“Can I help you?” She says, from behind the desk at the back of the shop. I’ve walked past this place so many times and yet this is the first time I’ve ever pushed the glass door and found myself inside the magical cave of rocks and crystals.
“Um, I’m looking for a present for my boyfriend,” I say, walking towards her. Putting my bag down – it’s full of vegetables from the market – I stop at each of the glass cases. Reaching from the floor to above my head, each shelf contains pieces of a different semi-precious stone: slices, pebbles, rocks. There are shelves of purple amethyst pieces, pale pink rose quartz ones.
The next cabinet contains jewellery: necklaces and bracelets of different gemstones: yellow-green peridot, blood red garnet, multicoloured tourmaline.
I’m at the final cabinet on the left side of the shop now and there are lumps of iron pyrite – a bright gold – and black onyx and clear quartz. On the wall across from me there are enormous photos of cross sections of the crystals, and around the desk there are huge boulders of amethyst.
“Have you been here before?” She says. She has shoulder length blonde hair and bracelets of different stones climbing up both arms: brown tiger’s eye, dark silver-grey haematite, blue sodalite.
“No, it’s my first time,” I say. “I work round here – I’ve always wanted to visit.”
“Welcome,” she says. “So is there anything particular that you’re looking for?” She smiles at me.
“Well, it’s my boyfriend’s birthday and he likes stones: he’s always showing me pebbles he’s picked up on the beach and…” I break off. This seems a slim justification for spending hundreds of pounds – for that’s the prices I can see on rocks in the glass cases – on a lump of a semi-precious stone.
“So, what is he going through at the moment? Just usual stuff or…tell me about him,” she says.
“He’s studying at the moment – he’s going to University in September at the age of thirty four,” I say.
“That’s impressive,” she says. “Unusual.”
“He’s been an actor, and he was a monk for three years. We’ve known each other for a long time,” I say, feeling tearful suddenly. This feels important: after all these years I’m finally buying him a present. “He’s a Gemini. He loves animals: he’s training to be an ecologist.”
“Gemini,” she says. “So his birthstone would be agate or blue sapphire.”
Walking round the room – in the far corner I pause to look at a shelf of fluorite pieces and spot a couple of dolphins. They’re striped with blue, purple and blue-green.
“How much are these?” I say, pointing at them.
“Thirty eight pounds each,” she says. “Fluorite: that’s an excellent learning aid if he’s studying. It increases powers of concentration and memory and self-confidence.”
“Sounds perfect,” I say. “Do you have any other little animals?”
She shakes her head. “There were green jade bears, but…”
“Those are my ones,” I say. Green jade is my stone. “I collect little jade animals: I’ve got an elephant, frog and cat. Please may I have a look at the dolphins?”
Unlocking the cupboard, she takes out the two cetaceans and hands them to me. One of them is more striped.
“I’ll take this one,” I say, stroking down his little domed forehead towards his nose. “He’s got better stripes.” Seb can take the little creature everywhere with him: abroad, to university.
“I think he’s a beautiful gift,” she says.
“Hope so,” I say. “Do I get that little card explaining what fluorite does and…”
“Of course,” she says, smiling as she places him in a box and wraps him up.
“Thank you so much,” I say, sitting at the desk to pay. Oh I do so hope that Seb likes his present…
Attached photo is a beautiful clematis who lives near the parentals.
Happy Friday everyone!
*1868. By Wilkie Collins. Classic Victorian detective novel. Read it!