This week’s words were:
inside and out :: tessellate :: starvation :: floral :: sweat
The Stolen Gift
That morning, she came back to the market. He’d almost given up checking for her when the flash of her dark hair, shining in the early sun, caught his eye. As quick as a blink, though, she vanished again, and his chisel slipped as he searched for her in the crowd. Hissing with pain, he clutched his bruised, sweat-filmed fingers to his chest, hastily checking his work for evidence of his clumsiness. Luckily, thankfully, the line was clean and the tile unscratched.
‘Watch what you’re doing!’ his boss snapped as he passed. ‘How can you work if you break your hand? Foolish boy!’ He spat in the dust at the boy’s feet and stalked away to harangue one of the other apprentices, leaving him alone to fume, embarrassed, over his thoughts.
‘Pay attention!’ he muttered, regaining his grip on the chisel. The job they were working on was the biggest his boss had ever been given, and no mistakes could be made. Each boy had memorised his part of the pattern in order to score and cut and shape every tile without a shred of error, and he closed his eyes and imagined what the prayer room would look like when the floor was laid down. The sea of tiles would interlock as though it had been there since the dawn of time, when everything had been fresh, and clean, and new. Sighing with pleasure, he bent to his work. Carefully, he tapped at the score-mark across the vivid red tile, allowing himself a smile as it snapped cleanly away, the line so straight it could have been cut by the master himself.
A gust of fresh, flower-scented air made him look up. It was like the smooth touch of a hand on his hot skin, or the feeling of a warm meal sliding into his wizened stomach; it had been a long time since he’d felt either of those things, since his mother had passed into eternity. His eyes searched for the source, and when he saw her, standing only a few feet away, he was hardly surprised. Looks like an angel, smells like an angel, he thought, happily. No doubt she also speaks and thinks and acts like an angel. A girl so pretty could not be anything but beautiful inside, too.
She smiled at him. He held her gaze, and returned the smile tenfold.
His hand slid to his pocket. He drew out something small – barely the size of his palm – and placed it carefully on his workbench. He crooked his finger at the girl. Her smile grew shy, but she took a step, and then another, in his direction. He watched her eyes as she looked at it, this tiny thing he’d pilfered fragments for, and risked his neck to make. She saw, and understood, as she looked at the perfect sweep of the black glass shapes, cut with beautiful precision; she looked at the golden yellow of the pattern within, and the way it blended with flecks of red, all fitting together without a hint of disharmony. Deep blue surrounded the black, the colour of beauty – the colour of love.
She jumped, the rosy blush of her cheeks a perfect echo of the mosaic in her hand, as the boss roared at him to get back to work. She turned to run, but just before she vanished into the crowd again she turned and caught his eye, and smiled. She raised his gift to her lips and kissed it, and then was gone.