PREVIOUS ENTRY HERE — “You’d better be careful with that book my dear. There’s quite a bit of history within those pages and it’s a history you cannot un-know once you know it. And when you know it…”
At the sound of the shop-keep’s breathy voice Emily jumped, startled, and immediately closed the book’s cover. She stood there stupidly staring from the ornate book to the even more ornate gray haired woman standing before her. She waited for her to finish her last sentence but Etta Diem, ever one to keep a person in suspense, left it there as she gave the teenager a good looking over.
Finally Emily couldn’t help herself. “When you know it what?” she asked.
Etta smiled, or rather smirked. Her eyes were heavy lidded and it gave her a resting stern face. The smirk took away some of that sternness and in its place gave her a look of mischief. Given the nature of her shop and what little reputation Emily had gleamed from her aunt, she was positive if there was a character description for Etta it would be that of the chaotic neutral who enjoyed stirring the pot. Flossy had been quite accurate in her description of the woman: “Picture a long lost Addam’s family aunt who deals in strange objects and stranger things. That’s our Etta.”
Etta moved casually across the dark polished wood floor and ran her hand over the top of the ornate book. Her fingers were lined with silver rings that came to an end in very neatly shaped long oval nails. They were painted a soft gray color with black delicately lining the ends. She tapped these neatly painted nails in succession against the book. Finally she continued.
“When you know, they’ll know you know. Then you’ll start seeing things. Well…” here Etta offered a very bright and sincere smile. “You’ll start to see things even stranger than what you’ve probably already seen at Miss Emma’s boarding house. This is a book of dark nights and long shadows.”
If this was supposed to turn Emily’s attention away from the book then the shop-keep had misread the young woman. Emily’s eyes grew large and a smile spread across her lips. She was in love with all the brilliantly strange things seen and experienced with her aunt, but as the weather grew cooler and the trees started into their dying autumn dance, she wanted darker things.
Emily looked back at the book and let her head nod slowly. “My mother always said the world was a balance between light and dark with most of us living in the gray trying to keep the balance neutral. You can’t have light without the dark even if you’re only aware of the very beginnings of either. I’ve lived in the gray most of my life and all of a sudden I’ve been thrown into the deep light side of things.” She looked Etta in the eyes. “I’m needing a moment in the deeper dark to keep my own balance.”
Etta was quiet for several moments. She was contemplating the young woman before her. The shop-keep’s true age was unknown. She’d always had gray hair and she’d always look about thirty-five; these things never changed. But she always seemed to know nearly everyone who had come and gone from Orange Moon Downs and Emily’s mother was no exception. Her mother was a good witch. Too good sometimes for someone like Etta, who enjoyed the macabre when it was entertaining. Perhaps it was time Miss Emma’s family knew a daughter with a soft wicked streak.
“In that case…” Etta whispered. She quickly moved behind her long glass counter and retrieved a folded bit of suede. She moved back to Emily and took up the book and wrapped it in the material before presenting it to the young woman. “You can have it for a spell. My rules are that when you are finished with the book it returns to my shop. You will take the best care you can with it and see that it not get damaged, unless of course the damage is justified. You’ll understand what I mean about that soon enough. And lastly…” she leaned in and pointed a delicate finger covered in engraved silver rings at Emily’s nose. “You will tell me all about the society when you bring it back. Every last detail.” With that the shop-keep turned the young woman towards the door.
Emily clutched the book like it was the most valuable of gems. She allowed herself to be gently escorted from the shop even though she was dying to continue looking around. The desire to get home and move through the book’s pages was growing. Etta Diem gave the young woman a small push through the door and closed it with a thump behind her. Emily barely registered the sound of a lock turning and the open sign being turned to closed. She moved down the old Victorian house’s long line of black stairs and when her feet hit road she was off and running back to the boarding house.
To be countinued…