Many people use eBay and similar sites to purchase bargains. This frivolous story is a believe-it-or-not story, about one such purchase.
I slip the bulky bracelet onto my slender wrist, fasten it, and set the timer button on the side for nine-fifty nine. I pull down my sleeve, hiding its existence.
Leaving the house, I imagine people’s thoughts if they spotted the bracelet on my wrist.
‘What a loser!’
‘No level-minded person would believe such crap!’
‘Hah, some people are just so easily conned, eh?’
‘No matter how desperate I was, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing one of those.’
‘That’s just sad.’
But the unfortunate part is, I agree with them.
Strolling towards the supermarket, my library books in a tote bag, bouncing against my hip. I yank the sleeve over my hand and grip the end with my fingers.
The bracelet, a belated birthday gift from my well-intentioned sister.
‘The Love Bracelet. Everyone deserves love, everyone deserves to find their soul-mate. The force of the magnetic discs embedded in the bracelet will attract you to your soul-mate. This is our promise to you,’ so read the advert of this new genius device.
Hah, who’s to say your soul-mate would also have a love bracelet and would be wearing it at the same time as you, my rational self, questions.
‘Open it, I know you’re going to love it,’ my sister Cassie, gushed the day she gave it to me.
I fumbled with the wrapping and opened the box. I knew immediately, this bracelet was one of those, having done my own, lonely-early-morning-hour-internet-search. I knew these bracelets weren’t cheap.
‘Oh, that’s really, um, thoughtful of you, Cassie, but I can’t accept it. These things are costly, aren’t they?’
‘No, not this one. I brought it on eBay, never been used. A bargain. The seller assured me he’d found ‘the one’ before he had a chance to use it.’
How touching that my loving sister, concerned for my well-being, my happiness would be so generous as to give me a gift with such promise. Yeah, at the right price.
‘I can’t, I can’t wear it. I’d feel like a complete loser.’
‘What have you got to lose? Nothing else has worked, has it? Not the speed-dating, the drunken nights hanging out at bars, not the swiping left or right on your phone, the internet dating sites. How many blind dates have you had in the past year, since breaking-up with Steven? Thirty-six, and alone, Fiona, time is running out.’
‘Yeah, thanks for the reminder.’
‘Awgh, Sis, I just want you to have what Gareth and I have. You deserve it.’
Cassie and Gareth exist in their own love-bubble, unable to make even minor decisions without a discussion with the other, and often a lengthy conversation at that. My sister has the kindest heart of any person I know. She will do anything for others, albeit with Gareth’s approval. When they’re together, which is practically always, their eyes are locked in total adoration, and little silver arrows ping through the air.
Seven years, Steven and I were together. Seven years of making plans, buying our do-up home together, with nothing done on it as yet, supporting one another in our chosen careers, then it ended. Wonder-woman Wanda waltzed nonchalantly into Stevens life, blowing our bubble to smithereens. I’m still extracting the splinters from my shattered soul.
And, no, I didn’t slink away gracefully.
‘You got the house, Fiona. That was generous of Steven. You should be grateful for that at least,’ my sister reasoned.
Yeah, right, a do-up house does not compare to Wanda’s plush penthouse suite.
When Steven first left, I’d phone him on some pretext or other.
‘The bathroom tap is dripping. Could you come over and change the washer?’
He sent the plumber. The tap was not dripping.
‘Do you remember where we put that old set of encyclopedia, the ones we brought at the car-boot sale that time? I’ve looked everywhere.’
‘You gave them to your sister, I’m sure you remember.’
‘There’s a loose batten on the back fence, I don’t suppose you could…’
He hung up.
The next time I rang, the number had been disconnected.
