A short story by Anastasia Milne

January 25, 2022 at 3:31 PM

College student Anastasia Milne’s showcased her creative flair with a gripping narrative, The Quaint Little Store that emerged third in the Year 9-10 category of the Student Lockdown Writing Competition organised by Stylefit. Enjoy this 2 min read….

The Quaint Little Store

Fiction by Anastasia Milne

The quaint little store was one I commuted past on the way to school, head down low, shoulders curved and music blasting through my headphones. It was rather drab looking, as if not to draw attention. Caramel bricks, crumbling marble pillars which hinted at a once glorious presence, and thick fingers of ivy. A window display in front displayed trinkets and gimmicks I had no use for. However, today the quaint little store was drawing me in.

Placing my headphones on my shoulders, I brush my hands on my plaid skirt and walk on in. The air inside comes as a shock, cool air caresses my cheeks. The air inside has a cloying rose fragrance which was almost choking. My peripheral vision recognises stacks of old CDS, and a dusty display which held china mugs of faded hues.

“What can I do for you?”

A voice cut through like a scythe. I jump, almost startled and look up. A frail old lady with an absurdly large ruby brooch sat perched behind a counter, books which probably hadn’t seen the light of day and a drab tapestry obscure her. Everything about her was disturbingly disproportionate. Her misshapen head sat awkwardly on her neck, making her look paper thin. Her head was a patchwork of bald spots and onyx hair. Through sunken eyes, she stared at me. I turn my head away quickly, and murmur
“Nothing, I’ll just walk around.”
And when the lady continues to blankly stare at me as if weighing my worth with her eyes alone, I add 
“Do you have suggestions?”
This seemed to please her as her thin lips parted to show pearly white teeth.  
“Why of course.”
Her fingers which had nails filed into scalpel sharp edges point to a stool.

And on it lay a curious book, nondescript yet so alluring. On its worn leather was a gold engraving which I run my fingers over as I whisper out loud “Luck of the draw only draws the unlucky”. Huh, that’s dark. I flip it in my hands, a hurricane of dust swirling up. Notice a gold locket with a combination lock affixed. The numbers set at 16-06-06, yet when I try to unclasp it, it’s still wielded shut. Making me more curious. Now her eyes seem to pierce my skin, I swallow.

“How do I open this?” I questioned genuinely.

“With the right combination.” She deadpans, stating the obvious.

I let out a sigh and turn to face the glass door.

“Its your birthday.” She states nonchalantly, casually cleaning out her nails with the tip of a rusted dagger.  

“And how do you know what my birthday even is...?” Quelling the flame of questions which burned inside me.

“It’s the day you were born, my girl.” Amusement started to toy at her face, which made my nails curl into my palms like a crescent moon.

I quickly put in the right digits so now the lock stated 21-03-04. Click. To my utter shock the lock opens. A breathy laugh escapes as I flick through the book’s heavy pages. A thousand needles had entered my skin, my breathing constricted in trepidation. It was my life story. Every memory. Everything around me spun, the room was a kaleidoscope of my favourite colours, purple of my old cardigan and unsuspecting beige of my teddy. And when I look up again to question the old lady, she was gone. But the shelves were filled with wonders, my favourite caramel truffles, and a shade of lip gloss I always fancied. I’d gladly buy the whole store. I was in Wonderland. 

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