The Talisman

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Problems when two men love the same woman.

Submitted: June 15, 2014

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Submitted: June 15, 2014

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The Talisman_Booksie large.jpg

THE TALISMAN

On the far end wall in the shop there was a huge shell shape painted to look like it was part of the wall. The fake shell dominated the wall, and gave the whole premises a rather romantic look and feel, reminding anyone who entered the shop of the painting of Botticelli’s Aphrodite emerging from the sea. There was no lovely looking maiden presiding over the shop, but a very old gentleman who had a tendency for living in the past, hence the interior design of his business, and its name The Talisman.

 

Some years ago Eustace Bean had fallen in love with a lovely young lady that reminded him of Botticell’s Aphrodite, but it stopped right there, she wasn’t at all keen on him. Then the worst thing happened that Eustace was never able to forgive or forget: his arch enemy, Kendall Webster, married Brenda, the love of Eustace’s life. Eustace set out to make the Websters’ lives one great misery. As time passed, Eustace did what he could to upset Kendall and Brenda. He bought up all the shops he could, and then began to buy up any premises that Kendall might be interested in. Kendall’s business interests were the same as Eustace’s, which had caused nothing but friction between them over the years.

 

In the meantime, Brenda took sick and died. Eustace kept a low profile while she was alive, but once Brenda had passed over, he showed his truer hand, and that was to get on Kendall’s nerves as much as he could. So the two elderly men were left alone like two dinosaurs to see their old age out.

 

Eustace had originally intended the ultra large shell for the bedroom he had hoped to share with Brenda. He had kept it as a kind of talisman against Kendall, and believed that as long as the shell was on the wall he could beat Kendall in anything that was to do with business. Eustace attacked Kendall whenever he could.

“Good morning, wife killer,” Eustace was heard to say to Kendall when they met in the street.

“Good morning, Eustace. You’re as boring as ever. Won’t you ever give up?” Kendall replied to his adversary’s greeting.

“I shouldn’t think so,” Eustace said as he walked past Kendall.

“You have spent all these years shouting insults at me, when you could have found another woman. Really, Eustace, you don’t make sense. In spite of your animosity towards me, I’ve always considered you to be intelligent.”

“What you don’t understand is that I really loved Brenda, and you took her away from me,” Eustace declared ignoring any passers by.

“I feel very sorry for you, because Brenda chose me. And now that she’s dead, don’t you think that old story is over and done with?”

“Never,” shouted Eustace as he walked on.

 

The two old men had similar business interests, they were into furnishings and interior decorating. Both of them had done well, but Eustace had done much better than Kendall as he had not had Brenda to care for, and so had had no distractions. Their businesses were on the same side of a very long street. Although Kendall had been married, he had no family to keep him company. Unfortunately, Brenda had been unable to bear children. So the two properties would be left to distant relatives on the deaths of both Eustace and Kendall.

 

Kendall’s sister sent her offspring to stay with him, to learn how to run the business she was convinced they would inherit one day. Anton and Nelda, his nephew and niece, who were an attractive pair, arrived on a sunny day at their uncle’s house, and were well installed before he got home later on that day.

“I remember the last time we were here, you and Aunt Brenda were about to go on holiday,” Anton said to his uncle.

Kendall stared into space as if he were doing his best to forget that Brenda had ever existed. Brenda had died very quickly, and he hadn’t been able to mourn her as he had wanted to. The huge gap her death had left in his life, had only closed a small bit, and there was still a large piece left open.

Nelda was walking around the sitting-room picking up little ornaments and putting them back down again. Kendall watched her closely. He had never really trusted his sister’s children, and didn’t want them jumping the gun and demanding their inheritance before he’d breathed his last. He had reckoned that what happened to his goods after he had gone was not his problem but that of his heirs.

“You’ve got some nice things here, Uncle,” Nelda declared, as she sat down on the sofa beside her brother.

“The things you were handling were Brenda’s, so I’d appreciate it if you could be a little bit more respectful and leave them alone,” Kendall said.

He rang a bell and a woman appeared. It was his housekeeper, Mrs. Clarkson. “Yes, Sir? You rang?”

“Yes, I did. Would you be so kind as to show my nephew and niece to their rooms, please?”

“Of course, Sir,” Mrs Clarkson replied.

“You can carry your own luggage up the stairs. It won’t hurt you,” Kendall said, staring them both straight in the eye.

Upstairs, the two young people unpacked and chatted between themselves. “He won’t be such a walkover as Mum led us to believe,” Nelda said, holding up a blouse to her body and looking at her reflection in the mirror.

Anton, who was sprawled on his sister’s bed, said, “Look, Sis. Don’t go getting sentimental on me. We’re here to see what we can get out of him. Those were Mum’s orders, and we need all we can get. OK?”

“OK, if you say so,” Nelda said, going into her bathroom as Anton got off the bed and left the room.

