Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

Provenance

"It's $29.95 a night," the man at the registration desk told her. She fished around in her pockets for her wallet. It wasn't in her jeans. She couldn't remember where she normally kept it; every place felt a little wrong. Maybe she used to carry a purse? A pocket on the inside of her jacket held a bumpy disk on a velvet ribbon. She pulled it out to look at it in bemusement: it was a cameo, white on a black background, set on a worn red choker. The clerk gave a low whistle. "Is that real?"

No, it's an illusion, she didn't say, pulling her billfold from an outer pocket of her jacket. "Real what?"

"Victorian cameo. That looks like an antique."

"I don't know." At the clerk's look, she added, "I got this jacket from a thrift store. I just found this in the pocket," because that was easier than telling the truth.

"Oh. Probably not, then. But you might get it checked out sometime anyway, those're valuable." The clerk frowned as she pulled bills from the wallet. "You're paying with cash?"

"Is that a problem?"

"Well ... there's a $250 room deposit, too. You'll get that back when you check out, if there's nothing wrong with the room."

She shrugged and gave him $280. "Good night."

As she walked away with the key card in one hand, she held up the choker, studying the carved profile with its high-piled curls and soft chin line. It didn't go with the black leather motorcycle jacket at all.

*

A bell tinkled as she stepped inside an antique shop in Columbus. The shop smelled faintly of lemon-scented cleaner. It was cluttered, but every surface was dust free, even the rows of tchochkes and the old books on shelves against one wall. A fortyish man with long hair brushed behind his ears and a trim beard stepped out from a door behind the counter, moving carefully to avoid disturbing any of the crowded oddments. "May I help you?"

"Maybe. Can you tell me if this is valuable or not?" The short woman walked to the counter, holding out the choker. "I don't think I want to sell it. I'm just curious."

"Let's see ... mm." He took a jeweler's loupe from a drawer and sat down beside the counter to look at it. She didn't realize he wasn't fully human until a tentacle snuck out from beneath his hair to adjust the loupe. She must have made a noise, because he looked up. "Sorry. I'm not a monster, honest. It's just ... you ever win something and then realize you didn't actually want it?"

She shook her head. "No. I once lost something I didn't actually want, though. I think I understand."

He smiled, and peered at the cameo again. "Ribbon's too worn to be worth anything. Cameo's pretty. It's not gemstone ... sardonyx conch, I think. Nice carving, hand-done. You don't have documentation on it, I suppose?"

"Documentation?"

"A certificate of authenticity, or a history of it, or even a letter or diary that might mention where it came from."

"Why would that matter?"

The proprietor gave her another smile, his brown eyes kind. "It's the provenance of an antique that makes it valuable, ma'am. How old it is, who owned it, who made it -- all the parts of its history. I can tell by looking that this was hand-carved, and hand-carved shell is very rare now, so it's probably over seventy-eighty years old. It's worth something for that, maybe a hundred. But it might be a lot more if I knew where it came from. If you like, I can take it off the ribbon, see if there's a maker's mark on the back. That'd tell me more, might be able to Google up something on it."

She looked at him for a moment, then held out her hand. "No, that's okay. I don't want to sell it, and I don't need to know where it came from. Thank you."

"As you like." He handed it back to her. As she left the shop, she fastened the choker around her neck.




Provenance: Place of origin; derivation. the history of the ownership of an object, especially when documented or authenticated.

Bard gave me this word, too. For some reason I seem to have an easier time coming up with stories on words he gives me than if I go looking for a word on my own.
Tags: everyday monsters, fiction, short story, word of the -, writing
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