Starfish

 starfish

The girl’s small. Her hair is endless and black. Cascading her back. Yards of it. She comes into the stand and turns. Her head just reaches over the table. Her fingers are tiny stars. Flitting over the surface of things. Sunshine snaps at her fingernails. Breaks there. Her wrists twist away. She wants to play with everything. She moves her digits over the cloths and the tables. Her mother comes up behind her. Takes her fingers. Stops her. Whispers something. Tries to steer her away. The girl moves off towards the gold cabinet. Her eyes are dark, restless. Her fingers flit again. Her mother follows her. Tries to contain her. It doesn’t work. The girl moves again. She returns to the first place. The entrance. Her fingers flit again. This time, they discover the pearls. She picks up the bracelets and the beads. The mother comes up a third time.

“Please, that’s enough.”

“No.”

The girl goes back to the pearls. There are little studs inside a shell. Green, blue, red, cream, white, silver. She twists over these now. Her fingers lifting. She drops them suddenly. Handfuls descend. Scatter. Bounce over the cloth.

“Stop,” the mother says.

This time the mother grabs the girl’s hands. She twists. Tries to release herself. The mother holds fast. Pearl studs are still rolling. I move over to them.

“I’m sorry,” the mother says.

“It’s OK,” I say.

I rummage over the studs. Collect them up. Gather them in my palms and drop them into the shell. The girl watches me. Her face seems crushed. Restless.

“She has a thing about sparkly stuff.”

“Right”

“It’s sort of constant.”

I look down at the girl. She has faraway look. A disconnect. As if she can look through things. Her mother holds her but she doesn’t seem to belong with her. Or even with herself. Her eyes go back to the pearls. I pick up a green pair. Freshwater. They have a small chip. Some damage.  I pass them down to the girl. She takes them quickly. Smuggles them into her hand. Then she breaks from the mother’s grip. The mother looks tired. Overwhelmed.

“How much are they?”

“They’re damaged,” I say.

The girl opens and closes her palm. Her fingers are not like stars now.  Her hand is a starfish. She looks at the pearls. Her mouth pulls back sideways. The first time, I see it. She smiles.

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