The Antiques Collector

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: House of Ghosts
This is a beautiful dream I had last night. Depending on what people think, I might use it as a base for a story.

Submitted: November 13, 2016

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Submitted: November 13, 2016

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The Antiques Collector.
 
 
I was nervous. My hands were sweating, and I surreptitiously wiped them on my jeans, just in case he went for a handshake. Instead, he smiled and stepped aside, allowing me into the house. It was nice, I have to admit, and not too dissimilar to my foster mum’s house. Just like hers, Mr Valentine’s house was a little ways away from Melksham, an old house in the village of Whitley surrounded by a seemingly boundless garden that stretched away into the fields nearby. It was beautiful. 
 
Mr Valentine said nothing as he led me through the hallway and into the living room to the right. Shelves lined the walls, creaking and groaning under the weight of the dusty books crammed onto them, while yet more shelves formed a labyrinth, laden with a variety of clocks from different eras, all brass and glass and visible cogs and springs. I followed, somewhat dumbly, as he slipped through a gap between two shelves and wove his way around more, eventually reaching the heart of the maze. A large old desk sat there, cluttered with folders, pieces of paper, newspapers, pens and pencils and, and bottles of ink. 
 
Smiling broadly, Mr Valentine carelessly shoved a pile of paper off of a small wicker chair with a purple cushion and brought it over to me. “Here. Please, make yourself comfortable.” 
 
“Thank you,” I said, and sat, crossing one leg over the other. There was a long moment of silence, and when I looked up, Mr Valentine was watching me with a raised eyebrow. Startled, I quickly looked down at myself, wondering if I’d done something wrong. My heart was in my throat – I hadn’t even started the interview and I’d already screwed up. 
 
“You’re not comfortable,” he murmured quietly. Instead of taking the seat opposite as I expected, Mr Valentine came around the desk, cleared a space with his elbow, and perched on the edge of it. 
 
It’s fair to say that alarm bells are going off in my head, but what was I to expect? An advert in the newspaper, stating that an antiques collector was looking for someone to help him keep his collection clean. Easy task, easy money. It was too good for there not to be a catch. Before I could come up with an excuse and leave, he folded his arms over his chest and beamed at me. Damn, this guy had a seriously disarming smile, like Misha Collins or Aidan Turner – it made you want to smile back, the way it crumpled up his cheeks and made his dark eyes shine.
 
“You’re putting too much strain on your back trying to stay upright. You can slouch if you want,” he told me.
 
 I grimace at this; that’s one thing about me, I’ve got horrible posture, always slouching. Typical eighteen-year-old. Saying nothing, I smile back and surreptitiously allow my shoulders to droop a little. He didn’t look all that convinced that I was entirely comfortable, but Mr Valentine shrugged it off and tilted his head. 
 
“So, completely irrelevant since all you’ll really be doing is dusting and moving things, but what are your grades.” 
 
I swallow. This is the bit that I always get tripped up on. Not many of my grades are really ‘practical’ or ‘work-place relevant’. Still, there was no escaping it. “Um, C in GCSE art, C in R.E, a Merit in BTEC science, a B in GCSE English and... a U in Maths.” 
 
Maths, the one thing that brought me low every time. You need at least a C in Maths to get onto certain college course, you can’t not have a Maths grade if you want to get into uni, and you certainly need it for a job. Maths, the one subject I’ve made little to no progress in since primary school. 
 
Mr Valentine nodded his head slowly as he listened, his eyelids drooping down over his eyes to give him a sleepy look. If he noticed my sucky grade in Maths, he gave no indication. Slapping his palms together, he sprang up and gestured for me to do the same. I more or less just stood like a normal person. I don’t jump out of chairs, I’m not a very enthusiastic person when it comes to standing. “Right, well, I suppose I ought to show you about the place, where everything is and whatnot.” 
 
With that, he led me on a tour of the house. It was impressive, I have to say. Even the kitchen was filled with antiques. The brand new kettle and tea set were bizarrely out of place, especially since they were chrome red. Mr Valentine showed me the downstairs bathroom in case I ever needed to use it while working; it was a little tiled room beneath the stairs, containing just a toilet and sink. There were three living rooms downstairs in total, with each of them having a T.V crammed in there somewhere, and there were four bedrooms upstairs, three of which were full of antiques, and a proper bathroom. 
 
When the tour was over, he brought me back down into the kitchen where he prepared a pot of tea that he put on an old wooden tray along with a bowl of sugar, a carton of milk, and two cups and saucers. He carried it back to the maze of clocks, and I helped by holding doors and moving some of his papers out of the way – much more carefully than he had done – so that he could put the tray down. This time, he took the seat opposite and asked how I liked my tea. Honestly, I prefer hot chocolate, but I didn’t mind tea, either, so I said; “Just milk, no sugar, please.” He nodded, poured the milk and hot water, dropped in a tea bag, and handed the cup and saucer to me with a spoon. 
 
As I sat stirring my tea, I watched from beneath my lashes as Mr Valentine prepared his own cup. He was tall, even sitting down, and were it not for the shortness of my own legs, I was sure that there’d be little room under the desk. Where did his daddy-long-legs legs go? They just seemed to fold up. Long, curly hair dropped to his shoulders, partially pulled back from his face by a rubber band, and he wore a pair of dented gold-rimmed glasses that looked something like what Benjamin Franklin might wear. Glancing back down, I noticed my tea bag had steeped enough, so I tentatively scooped it up with my spoon, pressed it against the rim of my cup to squeeze out excess water, and looked about for any indication of where I should put it. Not missing a beat, Mr Valentine simply dumped his own tea bag on the tray, so I followed suit, though didn’t just drop it.  
 
We sat there for a little while, just sipping our tea, and then Mr Valentine set his cup and saucer down and picked up a piece of cardboard and a biro from amongst the wreckage on his desk. I politely set my own cup down and waited attentively, sure that he wanted to ask more questions and make note of the answers. Instead, he simply sat back and started to write. He took some time scribbling something, most definitely not writing, then beamed and turned the piece of cardboard around for me to see. The writing went something like this;
 
Charleen Langley
Age eighteen 
Blue eyes
Brown hair – looks copper in some lights
Pale skin
 
It was more than a little creepy, especially since the thing he’d scribbled was a head-and-shoulders portrait of me, and then I looked up at him. There was nothing creepy about him, not at all, but there was something about his eyes. They looked old and young all at once, great pits of youthful energy and old-age loneliness. I look back at the drawing. My hair was loose about my shoulders, puffed up about my cheeks by the wind that had blown down the street, and my own eyes stared back at me, wide and bright. My lips, far too plump to look good smiling, were stretched a little, pressed into my usual reserved this-is-not-really-a-smile smile. 
 
I glanced down at my hands and pick at a hangnail, unsure of what to say or do. All red flags had fled. I’m a good judge of character, and this guy reminds me of my foster mum’s black Labrador – all nerves and eager to show he was nice. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing and raised my eyes to look up at Mr Valentine. 
 
He smiled and pinned the piece of cardboard to one of the shelves with a pin. “To remind you whenever you come in here.” 
 
“Remind me of what?” I blurt. 
 
“Of beauty.”


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