Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

MISSING PIECES
Friday, November 8, 2019 by LINSEY BRACKETT

PLEASE WELCOME

LINSEY BRACKETT

TO

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY

A SHORT STORY

INSPIRED BY LINDSEY’S NOVEL, THE BRIDGE BETWEEN

Missing Pieces

If only life came packaged like fine china.

Libby lifted the crate’s lid and moved aside tufts of raffia protecting the treasure she’d found scouring Ebay. The gravy boat emerged in perfect condition, not a chip or crack on its surface. Holding it up to the window, admiring how the light reflected off the pattern of blue geisha flowers, Libby would bet the crate’s contents this piece had never seen a Thanksgiving table.

Turning it over, she found the mark. Red nail polish and the initials AJC. Which made her think of the Atlanta newspaper with its thick Sunday inserts that her grandfather insisted on reading one page at a time over brunch after church.

The bell over the store’s front door jangled, and Libby gently returned the gravy boat to its nest. She’d unpack the rest later and the pieces would nearly round out her collection. Maybe then she’d be able to find the mysterious owner who apparently hadn’t wanted to be forgotten, despite having sold her precious finery.

“Hello?” A masculine voice called across the crowded floor, each nook and cranny filled with antiques, rare collectibles, and the odds and ends of gentried Lowcountry life. “Anyone home?”

Libby smiled. Yes, this Charleston shop was home. Finally, for good.

The man standing in the middle of her floor, though, he didn’t quite look so at home. Pluff mud stained the cuffs of his cargo pants and caked his boots. His Clemson ball cap was shoved over a mop of dark hair, which curled over his collar of his frayed flannel shirt. Not her usual clientele by a long shot.

“Welcome to Surreptitious. What can I help you find?”

He glanced around the shop, then back to her, assessing with—now that she thought about it—the same unnerving gaze she’d given him. She wondered what he saw. Her self-imposed work uniform of black slacks and cream top occasionally accented with a piece of heirloom jewelry or a scarf on chilly days, would not give away her roots the way his attire alluded to his. Even her black pumps were designer, though bought secondhand at the consignment shop two blocks over.

To her surprise, he removed the cap and raked fingers through what she could now see was quite a healthy head of curls. “I need an anniversary gift for my parents.”

Easy enough. “What year is this?” Judging his age, she’d guess thirty.

“Fifteen.”

Well. She’d certainly been wrong before but this time the quirk of her brow—which she didn’t smooth out in time—must have betrayed her because he added, “Second marriage. Well, second time married to each other. We’ve never really figured out what to call it.”

His befuddlement was endearing, and the dimple in his cheek when he grinned was more than a little appealing. A harmless flirtation would certainly help her bottom line and coupled with the arrival of the china, ensure an excellent morning.

“In that case, you’ve come to the right place. We specialize in the unique. Why don’t I help you look around? There are some lovely silver pieces over here they may appreciate.”

He wrinkled his nose. “No silver. When we were kids, Mom used to make us polish the platters for punishment.”

“We?” She couldn’t help but notice how often he spoke as if he were more than one person.

“Oh, yeah. Habit, I guess.” He extended his hand. “Mac Halloway. One-third of the famed Halloway triplets.”

Now the puzzlement was written across her face she was sure. “I’m sorry, I haven’t lived here very long—”

His laughter was rich, like the polish on the mahogany sideboard holding the silver she’d wanted to show him.  “I’m kidding about the famous part. That’s just for Edisto. Though my sister, Cora Anne, says that’s because we’ve stirred up more trouble in the last two decades than they’ve had in the last two centuries and as a museum curator, she ought to know.”

“You all live on Edisto?”

“Just me, now. My brothers are off living the dream.” Mac waved a hand dismissively, as if he did not need such fancy. “Cole finally got traded to the Braves, he’s a pitcher, and J.D.’s getting a Ph.D. over at UGA.” He grimaced. “We try not to talk football when he’s home.”

“I can understand.” At least she could pretend to, but that was part of her job. Showing interest in whatever a client enjoyed. “What about you?”

“Just a simple life for me. I build docks.”

Which explained the muddy boots. Offering him a wide smile because she wouldn’t treat him any differently than her most highbrow customer, Libby nodded toward the back of the store. “Perhaps artwork? I have some beautiful Edisto watercolors done by a local artist who worked in the sixties.”

“Lead the way, ma’am.”

“Libby, please.” Twenty-six was far too young to be called ma’am. She turned and he followed. This particular collection required them to pass by the unboxing table, which she should have left neater.

“Wait.”  He’d stopped and was lifting the gravy boat from its packaging. “Where’d you get this?”

“A dealer never reveals her secrets.” Libby stepped to his elbow and gently took the piece from his large hands.

“Blue geisha, right? My mother’s trying to rebuild my grandmother’s set.” His eyes tracked back to hers, and this close she saw the warmth, like the Atlantic on a sunny day. “How much?”

“It’s not for sale. Personal collection.”

“C’mon,” he winked at her. “I’ll make it more than worth your while.”

 “Trust me, sir, this isn’t what you’re meant to find.”

“Oh, really?” He stepped back, folded his arms across his chest. “Are you an expert in people as well as antiques?”

“Actually … ” Libby replaced the dish. “I’m only interested in lost things.”

“In that case”—he opened his wallet and flipped a business card and a hundred onto the table—“I hope you come looking for me.”

Then he left, making the doorbell chime again, the sound echoing about the shop like the pacing of her heart.

 

ABOUT LINSEY BRACKETT

Lindsey P. Brackett writes southern fiction infused with her rural Georgia upbringing and Lowcountry roots. Her debut novel, Still Waters, released in 2017 and was named the 2018 Selah Book of the Year. Her latest novel, The Bridge Between, released in 2019. Someday she hopes to balance motherhood and writing full-time. Until then, she’s just very grateful for her public school system.

Connect with Lindsey and get her free novella, Magnolia Mistletoe with newsletter signup at lindseypbrackett.com or on Instagram @lindseypbrackett.

 

ABOUT LINDSEY’S NOVEL, THE BRIDGE BETWEEN

Louisa Halloway has returned home to Edisto Island. David, her ex-husband, has followed and here, their once strained relationship eases into a familiar rhythm. But when a local professor studying tidal creek preservation, invites Lou to join his research team, she welcomes the opportunity for a new purpose.

The past still has a hold, especially in the presence of Grace Watson, whose son loves Lou and David’s daughter. In this idyllic setting, relationships, like the creeks, deepen and shift. Now, Lou is caught between the life she's chosen—and love that might be meant to be.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bridge-Between-Lindsey-Brackett/dp/1645260763/ref

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46046861-the-bridge-between

 

 

 

 

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