Short Fiction By Dennis Lowery (see reader comments)
An excerpt follows for this story. It's available as part of a three short story collection eBook and paperback:
What if you could give someone you love one more hour of life…? The passion of love bursting into flame is more powerful than death, stronger than the grave.
I had seen the old woman, alone at the entrance, when we went through earlier in the day. We’d worked our way to the back of the outdoor market, then through all the side rows and offshoots. I looked at Peter, one step behind me, his arms draped with loops of full bags. He didn’t like to shop but had made it through a whole day of it without complaining. I guess that’s thanks to it being our honeymoon. I smiled at him and he smiled back. The packing I’d have to do this evening was going to suck but today was our last day. Back to Chicago tomorrow and then on Monday a return to the regular world and regular grind, this time as newlyweds in our own apartment.
This morning the woman had only one item on her table and I thought perhaps she was waiting for someone else or to unpack other things. There was still just the one thing before her; an old candlestick, with an equally old looking candle still in it. It sat in the middle of the table and the woman’s eyes did not wander from it. She was so still and alone; not trying to catch people’s eye or engage them in conversation to draw them to her table as did the other vendors. It didn’t seem to matter if she sold the candlestick or not.
Peter had been making, ‘can we leave soon’ sounds for the past thirty minutes as we made our way back to the only entrance and exit. But I slowed as we approached the old woman. I heard his low mutter, “Amanda, come on…” But I had to stop.
The woman studied me without expression. I looked in her eyes; deep wrinkles framed them, and immediately saw what made me notice the woman earlier. She had such a depth of sadness to her bearing that it caught my breath. For a moment, ten beats of my heart—I felt and counted each one—the bustle of the people around us was gone. It was quiet as if it was just me and the woman.
“Hello,” I smiled. The old woman nodded to me without speaking.
“Is this all you have for sale.”
“It’s all I have to offer.”
I picked up the candlestick and was surprised at its heaviness. There was nothing remarkable about it otherwise. Plain bronze or brass heavily tarnished and the candle so old its yellowed wax looked brittle. I rubbed my thumb along the surface and felt its dryness as pieces flaked off. But the wick seemed new, never lit, and not as delicate as the wax. I turned it upside down and looked at the base. In the center was a round cover, hinged on one side with a little latch on the other like a compartment for a battery. I tried to free the latch to look inside but it was firmly stuck.
“That will only open for the owner,” the old woman now had the glint of a smile showing a bright white that could only come from dentures in one so old.
“That’s for the owner to discover.”
“Aren’t you the owner?”
“Why do you want to know what’s inside?”
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