one triumphantly.