‘I want a refund.’
Angel Fitzgerald stood at the counter of Bezzina’s Emporium of Magical Artefacts and Antiquities, clutching a large object partially wrapped in pink tissue. The assistant behind the counter, the short girl with miles of hair, eyed the offending product. ‘I’ll need to see a receipt and the label, please, ma’am.’
Angel threw them on the counter triumphantly. The assistant read both twice.
‘You’re well within your thirty-day return period, but I’m confused about why you’re here. What exactly is the problem with your mirror?’
‘May I?’ The assistant nodded to the tissue. Angel shrugged and stood back as the assistant tugged off the rest of the wrapping and examined the mirror closely. Then she peered into the glass, blinking at it for several seconds.
‘See?’ Angel burst out. ‘Broken.’
‘Hm. I don’t think… ma’am, I don’t think this is broken at all.’ The assistant adjusted her large, mustard-coloured cable knit cardigan, which Angel felt was almost as offensive as her lack of customer service. A second or two ticked by and Angel realised she was waiting for Angel to say something.
‘I want to speak to your manager.’
‘I’m afraid he’s on a yoga retreat.’
‘Then I want to speak to the girl who sold it to me.’
‘She’s on her break. Just one moment…’ the assistant disappeared into a back room and returned thirty seconds later with another teenage girl. Although better dressed than the first, she seemed equally oblivious to the mirror’s obvious faults when she inspected it.
‘This is as I sold it to you, ma’am, with the label attached and everything. There’s no reason I can see to refund you.’
‘You,’ Angel spat, ‘sold me a broken artefact.’
‘The Dorian Gray? Ma’am, the Dorian Gray reflects what’s in front of it.’
‘But… but… Arabella and I…’
The assistants looked at each other. They were a little mismatched—short and grungy, one willowy and chic—but they both seemed to be waiting for something.
Three Weeks Earlier
Having purchased from Bezzina’s Emporium of Magical Artefacts and Antiquities several times over the years, Angel Fitzgerald had a good idea of what would suit her daughter for her eighteenth birthday: a ballgown or pair of shoes that imbued the wearer with poise or knowledge; a champagne flute that never emptied; a bangle that warned the wearer when danger was nearby (but still looked good with any outfit). Anything that would work as a nice companion to Arabella’s main gifts, which were a custom-plated Mercedes and a fortnight in Barbados.
‘We don’t actually take orders for items,’ the shop assistant said doubtfully when Angel voiced her requests at the counter. Angel hadn’t seen her before: she had enormous periwinkle eyes and a chalky complexion, with cheekbones that could have modelled for Vogue. Dressed in a blazer and dark jeans that Angel, a purveyor of the finest vintage clothes, recognised as excellent finds, she seemed at odds with this cramped little shop. If Angel had been the sort of person to consider other people’s lives, she would have wondered why someone with such an impeccable sense of style was working in a run-down magical antiques shop off Southend high street. She wasn’t, though, so she asked, ‘What would make my daughter’s birthday unforgettable?’
The assistant walked around the shop. ‘We have a jewellery box that requires its owner’s fingerprint to open—’
‘We already have a safe.’
‘These earrings bring the wearer financial luck—’
‘Do you have them in something that isn’t pearl?’
‘No. This necklace—’
‘Is made of jade. Which won’t suit Arabella’s complexion at all.’
Angel circled the shop herself, tugging dresses off hangars and inspecting the underside of boxes and vases.
‘What’s this?’ Angel had spotted something shiny and silver on a shelf next to a trinket dish.
‘It’s a mirror.’
‘I know it’s a mirror. What does it do?’ Aesthetically, it wasn’t Arabella’s usual style. An oval looking glass with a plain silver frame, the bottom was engraved with latet enim veritas, sed nihil pretiosius veritate in an elegant script. It looked like the sort of thing you found in the bedrooms of recently deceased elderly ladies.
‘We call it the Dorian Gray,’ the assistant said. ‘It shows the viewer the inside of their soul. It’s on a detachable frame for use on shelves or dressers, but there’s also a hook at the back to put it on the wall.’
‘I’ll take it.’
‘Are you sure?’ the assistant asked. ‘We recommend you read the label before making a purchase.’
Reflects the soul of the observer. Not for consumption alongside mind-altering substances, magical or otherwise. The mirror will only work to its full power when reflecting one human person. Note the reflection is only visible to the person it depicts, for privacy reasons.
‘I’ll take it. How much is it?’
‘Two hundred and fifty pounds,’ the assistant said as she extracted the mirror from the shelf.
‘Do you gift wrap?’
‘No. You have thirty days to return anything, unused, with the receipt and in the correct packaging, as long as it isn’t damaged. Bezzina’s Emporium of Magical Artefacts and Antiquities bears no responsibility for any unpleasant or unsettling experiences induced by our products, as the origin and intended effects of each product is clearly indicated on the label.’
The Present Day
The silence in the shop was beginning to get uncomfortable, even for Angel.
‘This mirror is exactly as I sold it to you,’ the tall girl said after a minute. ‘Ma’am, excuse me for asking, but is it possible your daughter just didn’t see what she expected to?’
‘But I saw it too.’
The assistants looked at one another again.
‘Bezzina’s Emporium of Magical Artefacts and Antiquities bears no responsibility for any unpleasant or unsettling experiences induced by our products, as the origin and intended effects of each product is clearly indicated on the label,’ the grungy one said. ‘That’s printed on your receipt, and I know my colleague will have said it before you made your purchase. Unfortunately, ma’am, we can’t refund you based on what you saw in the mirror.’
‘I will come back when your manager has returned from his retreat!’ Angel snapped. She could not believe that two girls younger than Arabella had the gall to refuse her statutory rights. There would be a bad Facebook review from this, if she could find Bezzina’s on Facebook.
‘He won’t be back until Monday week. By then, your thirty days will be up,’ she said smoothly. ‘But you are of course welcome to come back when he’s around. Think of it this way, ma’am. Your reflection might have changed by then.’
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