Mara was entranced. The shop blurred before her in a tribute of glory to the necklace. Draped carelessly over a slender black velour cone, its gold, glassy pendant gem glittered as if with dew. It hung on a short golden chain. Mara could tell, without even trying it on, that it would nestle snugly in the hollow of her throat with a cool, fluid ease. The shop vendor, an old man, smiled at Mara kindly.
“Try it on if you like it, dear. Don’t be shy.” But Mara was hesitant even to touch the exquisite thing. Just as she reached out trembling fingers to grasp its chain, she felt a tug on her shirt. She turned to see Tommy, her little brother, clutching her tightly.
“What?” she said sharply. The old man tutted and turned away.
“What?” she repeated angrily, pulling her fingers regretfully away from the necklace in order to pry him off of her.
“Mommy says to come, Mawa.”
“Yeah. Mommy says to come now.”
Mara fairly flew across the store to her mother, who was waiting impatiently in the cosmetics section. Tommy jogged after her.
“Mom… look… I found this gorgeous necklace—come see,” she gushed.
“I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes, Mara,” her mom warned sternly. “We can’t stay any longer.”
“Nope. Come on.”
Taking Tommy’s hand, her mother exited the store. Fuming, Mara followed.
The moment they got home Mara jumped out of the car and ran into the backyard. Sinking down onto a stone bench covered with lichen, she scowled at the ground. She wasn’t spoiled. She knew that she hardly ever asked for anything, but she really, really, really, really wanted that necklace. Her mother didn’t listen to her. Her brother was annoying. She probably had the worst life in the whole world. Mara sighed. What really irritated her was that she knew that wasn’t true. Mara raised her head and looked around the peaceful backyard where she sat. Dusk was falling, and the plants were shrouded in blue-gray shadow. Mara spotted a big white flower lying on the ground near the ivy-smothered wall. As she knelt to pick it up Mara corrected herself. “White” hardly seemed to do it justice. The flower was silver, and in the center where the petals met and twined into a cup for the chalky pink pollen, the hues deepened into a warm sapphire blue. There were others like it, spread-eagled on the wet grass, but they were limp and the colors neither so beautiful nor so vibrant. Presumably, they came from the tree above, reaching over the wall from the neighbor’s garden. The sky darkened as Mara turned the flower over and over in her hands.
“Mara—dinner!” called her mother from the kitchen window. Mara stood and, as though following whispered directions, tucked the flower behind her ear. As she ascended the creaking steps of her porch, she glimpsed her reflection in the dark window—and caught her breath. The silvery flower glowed brightly in subtle contrast to her wavy brown hair. With the fireflies coming out, flickering on and off around her, and her pale leaf-green eyes, Mara thought she looked rather like a goddess, or perhaps some sort of sprite or tree nymph. She thought again of her golden necklace, only now it didn’t seem very important. Struggling to find the cause of this new apathy, Mara’s eyes left those of the nymph staring back at her and alighted on the silver flower fixed stunningly in her hair. The nymph’s coral lips curved into a knowing smile. The necklace, for all its gaudy gold, could never have given her pleasure or beauty like this.
“Mara!” called her mother again. “Your dinner is getting stone cold.” Mara gave her reflection one more angelic smile, before dashing into the house.