Saturday 18 June 2022

'A Hidden Gem' by Denise Bayes

A glimmer among the detritus of discarded lettuce leaves and crisp packets.

Iris sweeps the dining room floor, stretching the brush beneath the tables. In the corridor, kids bang their way back to class.

She leans on the broom handle, crouches forward, peers closer. Picks up a shimmering turquoise stone.

Sea glass.

She remembers seeing some in a shop window on the front in Scarborough. The surface rolls, smooth across her palm.

Watches it darken to intense sapphire blue.

Iris frowns at the magical transformation.

It switches once again, clouding to opalescent white.

“Changing like the sea,” Iris thinks.

 Shakes the poetry out of her head. Bloody nonsense. It must be like those plastic fish you find in Christmas crackers, that curl in the hand.

She tosses it back amongst the rest of the rubbish.

 It begins to move. Her eyes follow the pebble crawling out of the dustpan, leaping up into her palm.  

“Hey, that’s cool.”  

The voice surprises her. Tony, standing at her side, a bulging bag of rubbish from the kids’ lunches suspended in his arms. Smoky scents of released plastic drift around him.

He stares down into her open hand.

“Isn’t it one of those tiny turtles? I saw a programme about them on telly.”

Together the pair stare as minute emerald-green flippers peek from the crimped shell edge.

The fire doors burst open into the silence. A black-draped, backpack-weighted Year Eleven lad lurches in, trainers squeaking across the empty dining room towards them.

“Hey! Have you found my stone? I must have dropped it…”

 The teenager frowns at the creature cradled in the cleaner’s hand, shakes his head.  

“Never mind,” he huffs away.

As the fire doors bounce closed behind him, Iris lifts the tiny turtle.

Holds it tight to her heart.

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