The Antiquarian August 6, 2022

Ma Vie Mon Amour

I took Blake’s advice and stepped away from the archives for a few days. I got my apartment unpacked and set up, checked out a few of the shops in my neighborhood, then spent the weekend with Darrell. He showed me around the city and took me to a few lesser-known secondhand stores not usually visited by tourists.

We walked into one shop, and I could feel something calling my name. I wandered around as though just browsing, but I was searching for whatever had my attention.

“What’s wrong,” Darrell asked. 

“Nothing,” I lied. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done this, and I want to see everything.”

Darrell just stared at me as though he knew I was lying. “Okay,” I relented. “I feel something calling to me. I just don’t know what it is. I’ll know it when I see it. It’s how I’ve always found my treasures.”

Darrell smiled as though he had just won some contest. “Cool, so where do we look?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I never know until I’m almost on top of it. As I get closer, the feeling gets stronger. Once I find the object, I feel a warmth coming off of it. When I have it in my hand, I can feel heat throughout my entire body.”

“What color is it?” Darrell asked.

“How should I know?” I retorted. “I don’t even know what it is yet.”

Darrell laughed. “No, what color is the feeling?”

I shot him a look that told him how crazy he sounded.

“Close your eyes,” he instructed. “Level out your breathing and focus. Let the object you’re looking for shine through everything else. Find its color.”

It sounded dumb, but I followed his directions. I closed my eyes and worked on my breathing. As I did, I felt a heat signature from across the room. Slowly, I opened my eyes to find the entire room seemed to be in black and white. I scanned the room and found a single glimmer of light. 

I walked to where the light seemed to be coming from to find a jewelry counter filled with a wide array of costume pieces. In the very front lay a vintage Art déco watch that glowed with a dark orange hue. I closed my eyes once again and took a deep breath. When I again opened my eyes, everything seemed normal. 

The clerk came over and asked if I needed help. I told them ‌I wanted to see the watch, which they were more than happy to show me. As the clerk laid it in my hand, I could feel the heat coming off of it. The sign I’d known since childhood that I’d found what had been calling to me.

“How much?” I asked without looking up.

“Twenty bucks. It’s a nice piece, but it’s never worked. It’s been here longer than I have, so I don’t know much about it.”

I ran a finger over the crystal and had the image of people dancing in my mind. I could almost hear the music in the background. Big band music. The kind my grandmother would have listened to in her youth. I knew I had to have it.

I handed the clerk the money and headed for the car. Darrell followed behind without saying a word. It was as if he knew that this was a moment I needed all to myself.

Once inside the car, he turned and just looked at me. “What?” I asked with a slight smirk across my lips.

“Do you know how sexy you are when you’re in the zone?” The devilish look on his face caused a blush to cross my cheeks. 

“So,” he continued, “what color was it?”

“Dark orange,” I replied, sounding a bit embarrassed. 

“Cool, I see stuff in blue.” I looked at him to see that he was being totally serious. I’d never thought about seeing my trophies in radiating colors. I’d always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt, but this was so much easier. 

We hit a few more shops, then headed back to my apartment. I threw my bags on the couch, then pulled the watch out of my pocket. I ran my fingers over it again, listening for the music as this piece screamed in my head.

I turned it over and stared at the back. There were a few markings on it, but I couldn’t make them out due to age and wear. I sat down at the table and tried to take the back off. However, it wouldn’t budge, and I didn’t want to break it. 

“Damn it,” I mumbled under my breath.

Darrell laughed a bit. “You know, they have these cool places called jewelry shops that could do that for you.”

I shot him a glaring look. “Shut up. I just need my little toolbox.” 

I ran downstairs and made my way to my boxes of treasures. I wanted to bring them all out, but I didn’t see that happening until I got the archives put in order. I found a tote labeled tools and dug through until I found a small pencil box filled with tiny picks and screwdrivers. 

I ran upstairs and got to work gently prying the back off the watch. The tiny gears were rusted together. I went to the bathroom and grabbed a bottle of alcohol and some cotton swabs. Once back at the table, I dabbed the gears just a little so as not to drench them. 

The years of dirt and grime slowly came away. I gently wiped the dirt from the back and noticed words etched into the metal. They were very tiny and hard to read, but I did finally make them out. “Ma vie mon amour,” I whispered to myself.

“What’s that?” Darrell asked. 

“On the inside of the back cover, it says ma vie mon amour. What does that mean?”

Darrell thought for a moment. “I think it means my life, my love. Did you find anything else?”

I shook my head as I turned the cover over in my hand. I dabbed a little alcohol across the back, and the markings became a little clearer, revealing a small engraving. They were the letters RP. As soon as I read them, I heard the music in my head again. “Oh my god!” I exclaimed. 

Darrell looked at me with apprehension. “What’s wrong?”

“Darrell,” I said quietly, looking into his eyes, “I think this was your uncle’s watch.”

I looked up the number of the shop where we bought the watch and asked the clerk if they could find any more information about it. I left them my number, then set back to work. I removed the crystal and watch face with delicate precision, studying the art déco style. It must have been made sometime between the late-20s and mid-30s.

Within moments, the shop clerk called me back.

“Miss McKenzy? I found some information about your watch. When my great-grandparents owned this place back in the 40s, they took in stuff on consignment. That watch was in a box with some other jewelry in it. I have a full listing of the items, most of which were sold a long time ago. However, I do have a couple of other items from that box still in the back.”

I felt my senses heighten as the clerk spoke. Something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know any more, but my curiosity was piqued. I had to know everything.

“Wonderful,” I said, trying to sound cheerful. “I’d love to see them if you don’t mind. Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“Well, that’s the weird part,” the clerk continued. “The name on the sales receipt is Ian McKenzy. Are you a relative?” 

My heart and my phone dropped.

Cherish McKenzy (Christine Graves)
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