The Pendant

“Must we go?” Stella tried one last bid for freedom. “I could have one of my headaches.”

Oswald shook his head.  “We did that one last year.”  He zipped up her dress and planted a kiss on the nape of her neck.

“One evening, that’s all.  We’ll see in the new year with the old biddy and then make our excuses.”

“Oh, I suppose so,” Stella attached diamond earrings and turned her head so they caught the light.  She turned to present herself to her husband.  “Will I do?”

“You’re a knockout,” Oswald gasped.  “I still can’t believe my luck.  I’ll wait in the car.”

Stella gave herself one last appraisal in the full-length mirror.  Yes, Oswald was indeed a lucky man.  And it was a good job he kept her in the manner to which she had become accustomed.  The earrings were new.  So was the bracelet that matched them.  The only thing off-kilter was the dreary old pendant the old biddy had sent her for Christmas. An ugly, lumpish thing adorned with coloured glass.  Stella took it off and replaced it with her glittering new necklace.  There!  That was better.  If the old biddy asked about the pendant, she’d say it was being assessed by the insurers, something like that.

“Hello, Aunt Imelda,” Oswald pecked their hostess’s cheek, which was as wrinkled as an old apple.  “So kind of you to have us over.”

“Nonsense,” Imelda patted his pudgy hand with her liver-spotted, blue-veined one.  “We are still family.  And it’s about time I met the latest addition.”  She turned to the young woman in red silk, dripping with diamonds.  “You must be Stella.”

“Guilty!” Stella laughed.  She squeezed the old woman’s fingers, afraid they might snap like dry twigs.

“Beautiful,” the old woman’s eyes crawled up and down Stella until their scrutiny made her itch.  “Oswald, you have done well this time.”

“This time?” Stella frowned.

“Didn’t he tell you, he has been married before?”  The old woman hooked her arm in Stella’s and led her to the dining table.  “You’re a vast improvement on the previous model.  You are blessed with good genes, I can tell.  Excellent breeding stock.”

Stella’s mouth hung open.

“She’s pulling your leg,” Oswald chuckled.  “Aunt Imelda, as incorrigible as ever.”

“Sit beside me, my dear,” Aunt Imelda indicated a chair.  “But—oh!  You’re not wearing the gift I sent you!  Did it not arrive?”

“Yes, it did,” Oswald put in.  “A lovely gift.  So generous.”

“What’s the matter, dear?  Didn’t you like it?”

“Well, um, yes, of course, it’s lovely.  But,” Stella grimaced, “I’m afraid it’s not really me.  Not my look, I’m sorry.”

“Oh?”  Aunt Imelda took her seat at the head of the table.  “Oh.”

Dinner was a frosty affair after that.  Oswald tried to crack a few jokes but neither his aunt nor his wife were listening.

At long last, the midnight hour approached.  The ticking of the grandfather clock sounded louder in the absence of conversation.

“Such a shame,” Aunt Imelda observed.  “You had such potential.”

“I beg your pardon?” Stella frowned.  “Ozzy, what’s she going on about now?”

“I’m sorry, my dear,” Oswald took a position behind Aunt Imelda’s chair.  The old woman reached up to pat her nephew’s hand.

“Such a shame,” she repeated, her eyes glinting in the candlelight.

The clock struck twelve.

The lights went out, the candles extinguished by a draught from nowhere.  Stella screamed and fell silent.

Oswald relit the candles.

“A dance, Imelda?” he offered his hand and bowed.

“At least!” cried Imelda, springing from her seat.  Rejuvenated, she twirled around the room, making her nephew giddy from her exertions.  Her hair shook loose, no longer white, but a luscious raven black.  Her hands, pale and flawless as alabaster, stroked Oswald’s sweaty cheek.

“Don’t be sad, Ozzy,” she pouted.  “If she had been right for us, she would have worn the pendant.”

Oswald gave a sigh.  Imelda was right.  She was always right.

On Stella’s chair, the red silk dress collapsed in on itself, and the diamond jewellery dropped to the floor. The husk that had once been a beautiful woman crumbled into dust.

1 Comment

Filed under Short story

One response to “The Pendant

  1. Spanish Onion

    Sounds better than Botox and fillers

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