* * *
Gisele hunched her shoulders as the cold, bitter wind blew through the fabric of her windbreaker. She knew it was too cold for it, but she's been in a rush when she'd left the house and hadn't grabbed anything more substantial. The last thing she had wanted then was to be in a house with Mark any longer, not after finding a string of love notes in email and IM messages to “Jessica”, a woman whom Gisele could only imagine to be a horrid little thing who delighted in ruining the lives of others. The cold would be less suffering than that.
Eventually the wind became too much, and Gisele ducked into the front of the next store that she came to. The sign above the door read “Geomancy”. Gisele wasn't sure that meant, but paid it no mind. She just needed to get out of the cold for a moment, and it was as good a store as any. “Brutal out there, isn't it?” the girl behind the cash register asked her as she entered the shop.
“Yeah, it's pretty bad,” Gisele said as she turned around to look at the girl behind the counter. She had a look on her face that showed that she wanted to ask Gisele why she wasn't wearing a thicker coat, but had enough tact to not say anything.
“It's a long story,” Gisele offered.
“Well, take your time, do some window shopping,” the girl offered. “The weather outside means it's going to be pretty quiet in here today, and frankly I could use the company.”
Gisele started to look at the items arranged on the shelf next to the door. There were a series of oddly-shaped statues along the shelf. They didn't look like anything Gisele had seen before - little collections of loops and waves, handshaped out of clay and having a shape that seemed instantly alien and familiar. “What are these?” she asked as she picked one of them up.
“Better be careful with those,” the girl said, jumping over the counter.
“Oh, sorry, are they expensive?”
“No, that's not it at all. You'd think they would be, because they were dug up from an archeological site in Babylon. But they're sandstone, so they're not very durable, which drives the price down a little. Also we have to sell them cheap because a lot of people get a little freakout out at the idea of owning a soul catcher.”
“Soul catchers?” Gisele asked. “You mean, like dream catchers?”
“Uh, kind of,” the girl said, wrinkling her nose. “Only with, you know, souls. Legend has it that if you used it correctly you could trap someone's soul and force it to walk the endless paths of its surface, and while their soul was trapped they had to do your bidding.”
Gisele tried to read the girl's face, but couldn't tell from it whether she honestly beleived that or was trying to put one over on her. Either way, she uneasily put the soul catcher back down on the shelf; Gisele wasn't entirely sure she believed in souls, but she wasn't entirely sure that she didn't believe in them, either.
“My name's Marisa, by the way,” the shopgirl said, extending a hand that Gisele promptly shook, introducing herself as she did.
“So, are you sure you don't want to talk about what he did?” Marisa asked. “We've got a kettle in the back room – I can make you some tea or something and you can let it all out.”
Gisele looked at her quizically.
“Sorry, I just assumed there was a him,” Marisa said. “It happens every once in a while – woman comes in, horribly underdressed for the weather, with that look in her eyes like you had when you came in – usually there's a him.”
Gisele smiled. “There sort of is – it's a long story,” she explained. “Maybe that tea would be a good idea.”
“Okay,” Marisa said, bouncing into the back to turn the kettle on. “It'll just be a couple of minutes.”
As soon as the girl was out of sight, Gisele picked up the soul catcher again. Its surface had seemed dull at first, but the more she looked at it, the more intriguing and captivating it appeared to her. She was mesmerized by it, and quickly slipped it into her pocket. She still wasn't quite sure what she thought of it, but if it worked it would be the perfect way of getting back at Mark. If not it would at least make for a fun paperweight.
As Marisa seemed fully occupied in her tea making, Gisele started to head towards the door. It had been years since she had shoplifted, but she felt like she needed this thing, and her purse was back with her coat.
Then the smell of oolong tea started to waft into the room, and she stopped moving. She was taken back to the nights in university that she had spent studying and drinking oolong tea to stay awake. The nights before Mark and his lies.
She took the small piece of sandstone out of her pocket and put it back on the shelf. “Do you need any help in there?” she called to Marisa as she headed to the back of the store.