Part 2

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The Gem & The Photo

THE ANTIQUES STORE was located in Petoskey, Michigan's fancy Gaslight District.  Which was why Charmian knew going in that she wasn't going to buy anything.

Still, her inability to afford any of the more interesting or beautiful objects offered in the store never stopped her from checking it out on her way home from school.  She actually looked forward to the end of summer vacation when she could stop in at the place daily again.  By now she knew the lady who ran the place, and it never bothered the woman one bit that Charmian never bought anything.  In fact the two of them had become close friends, at least, as much as a fourteen-year-old junior high student and a fortysomething antiques store owner could get.

Today was a crisp autumn day...Charmian's mouth twitched with disgust that her mind dredged up such an overused autumnal adjective, crisp...but it was the only word she could think of that applied.  The trees were changing but so far they hadn't lost enough of their leaves to achieve that ugly, bare, blackened winter look.  Charmian scuffed her shoes along the sidewalk, bookbag slung over her shoulder, watching the few fallen leaves scatter out of her path as she made her way to the little store.  She didn't hate school--in fact, she loved it--but she was almost always one of the first out of the building at the final bell, just so she could make it to the store to spend as much of her afternoon time as she could staring at the frail sculptures, elegant dresses, and unusual knick-knacks which occupied every corner.

She wondered what new things she would find today.

"Charm!  Hey, CHARM!"

She stopped in her tracks and turned to look behind her.  A boy came running her way, shoes slapping the pavement.  About halfway to her he tripped over his own foot and nearly went down on his face.  Charmian rolled her eyes and continued on her way to the store.  He caught up with her just as she reached the door with its stained-glass window and was pushing on the handle.

"Hey, Charm," he panted, out of breath and flushed from the cool air.  "Didn...didn't you hear me?  I said hey."

"I know.  I heard you.  I think half the city did, too."

"Oh, c'mon.  You always have such a snitty attitude."

"Is there something you want, Drake?"

Drake was Charmian's...sort-of friend.  She didn't wish to think of him as a friend because every time she did her other friends--her FEMALE friends--always saw fit to giggle stupidly as if something more were meant by the word.  She wasn't sure why he liked her, and sometimes she wasn't even certain he did.  Sometimes she felt he lived to irritate her.  Just his name irritated her.  Drake?  It sounded like a MAN'S name, like some hokey thing out of a romance novel.  Most certainly not the name of a gawky fourteen-year-old boy who had the bad habit of tripping over his own feet and following her around like a lost puppy dog, just so he could find out what she was doing.

He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes again.  Even his grin was irritating.  "Naw, nothing really."

"Then why are you following me and blaring my name around the neighborhood?  Shouldn't you be working on your algebra?"

"Yeah, well, shouldn't you too?"

Charmian flushed.

"You come to this store every day instead of going home and doing your homework, or hanging out at Burger King or something.  Nobody else I know hangs out in antiques stores.  What is it about this place?  They have anything real interesting?"

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