Wanda Kiernan is a curator/collector of words. Her collections can be seen in the stories she writes. She enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction. She is a top three finalist in two Writer’s Digest contests, and has a previous story published in Everyday Fiction.
Macey walked around the small jewelry store cradling Luke. “Shh, shh. Always so cranky after a nap, just like Daddy.” She took another spin around the display cases feeling cursed by the silver skull rings, earrings, and charms staring at her through tarnished eye sockets, and seeming to mock her with their grinning jaws. “I can’t believe he put us to work. We just wanted to visit, didn’t we? We just wanted to get out of the house and see Daddy. But here we are, just the two of us, again.” Luke fidgeted in the baby hammock. “And what’s Daddy up to? Let’s take a peek.”
Macey took a covert position near the foyer that joined the jewelry store to the gift shop, and spied Jerome laughing and talking with a customer. He looked relaxed standing between the tie-dyed t-shirt rack and beach cover-ups. The over-the-door bell jingled and another customer walked in. She watched the guy greet Jerome and then the three of them fell into an easy conversation.
“I think Daddy forgot about us. Should we go visit him? You want to go visit him?” Macey cooed, while Luke gurgled and fussed. She wondered if he could hear the resentment laced cooing. “We better not, right? Daddy would get upset if we left all this silver alone. You’re right. We’d better stay where we are.” But she was tempted to walk over, plop Luke under the seashell wind chimes, and then head over to the boardwalk. Macey took another hopeful peek at Jerome. His conversation was in full swing, and nothing else mattered. She gave Luke a tight squeeze and kissed his forehead.
Earlier that morning it seemed like a good idea to grab Luke and go visit Jerome. After three months at home taking care of Luke, the days were getting long and lonely. Macey missed Jerome. The morning was sunny with a hint of summer in the air. She needed to get out. She wanted to see him. Maybe they could have lunch on the beach.
When they’d walked in around 11:00 Jerome lit up. He had given them a big bear hug and said, “Babe, I’m so happy to see you!” Her heart melted. It was exactly what she needed to hear. But then he went on, “I was just thinking I need to split myself in two. It’s been so busy. I’ve been running back and forth, back and forth between to the two shops trying to keep up.”
“Well, that’s good. Business is good then,” Macey said.
“Mostly browsers, but they’re keeping me busy. But now you can help! We can divide and conquer. If you can keep your eye out for customers in the jewelry store that would be great.” What she wanted to do was go to the beach.
“Okay,” she said. “Maybe for a little while.”
“It’ll probably get crazy after lunch. Can’t you stay? We’ll go out to dinner after closing. Sound like a plan?”
She had hesitated then said “Sure. Alright.”
“You’re the best!” he said as she headed into the jewelry store with Luke.
During that time Jerome had checked in on them once. “How are you doin’?”
“It’s quiet. Guess everyone’s having lunch. How about we close for lunch ourselves? Head to the beach?”
He took a look at the clock. “Another half hour and the place will be jumping again. You’ll see. They’ll start coming. It’ll start getting busy.” Then the doorbell had jingled in the other store. “See, what did I say?” That was an hour ago, and he was still chatting up those customers on the beachy-sea fairing side of the store. The jewelry store stayed empty.
Luke started whimpering. She watched her son’s face crinkle like an old man’s, and listened as his whimper crescendoed into a full out cry of frustration. “There, there baby.” Macey half-heartedly soothed her son and kept an eye on Jerome waiting for a reaction. “Baby wants his baba?” But she was slow to reach over the jewelry counter and grab the bottle. “Daddy knows Mommy has everything under control. He’s busy. Too busy for us. And deaf, too.” She grabbed the bottle. Luke greedily grabbed the nipple and started sucking. Macey wondered if Jerome would notice if she walked out of the store. She hovered by the door staring at the knob, then at the “Closed” sign. Her hands filled with baby and bottle, she willed the sign to flip over, and imagined walking out and locking the door behind her.
Luke started whimpering again, pulling her attention back to him. “Ooo, I’m sorry baby. Did Momma forget she was feeding you? Here you go.” She placed the bottle back in his mouth. But what she really wanted to do was put him down, and open the door. Open the door, smell the salty beach air, and listen to the crashing waves. Listen to the crashing waves and drown out Luke’s cries, and Jerome’s innocuous chatter.
This time the jingling jewelry store bell startled her back to the present. A young couple walked in. They were wearing traditional biker gear – black leather, clunky motorcycle boots, silver rings and chains, and Harley Davidson belt buckles. Macey felt encouraged. These were the jewelry store’s typical customer. They couldn’t have enough silver.
“Hi!” she said, jostling Luke in the baby hammock.
“How cute,” the biker chick said. “How old is your baby?”
“Three months. Do you need help? My husband is on the other side. He’ll be right over.”
“Thanks, but we’re just browsing.”
“Jerome! We have customers!” she shouted across the foyer into the other store.
“My husband will be right in to answer your questions.”
“It’s okay,” the chick said, “we’re just browsing.”
She watched as the couple walked around pointing to a few pieces, and making quiet comments. She couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“My husband will be right in,” Macey repeated and smiled meekly. She could tell the couple was about to leave.
“Jerome. Customers,” she called out again. She held herself back from sounding too bossy or pushy. Jerome wouldn’t like that.
But finally, she watched him reluctantly pull away from that hour long conversation. The doorbell jangled behind him as the guys left without buying anything.
Jerome trotted into the jewelry store with a forced smile, and an insincere urgency to please. He put the brakes on his trot, and said “Hi, how can I help you?”
The chick looked up from the ring case and answered, “We’re just browsing. Thank you.”
Jerome gave Macey an exasperated look, and flung his arms up into the air. “I could’ve finished that conversation I was having.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought they had questions. I won’t do it again. Probably the next time, there will be questions.”
He blustered past the browsers, got behind the jewelry counter, and busied himself sorting yellow invoice slips. Macey could see the steam coming out of his ears. He wanted to be back on the other side of the store, shooting the breeze with non-paying customers while she was trapped in the jewelry store with an infant for company.
“Thank you,” the biker couple said as they left the store.
Now both stores were empty and they were alone together, but Jerome stayed focused on the sales slips.
She put Luke into the baby carrier, and rested it on the counter.
“I’ll get Luke ready and you can take him out for a walk,” she said with a smile, trying to lighten the mood.
“Not now. I’m busy.”
“You don’t want to take him for a walk?”
He didn’t answer.
She stood staring at him, flipping through those slips. Luke gurgled in his carrier.
“I’m going over to the other side if you’re going to be like this,” and she made her way to the connecting foyer.
“Hey, what about Luke?” he said.
“Can’t you watch him?”
“Not now. Take him with you.”
She picked up the carrier. The scent of Yankee Candle Sea Breeze hit her as soon as she passed into the other store. Macey took a deep inhale and a slow exhale, trying to calm herself.
She made her way to the seashell wind chimes, and placed Luke under them.
He smiled as he reached up to shake the shells.
“You could do that all day, couldn’t you? Momma is going out for a walk. Daddy is just over there. You know what to do if you need him.”
Macey kissed Luke on the forehead and walked to the door. The overhead bell jingled as she walked out of the store. She was sure Jerome would hear that bell if not his son’s whimpering. She took a big gulp of sea air, and headed towards the beach.