I swore I’d never resort to what I did next. Dining at that up-market restaurant the same evening as Steven and Wanda were there, I swear it was coincidental. I only ordered an entrée, the place was super-expensive. Shopping in the supermarket across town? Another coincidence, I just happened to be in the area and needed certain items. Rubbish bags and five cans of tuna, the tuna was on special. All five cans of tuna are still in my pantry, untouched. I don’t eat tuna. And as for jogging in the park at six o’clock in the morning, exercise has never been my thing and bumping into the pair of them looking ever so radiant, while I looked… Hmm, I’ll leave that to your imagination. At least Steven did acknowledge me that morning.
‘Fiona, this has to stop, you have to move on, get out of our lives. What you’re doing is sad and pathetic. Don’t do this to yourself.’
I stumbled to a nearby park bench and bawled.
A pleasant young constable delivered the restraining order, later that day.
Nine-fifty nine, I feel the tingle on my wrist as the bracelet is activated, just as the instructions said it would. Perhaps this will work, I muse, striding confidently into Sammy’s Quick-mart, failing to notice the pyramid of tinned tomatoes beside the shopping baskets. Bending to extract a basket, my elbow nudged a can.
As the cans tumble to the floor, I briefly consider exiting the store. On my hands and knees, I begin retrieving the rolling tins. I’ve forgotten all about the ridiculous bracelet on my wrist.
‘Here, let me help you,’ a silky voice whispers.
I tilt my head slightly upwards, and there he is, Mr Silky Voice, kneeling on the floor, reaching for cans. I register his bright emerald eyes, thick, wavy silver-grey hair and an amused grin.
‘Clumsy me. I was distracted,’ my heart thumps.
‘It happens to us all.’
As other shoppers step around us, we gather the cans and place them to the side of the aisle.
‘Gerald? What on earth are you doing down there? Get up now!’
‘Ah, Gloria, a slight accident,’ he scrambles to his feet. ‘I’m helping this young lady…’
‘Yes, I knocked over the cans, and your husband is kindly helping me to pick them up,’ I stand, extend my hand to the well-coiffured lady in spindly high heels. ‘Hi, I’m…’ She ignores my gesture.
‘I’m ready to go, Gerald. Carry these,’ Gloria barks, thrusting two bulgy shopping bags at Gerald. He throws me an apologetic look as he hurries from the store after Gloria.
‘Oh look, on her wrist, it’s one of those love bracelets, isn’t it?’ a young girl in the check-out line is pointing at me, at my arm. I glance at my arm. The bracelet is exposed in all it’s glorious ugliness.
‘Oh yeah, that’s hilarious, I never thought I’d ever see anyone actually wear one,’ her companion responds, a smirk on her face. Their laughter follows me as I hurriedly exited the store.
Seeking refuge at a table, in a secluded corner of the library, I bow my head in the pretence of reading the book I’ve randomly taken from the shelf. ‘Ten simple ways to train your cat.’ With the laughter of those girls still ringing in my head, I decide the bracelet must go. I must lose it. Raising my head, I look around. No one is close by. Furtively, I attempt to undo the catch on the bracelet inside my sleeve. My thumbnail isn’t quite long enough to force the clasp to open. I twist my arm this way and that, bracing the bracelet against the table. Finally, the clasp clicks and the bracelet drops to the floor. I reach under the chair, retrieve the bracelet and poke it under the cat book on the table.
I grab my tote bag and head towards the door.
‘Miss, miss, I think this must be yours,’ an urgent voice follows me. I keep walking.
‘Miss, your bracelet. I found it under the book your were reading at the table,’ hurried footsteps behind me are closing in.
I push the door open, ready to sprint away. A firm hand grabs my shoulder. I spin around. ‘Yours, I believe?’ An older snowy-head gentleman smiles at me, dangling the bracelet. ‘Now you don’t want to go losing this, I’m sure. Rather unusual, isn’t it? And quite heavy. Is it one of those medic alert bracelets?’
‘No, yes, maybe, I don’t know,’ I stutter.
‘You don’t know?’ a look of puzzlement on his face.
‘Yes, it is a medic alert bracelet.’
‘Thought so. No need to feel ashamed, my dear. Lots of people wear them. This one is a bit different from others I’ve seen.’
