Aladdin's Cave took her in its arms and whispered, "your mother would have loved this, too." Tears came to her eyes as she traced the giltwood frame of an oil painting, staring into the painted woman's eyes and admiring her pink satin dress. It hurt to think she could be happy again, that she could thrive amongst the dead and forgotten things, reviving what was lost the only way humans ever could. Preserving what was left behind, enamelling their stories in an object you could hold or press to your skin.
Neil had probably only taken her on as stockkeeper because she'd struggled not to sob when asking for a job.
Eleven years later and they were just less than best friends. His dry sense of humour had shaped her own, lending her a face to hide behind as an auctioneer. Rachael could keep people bidding like their lives depended on it with a few jeering remarks here, and a witty one-liner dropped there.
Whilst Neil rushed off to view the imperial Chinese vase from yesterday, Rachael managed the auction room late into the afternoon until a colleague could take over. She spent the rest of the day polishing solid silver, researching and writing descriptions for the next antiques due for bidding, and muttering to the photograph of her mother by the computer monitor. By the time she got to the British Library, she felt withered, and half-heartedly trawled through hand scribbled letters between Jules Delsart and his father.
She'd just about had enough of their blathering when her eye caught the word 'wife.' There'd been no mention of a 'wife' in most of Delsart's online information, but Rachael couldn't bring herself to be surprised. Many men had their life documented as if they'd been almost single the entire time, while most women's biographies – particularly pre-20th Century – had information detailing their husband's achievements and life story to the point it might as well be about him. And that was if they were lucky enough to be white.
Unfortunately for Delsart's wife, nobody cared about Victoria other than to say, "his widow held onto the cello for a number of years before selling it in January 1907." Had she cried over the cello's sudden silence? Had she plucked at the strings, just to feel like her husband was near? Or had she been a little glad Delsart was gone? Did she simply forget about the cello, because it meant nothing to her? Did she keep it as a trophy before realising its worth? Or had she felt as Rachael did every time she looked at the flower necklace hidden in her jewellery box? Hateful, lonely, nostalgic.
Hunger and exhaustion convinced Rachael to pack up half an hour before the reading rooms closed. Evening sunshine greeted her outside and she smiled into its brightness. Summer made her feel like she could always fit more into a day, so long as the sun gripped the horizon and refused to sink until nine-thirty.
Just as she got home, about to summon the elevator to reception, she heard wailing. Her smile vanished. The doors opened to reveal Amber's kids, their arms in the steel grip of an older woman.
"Hey, who are—" Rachael began.
"Excuse me," the woman barked.
Kai's entire face was contorted like Melpomene, the theatrical mask of tragedy, his cheeks caked in tears. He yanked on the woman's grip, "I don't wanna go, I want Mummy," his every word a desperate plea. Despite Rachael saying the night before that Amber's kids were three years old, Kai was actually six, she just pretended to never notice any difference. Scarlett, his little sister, however, was actually three. She seemed confused, whimpering over the top of Kai's broken shrieks, her cheeks as red as her name, as if all the commotion gave her a fever.
The trio hustled past Rachael and out into the twilight in a matter of seconds. When the elevator took her upstairs, she found Amber slumped in her doorway, sobbing. For a second, Rachael could only stare, each breath a flutter in her chest like the wings of a bird. Step by step, reality grew tangible again as Rachael went and crouched beside her.
YOU ARE READING
The Ghost CollectorParanormal
Living alone with minimal commitments to friends and family does have some benefits, such as an expensive need to collect antiques and unique crafts. But when Rachael buys Jules Delsart's original cello, she discovers a treasure with more supernatur...