Divine Inspiration

She preferred fantasy to reality. The modern world bored her to tears. Marguerite was a Parisian girl at heart. Growing up in a run down midwestern town, she had always gravitated to all things French. She’d spent hours and hours at the local library, devouring French culture, history and fashion. At thirteen, she began styling her hair like a coquette, and sewing her own clothes. Her Grandma’s basement was a treasure trove full of all sorts of fabrics, buttons, and best of all, old photos. She didn’t know much about Grandma Ceci, because she had died days before Marguerite was born. The story went that she had grown up just outside of Paris, and had studied to be a couturier at the most prestigious design school in the “City of Lights”. At 18, she left her studies to marry an American military man, and relocated to this tiny midwestern city, where she quickly acclimated to American life, and focused on raising a small family. No matter how much Marguerite pressed her mother, she really couldn’t find out more about her Grandma. From the old photos and items found in dusty boxes, she pieced together a life imagined.

These days, Marguerite lives in New Orleans. She fell in love with the city on a weekend visit, and never went back to her small town. She lives in an apartment close to the French Quarter, and designs dresses that she sells on Etsy.  She’s been studying French for a while now and uses it as often as possible. Her entire apartment is filled with antiques found at thrift shops around town. An antique record player spins french ballads. She had her mother send all of the old photographs from her Grandma Ceci’s basement, which decorate the hallway entry. At night, she dreams of being in Paris with a dark-haired man. He wears a suit, pocket watch and felted hat. He takes her hand, pulls her close, and whispers to her to stay with him in forever. Her heart hurts as she watches him disappear behind a wall of thick icy fog lifting off of the Atlantic. The blast of a steamship’s horn wakes her abruptly, her damp cheek pressed into a pillow drenched with tears.

 

Little Genie

Paris, 1921. After midnight. An icy bone chilling rain fell relentlessly. Her soaked satin dress clung to her skin as she ran as fast as she could. Tearing around a corner, down a dark slippery alley, her heel got caught in a cobblestone twisting her ankle. She had taken the turn too fast. Sliding down to the ground against the dank wall, she cried out. Tears blended with the rainwater streaming down her face. She could hear them getting closer. She pressed her hand against the drenched stone, and tried to leverage herself up, but it was no use. She was too weak now. There was more shouting as they got closer. She looked up at the strip of sky above the alley, as the rain came straight downward. She closed her eyes tight. They were near now. Suddenly, a dark shadow came over her, and she felt the grip on her shoulder. Looking up, there stood a man and a woman. They were soaked as well, but they were protected with coats, hats, and boots. The woman commanded her to get up. She begged the couple not to kill her. She told them she would do anything they wished for.

The woman leaned down and shook her shoulders violently. Looking into her eyes, she told her in a harsh voice that there was only one way she could be freed. Then she reached down into a satchel, retrieving a stone. Just an ordinary looking small rough stone. Holding it into the girls face, she told her that if she could turn the stone into a precious gem, then, and only then would she be freed.

The girl held out her muddy hand, and watched as the stone was placed in her palm. She closed her hand around the stone and shut her eyes. The man and woman stood over her ominously. She squeezed the stone and released it. It was still a stone. Then she placed the stone between her thumb and forefinger and pressed it. She was pressing so hard that her entire being seemed to be focused on the stone. Suddenly, her face relaxed and she opened her eyes. She released her fingers, and a perfectly faceted diamond appeared. It glowed in the dark night. The couple gasped, and the woman grabbed the diamond out of the girls hand. She held it up, looking at it against the night sky above. The rain began to taper off. The woman smiled at the man as she placed the diamond in her satchel. She told the girl that she was free to go, and they turned to walk away.

It was by now, the cusp of dawn. The rain had tapered to a fine mist. The girl shivered on the ground. She took a deep breath and managed to pull herself up this time. She headed down the other end of the alley to where a small light had just gone on. As she got closer, she saw that it was the back exit of a bakery. A man appeared at the door and saw her tragic figure. He offered her to come in and warm herself. She entered the kitchen, savoring the warmth and inhaling the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread. He motioned her to have a seat on a large burlap sack of flour. The man brought her coffee and a large fresh roll, which she immediately tore apart and devoured. He brought her another one before he left the kitchen to go into the bakery. As she sipped her coffee, she smiled. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a small glittering ruby and placed it on the empty plate.