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I used the random first line generator but I didn’t use it as a first line: He had waited twenty years to return it. Writers: you never need suffer writer’s block. Not when we have toys like these random generators to play with!
TWENTY YEARS by Laura Libricz
A light snow fell and covered the street with a hush. The sky was the same dirty grey and darkened so early on this December afternoon. His muffled footsteps crunched along the unshoveled sidewalk, droning on, a labored repetitive action. He watched the fine flakes drift past and settle on the frozen mounds, an accumulation of these last few stormy days.
His foot slid and he caught his breath. A muscle strained in his bad hip. Something caught his boot and he heard metal scrape. He steadied himself and bent down as far as his hip would allow him. A chain-like thing, snagged in the wooden fence, had a hold on his boot’s shoelace hook.
He untangled the silver chain from the fence and his boot and held it up, away from his face. He padded his pockets for his glasses but he had left them at home. The chain was easy a meter long. A swan-shaped pendant swung; a much-too-heavy thing to be dangling from such a fine chain. The swan had its wings spread and its beak pointed towards the sky. From its belly hung a tear-drop opal surrounded by silver-colored filigree.
He pulled at the swan’s beak with his gloved finger. If this was silver, it would bend. But this was solid and heavy. He knew nothing about precious metals, but something told him this was no ordinary ladies’ costume jewelry. He wound the chain around his wrist, shoved his hand in his pocket and made his way home.
Fire crackling in the open hearth and the smell of pitch reminded him of coming back to this house as a child after trekking home from school. Even after multiple rental apartments in foreign countries, this would be his only real home. It was quiet now, one of the downfalls of living alone. Downfall and upfall. He hung his black woolen coat on the back of a chair in front of the fire, sat on the chair, undid his boots and set them next to the woodpile. He threw two logs onto the fire and sparks rose up the flue.
He held his hand up and the silver chain unraveled once. The swan pendant glittered in the firelight and the opal took on the glow like a smoldering ember, almost as if it had swallowed the warmth.
He had only seen such an opal once. He bought it for Lena. Spent a whole week’s wages. An opal on a silver chain but nowhere as costly and fine as the one he held in his hand. He never saw Lena again. That afternoon he had to flee the city.
He stood and slid his feet into his felt pantoffels. He opened the drawer of his writing table, pulled out a silver cigarette case, flipped it open and stuck a cigarette between his lips. The flame from the silver butane lighter flickered and lit the cigarette. The lighter slid out of his hand, back into the drawer and rolled way back inside, resting upon a secret compartment. His eyes squinted against the plume of smoke that rose about his head.
He snapped the compartment open and produced a purple velvet pouch the size of his fist. He opened the drawstring and slowly pulled on a fine silver chain. An opal plopped into his hand. He set the pouch aside and held the two opals up like he was displaying metals he had won for running a race. The opal hanging from the flying swan was smooth and refined; the links of the chain looped in and out like sixes and nines. Nimble fingers were needed to create a chain of this complexity. The roughly-cut opal he had bought for Lena hung from a chain of simple links. This diminished its beauty not in the least.
It was a snowy December day like this one, twenty-two years ago. Lena had given him her portfolio to safekeep, a leather folder tied with a leather cord, full of drawings and photographs. They had arranged to meet by the train station and together they would escape the madness. But he had stopped at the jewelers to pick up the opal and approached the train station from the back. He saw the throng. Police were arresting bystanders at random. In the confusion, he boarded the train before anyone saw him.
He had waited twenty years to return the portfolio. An address found in a phone book, belonging to a name that was close enough to hers, was enough to still the nagging guilt he nourished over the years. He received no reply. He would never contact the name or address again.
He dropped his cigarette in the remains of this morning’s coffee. He put both chains into the purple pouch and shoved them to the back of the drawer.