Pretending(7)

By: Shanna Clayton



Still…this is Gwen. If I don’t give her some insight soon, it’s going to impact our friendship. “I’m not trying to make myself look ugly. It’s not a self image thing.” I make sure to clarify that part because it’s the truth. “I just want to stay...unnoticed.”

“Why?”

“Can’t we just leave it at that? For now?”

Or forever. Forever works even better.

Gwen watches me closely, thinking. I shuffle my feet, waiting for her to say something. “All right, I give in. We don’t have to talk about it today,” she adds. “Just…know that I’m here if you ever need me.”

Nodding, I let out a deep breath. Good friends say that sort of thing. It really is the most perfect thing to say. I’ll probably never want to bring this subject up again, but it’s nice knowing I have the option.

Gwen’s eyes light up and she grabs my arm. “I’ve got an idea.” She pulls me towards a case we’ve spent a lot of time gawking at in the past. Locked away beneath the square of glass is a necklace glittering with diamonds and rubies. At the base is a stunningly brilliant ruby in the shape of a heart.

The Zumina-al-Shimaz, or the Heart of the Beloved in English. It’s my favorite of all the Kent House pieces. I researched the necklace, searching online and through all of Harland’s old books, obsessively trying to find more information about it. When I couldn’t dig up anything, I invited the curator of a local museum over to visit. The curator recognized the ancient piece right away, a gleam in his eye, because the Kent men had uncovered a precious gem.

The necklace had been passed down through generations of sultans in ancient Arabia only to be lost sometime during the sixteenth century. It was tradition for each Sultan to give his favorite wife the necklace, claiming her as his beloved. Symbolically, it meant she who wore the Zumina-al-Shimaz held the sultan’s heart.

Gwen thinks the sultans were all pigs. When I told her about the tradition, her reply was, “Polygamy is a bullshit excuse for men to sleep around. Favoritism does not make it better, Doll. Think about how the other wives felt.”

She’s got a point, but I don’t care. It’s sort of romantic. According to legend, the creation of the necklace came about by a sultan who wanted to prove his loyalty to his fourth wife. The sultan’s previous marriages had been arranged, but it was the fourth he chose for himself and fell in love with. So he carved the ruby himself, letting the fourth wife know she was his heart’s true mate. It’s said that Allah was so moved by the sultan’s gesture, he blessed only the fourth wife to bear his children—which is the nicer way of saying she didn’t let the sultan mess around on her after that. Nothing says romantic like kicking your culture’s customs to the curb for love.

“So what’s your idea?” I ask Gwen, my eyes still roaming over the necklace.

Bouncing on the balls of her feet, she says, “I think you should wear it.”

I have to look her in the eye to see for myself if she’s really serious. “Are you crazy? I can’t wear that thing.”

“Why not? You could wear it to Charlotte’s party!”

“Graffiti Bash?” Okay now I know she’s lost it. “Yeah, let me go ahead and take a priceless necklace to a party where everyone vandalizes each other. Awesome idea.”

Gwen scrunches her lips to the side. “Good point. Didn’t think of that,” she admits. “Wait! What about that formal thingy you go to every year?”

She means the Pretty in Pink Ball, which helps raise money for breast cancer research. I never saw myself going to charity balls, but I go every year. I’m not even sure why; I’m extremely skeptical about cancer research. Bitter might be the appropriate word. It seems like the research never ends. No one ever finds a real cure. Even if they do, it’s too late to save my mom. It’s too late to save Harland.

I think I go as a sort of tribute. My two hundred bucks might not help find a cure, but it helps me remember my mom. It helps me honor her.

“So?” Gwen asks again. “Will you wear The Heart?”

“No,” I say, emphatically shaking my head. “It’s not mine.”

“Of course it is. Everything in this house is half yours.”

“It’s not half mine yet. Nothing is until Wesley and I both complete our bachelor’s degrees. Those are the terms of Harland’s will.”

Harland wanted Wesley and me to earn his fortune. As long as we both complete our degrees, we split everything equally, and then we can go on our merry ways.

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