Lullabye – A Short Story By M. C. Wallace

Lullabye - A short story by M. C. Wallace

Part 1

The day was starting to drag a bit for Therese as she stopped to look in the shop window. Karen had begged off on their originally planned lunch date due to a chronic migraine, leaving Therese to wile away four hours that afternoon by herself. Nick wouldn’t be home till six and she was starting to give up on discovering any real ‘finds’ as she meandered through the city’s boho district.     A distant rumble of thunder got her momentary attention, drawing her away from the window and the owner who added a newly acquired item to its bounty.When Therese turned back with a heavy sigh, convinced it was time to pack it in for the day, a mild shock seized her with delight.    ‘Whoa!’ she whispered to herself, gaping at the cradle. She’d been looking for a bassinette last week but decided to put off buying one when Karen hinted to her that her  upcoming baby shower might provide the required missing items for her nursery.     Now this wonderful thing was staring at her. Low, carved it seemed from a single piece of wood, it appeared to be of an antique vintage. Her spirits picked up considerably and she entered the shop.     The owner was pawing through a box in back of a sprawling counter and therefore had his back to her. With her oversoled sneakers he never heard her approach.     “Excuse…”     The owner nearly jumped out of his shorts, “me,” she finished. “I’m sorry, I…”    “LORD!  Give a body a bit a warning, my good woman,” the man exclaimed, grasping at his chest as if to check he was still alive, awake and earthside.    “I AM sorry,” Therese repeated, “it wasn’t my intention to make you jump.”    “No, it never is,” the man said, rolling his eyes in exaggerated emphasis. “Here now, what is it you’d like to kill me over?” Therese just stared at him. Was he serious?  “Oh come now, it’s my way of making light of a situation,” he smiled a little too hard.    “Uuhh…oh.” Therese withdrew her stare and offered a mute okay with a wide fierce of her eyes. “Well, as long as…you’re not–upset?”     “Oh a COURSE not!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been one who’s been easily startled since I was a wee little tyke. You needn’t be concerned. Now come on,” he coaxed,  “what remnant from the past has caught your attention?” At this he beamed a peculiar blue-eyed gaze at her that penetrated her clear back to her vertebrae.     “Oh, well, uh– the, uh, cradle. In the window,” she stammered. Then smiled too graciously, at which the man laughed outright, further unsettling Therese.     “I just put that in there less than five minutes ago!” he shouted. “Aye, it’s a beauty, isn’t it!”    “Oh, uh, YES!  I indeed,…it surely is,” Therese agreed, offering a calculated grin which she hoped he’d accept as genuine. He did.He came out around the corner and waved for her to follow him, then went off down the aisle towards the window. Therese followed obediently and together they looked down over the windowscreen at the cradle where the sun lit it up.     “She’s a real beauty, all right!” the man repeated to himself. “Why there isn’t two of them alike in the whole world, my lady!  So you’re looking to have it for your own little treasure?”     “Well, I wanted to ask how much you wanted for it first,” Therese stated diplomatically, stepping back from the window. She looked the man squarely in the face as he turned to her, a very strange expression coalescing upon his countenance.    “This is no ordinary cradle, I’ll have you know.” She remained implacably one-sided at this, and the man’s breath started to become heavy.     “This here cradle comes with promises,” he inveighed.     “Promises?” she asked. “What do you mean?” She felt an unease settle behind her spine as she held her gaze. The man looked away towards a vista somewhere in his own range of sight. Therese was beginning to wish she’d never come into this shop. He slowly extricated his attention and drew himself back to her.    “You’d have to promise to use it only if your little one gets ill.”     “I don’t understand,” she said, a frown invading her brow.     “This cradle comes with…” he broke off, looking down and away.    “With what?” Therese asked, pursuing him. He didn’t respond right away. He looked up towards the ceiling first, as if he were fixed on a passing cloud or contrail. Then he dropped his gaze to the floor. It was what he saw here that disturbed Therese the most. She changed her mind and decided she’d had enough. ” Um, look. It’s getting late, I have to go. I’ll come back another time. With my husband so he can look at it before we make any decision.” At this she turned and started to walk away towards the door.     “You can have it for free,” he said.    Therese stopped dead. She turned to face him slowly. “What?!”    “I said…you can take it with you now. For free,” he repeated. “It’s not meant to be bought and sold. It’s too precious for that.”    “Do you mean to tell me,–that you’d be willing to let the…the cradle go without any cost at all?”    “Without so much as a shekel,” he stated firmly. He looked up at her, into her. Therese thought for a moment that his eyes actually started to fill with tears, but then backed down. “Please, my good woman. I’d be honored if you’d take it.” She could cipher a pleading in his visage, and in his voice. She knew she couldn’t turn him down.

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