Kendall was not altogether happy about his sister’s offspring staying with him. He wasn’t stupid, even though he was in mourning for Brenda, he was still capable of knowing when people were playing him along.

 

Eustace saw the newly arrived twosome when he was advising one of the assistants on how he would like the window dressed. He stood back and watched them closely as they stopped in front of his window and gazed at the unfinished work. There wasn’t anything to attract their attention, so they moved on. “Who are those two? Do you know?” Eustace asked the young window dresser.

“Yes, Sir, they are Anton and Nelda, the nephew and niece of Kendall. They arrived here a couple of days ago,” the young man said.

“Strange, I never knew he had close relatives. I wonder why he has sent for them, or perhaps they brought themselves without an invitation,” Eustace half said to himself.

 

 “We saw a couple of shops called The Talisman today at the other end of the street. Why have they got that name?”

“It was so named by Eustace after Brenda, who was his girlfriend before she was mine. He said that Brenda was his talisman, so that’s what he named the shop, meaning that Brenda brought him good luck, which of course she didn’t. She married me and not him, but he kept the name to annoy her - and me too I suppose.”

Anton and Nelda exchanged glances. This might be a good bit of news.

 

Eustace had a best friend from the time before he knew Kendall and Brenda, and that friend had a son called Saul, who was considered by all the women who met him to be quite a catch. The advent of Saul’s visit didn’t go unnoticed by anyone in the vicinity. It didn’t take long before Kendall, Anton, and Nelda were up to date on the whys and wherefores of Saul’s presence in Eustace’s shops.

Any man who was the least bit handsome was bait for Nelda. She was incapable of resisting. As soon as she set eyes on Saul, she fancied him. What she didn’t know was that this was Eustace’s ploy to find out what was going on in Kendall’s businesses. Nelda was not privy to anything to do with the business and therefore had nothing to inform Saul about.

“Uncle Eustace, Nelda’s either the best liar I’ve ever met, or she really knows nothing about Kendall’s business, and least of all his present economic situation. I’ve tried pumping her with different questions, but she always looks vague, and that’s it.”

Eustace knew that Saul had no reason to lie to him, and thought that if he waited long enough he’d get the information he wanted.

 

Anton was getting fed up with hearing Nelda singing Saul’s praises.

“He’s so well educated and so suave in everything he does. He’s a joy to be with,” Nelda said, as she lay back in a hammock in Kendall’s large flourishing garden. There were flowers and bushes everywhere, and the whole place was overpowered by the perfumes emanating from all the plants, which had been lovingly planted by Brenda many years ago.

Anton was violently jealous of Saul, because he knew very well that he would never be so popular with women of all ages. Therefore, unwittingly, Saul had found in Anton an antagonist, and a dangerous one at that. Meanwhile Saul and Nelda kept their romance going, and Anton trying to work out what actually was going on.

 

It was during Saul’s visit that the local Chamber of Commerce sent a formal letter to all the owners of local businesses inviting them to a special meeting, without specifying what the said meeting was to be about. Kendall and Eustace were both old and wise enough to understand what might happen if they were not to attend, so they both went, in spite of their enmity.

The meeting was to be held in the local Grand Hotel, which would have its best rooms closed to the general public for one night. There was a lavish dinner served for all attendees before they moved to a huge conference room to see to the matter in hand. When all those attending were seated, the chairman stood up and spoke, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. You are all probably asking yourselves why we are all here. Well, it’s very simple. There’s not one business in this town that is doing well, so I’ve come up with an idea to sell our goods as best we can. It’ll mean sacrifice, but we can’t do anything else to improve the situation. I propose that, for twenty-four hours in every month the shops in the centre of town remain open in order to boost sales. The bars and restaurants and any other eating places are included. That’s the first idea. The second one is, to lower prices to fifty per cent all through the summer months, and get rid of the majority of stock, instead of having it occupying shop space until Christmas like last year.” The chairman sat down and stared at the businessmen, who were staring back at him.

“Sounds a bit crazy to me,” Eustace said, “But on the other hand, none of us are doing as well as we should be or could be. I say let’s try it, and see whether it’s worth carrying on with into autumn.”

There were noises of assent and dissent, but the vast majority eventually agreed that to try out the chairman’s ideas was not such a bad thing as they were all in a difficult financial spot.

“Let’s have a show of hands to see who’s for it and who’s against,” the chairman said to the anxious businessmen and women.

All hands were raised in a show of confidence and desperation. They were all in the same ruinous financial boat, and they all had to make sure it didn’t sink.

 

The news of the twenty-four hour opening and the fifty percent off most goods went down very well with the local population, who saw a way of being able to enjoy some of the little money they had. The bars and restaurants also felt better off, as it meant, or would mean, an end to empty seats and tables. The new measures affected everyone from the suppliers to the purchasers. Everyone was a winner.

 

“Uncle Kendall, what are you going to reduce in price?” Nelda asked her uncle.