‘ Yes, it’s a new model, so my doctor says. Thank you for finding it,’ I say, reaching for the infernal thing.
He grabs my wrist, ‘Let me help you put it back on, eh? Can’t let you risk a medical misadventure, now can we, deary?’
I walk towards home, no groceries, no library books, and no soul-mate in tow. As I near my door, I see the lace curtain in my neighbour’s window twitch. A withered hand waves. I groan internally. Head down, I hasten up my path towards my door, pretending not to have seen Dorothy. Fumbling with my door key, she swings open her front door. For such a frail old woman, she sure can move quickly when she wants to.
‘Ah, Fiona. I’m glad I’ve caught you,’ she’s clutching her scruffy, snarly little dog close to her chest. ‘It’s my Bertie, he’s in desperate need of a walk, and my arthritis is playing up something dreadful today. Would you be a dear?’
‘Oh, I have…’
‘Doesn’t need to be a long walk, just a bit of fresh air for my sweetie. Bertie would be so grateful,’ Dorothy buries her face in the dog’s straggly fur. ‘You know Bertie absolutely adores you.’
‘I’ll get my jacket and scarf,’ I say, looking skywards to the looming dark clouds.
I go indoors, take my jacket and scarf from the hook and unclasp the bracelet, leaving it on the hall table.
Leaves whisk in the wind as Bertie and I walk towards the park at the end of the street. He scampers after the leaves, tugging on the short lead, yaps at a cat, sniffs a crusty mound of dog faeces in the grass. I pull him away, he snarls at me.
At the park, I release Bertie from his lead. He bounces across the grass, runs around the trees, yaps at flying birds, slows down and sniffs the ground, then with a flurry, he’s off again. I straggle along the path, calling his name. Bertie ignores me. Ahead on the track, a silver-haired man is leading a well-groomed white poodle. The pair walk sedately. The man, his head bowed appears to be engrossed in the phone in his hand. Bertie bounds towards them.
‘Bertie, Bertie,’ I shout. ‘Come here now!’ Bertie ignores me.
Reaching the poodle, Bertie runs around the pair in decreasing circles. The man pauses, sliding his phone into his trouser pocket. Bertie yaps loudly, and the poodle bats a foreleg at the annoying Bertie. I break into a run, shouting.
‘Bertie, stop!’ I scream.
The poodle chases Bertie, winding his lead around the man’s legs, barking at Bertie. The man bends, attempts to pat the exuberant Bertie and calm his own canine.
‘Bertie, stop now,’ my voice is hoarse.
The man topples sideways and lands on the grass verge. Both dogs cease their antics, and the poodle licks the man’s face.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I pant breathlessly, and kneeling, click Bertie’s lead on his collar.
The man sits up and begins to unwind the lead from around his ankles. ‘Ah, it’s you, hello again. Are you in the habit of toppling things over?’ he laughs, continuing to unwind the lead.
‘No, not usually, I’m not having a good day, and Bertie’s not my dog. He belongs to my elderly neighbour who has arthritis and, and he’s not the best-behaved dog as you can see,’ I gabble.
‘Gerald,’ he says, offering his hand.
‘Yes, I remember,’ I say, taking his hand. ‘Fiona.’
‘And this is Polly, my sister Gloria’s dog, also not very well behaved.’
‘Gloria is your sister? I thought she was… .’
Gerald, released from the lead, scrambles to his feet, offers his hand, and pulls me upright.
A clap of thunder booms. ‘Hah, that sounds ominous. What say we grab a coffee at that cafe the other side of the park?’
‘That would be lovely, and I’m buying,’ I insist.
With the dogs on their leads, Gerald and I stride briskly to the end of the park. Gerald takes my hand into mine. My hand tingles.
‘Okay?’ he asks.
I nod. An image of the ugly bracelet sitting on my hall table flashes through my mind. I’ll repost it on eBay, I think to myself, and advertise as never been used.