“I’ll wait and watch whatever Eustace does, and then make a bigger reduction on the same goods. I’m going to beat him, even if I die in the attempt. Nelda, try and discover from Saul what Eustace is going to do, what his plans might be regarding discounts, anything he’s doing that is new. OK?”

“Yes, Uncle, of course,” Nelda said, without thinking for one minute that she would do just that. She was after Saul, and nothing else. Her uncle would have to get Anton to do his dirty work. Nelda was doing her own thing to get Saul trapped in her web, and nobody else formed part of it - only herself and Saul.

 

In Eustace’s main shop, Saul and the window dressers were having a heated argument. It was about the decoration of the interior. Saul suggested that the shell should be taken down and to try something different. Eustace was adamant that the shell should stay in its normal place as it had been there for so long. Saul took no notice and said, “Uncle Eustace, that shell must come down. It’s nothing but a large piece of tacky decoration left over from a distant time that is no more.”

“You’d better not touch that shell!”

Saul, like all younger men and women, believed you had to move ahead and not dwell on the past, especially when money was getting scarcer and scarcer. Saul picked up a hammer and moved towards the shell. “You touch that shell and you’ll be hearing from me,” shouted Eustace. One of the window dressers, also armed with another hammer, went with Saul to the shell and the two readied themselves to bash against the shell. Then something they weren’t expecting happened, the shell moved to one side as if on rails and everyone saw that behind it there was a huge cupboard. Eustace said, “You might as well, all of you, go in. I can give you a detailed report of everything that is in there. The wrapped up presents are what I bought for Brenda when I was so in love with her, before she went and married Kendall. She never knew how it was with me. I was shy and not so good at chatting her up, whereas Kendall could chat up anything and anybody at any time. Saul, open the packets and, if you see anything of any value, try selling it. Some of the stuff must be worth something by now.”

“Are you angry we disturbed the shell?” Saul asked.

“I thought I would have been, but, at that moment I thought the shell was my talisman, and in a way it was, and now we’ll get some money with which we’ll be able to pay off some of our debts.” Eustace caught sight of his reflection in one of the shop mirrors and saw how old he’d become, and then he understood how much he’d been living in the past. He’d imagined that he was still living in the moment when he’d met Brenda, but on seeing himself in the mirror he knew he’d been fooling himself for too many years. How many years had he wasted in loving a woman who had never cared for him in the slightest? But he’d been right in calling his business The Talisman, as it had brought him good luck in the end.

The money made from selling the jewels and other precious items purchased for Brenda, brought Eustace a healthy sum of money.

 

Saul got the business.

 

Kendall wondered what had happened to make Eustace so rich all of a sudden, when everyone else was going under. Then he saw in the local newspaper that The Talisman was under new management. What could it mean? He didn’t have to wait long for an answer, Nelda came back home and told her uncle, “Saul has been given Eustace’s business, as he feels he needs a rest and wants to do other things with the rest of his life.”

“Are you included in the rest of his life?” Kendall asked her.

“He hasn’t said, but I shouldn’t think so, you being the owner of the competition.”

Anton made an appearance at that moment, and heard what Nelda said about Saul being the new owner of The Talisman.

“That’s the best thing I’ve heard in ages. Well, how about it, Uncle, why don’t you let us have your business?” Anton said, knowing that he was pushing his luck.

Kendall tried not to show his disgust at the nerve of his nephew. He had been right about those two all along. Well, they wouldn’t get any of his business, he’d rather sell it, if he could, on the open market, and retire with the money from the sale.

“I’m not letting anyone have a piece of my hard-earned business. I expect you two to leave this evening and go back to your ever-loving mother. I’m sure she’ll be glad to see you are both in good health. She’ll see that neither of you have been overworked. Give your mother my regards.”

Anton turned on Nelda. “See what you’ve done? You couldn’t attract Saul, and it would have been so cosy, you with him in The Talisman: and me with our uncle’s business, which I would have changed to Anton’s. How are we to face our mother when she was so banking on us to help her out of her monetary problems?”

Nelda ran up to her bedroom and flung herself onto her bed and cried and cried.

 

Long after those events Eustace and Kendall were living in a luxury residential area for the rich in a tropical paradise in the Pacific. They hadn’t exactly become friends, but were too old to keep on fighting.

It happened when a lady called Gladys, who had honed in on the two elderly men. What Gladys didn’t realise was that Eustace and Kendall were fed up with fighting and too tired to do so. They spent the few times they crossed paths in good-hearted banter. The last thing they wanted was a repetition of fighting over a woman.

When Gladys saw she was getting nowhere with the two old boys, her eyes alighted on two other old victims.

Eustace and Kendall laughed as they watched Gladys walking between the two elderly gentlemen one afternoon. “I wouldn’t fancy being in their shoes! Eh, Kendall?” Eustace said, laughing.

“I fully agree,” Kendall said, as they strolled off to play golf together. 


© Copyright 2017 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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