DreamQuest (Out of Print)

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“Hey Tom, we’re all heading over to the Blue Moon after work. Join us?”

Jealousy burned in Amber Wilson’s stomach. Pretending not to hear the friendly banter outside her office door, she stuffed papers into her satchel for later review. Don’t invite the fat girl, she thought to herself. She doesn’t have any feelings.

Laughter and hurried footfalls of the five o’clock exit shook her office walls. At one point, Amber thought someone had hesitated outside her door. Her spirits lifted in hopes that one person, just one, might stop and ask her about her plans for the weekend, maybe care enough to invite her to join the others.

But the footsteps continued past, the hallway fell silent, and she remained alone. An all too familiar lump of anguish settled in her throat. Tears threatened. One would think she’d be used to rejection by now. She’d certainly had enough practice. She silently packed up work to finish at home.

July heat radiated off the wide downtown sidewalks, making the short walk to the parking garage a stroll through Hell. Hesitant to merge into the crowd of perspiration-soaked workers, Amber sought the path where the pavement joined the buildings and a thin line of shade lingered.

Just as a rivulet of sweat slipped down her back, an unexpected current of chill air wisped over her shoulder, luring her toward an antiquities store’s open doorway. Basking in the escaping air conditioning, Amber studied the contents of the display window.

“You see something you like?”

She glanced over to a withered old man leaning heavily on a cane just inside the doorway. At least, she thought it was a man. The body had no womanly attributes but the voice carried a husky feminine note, lending it a strange, seductive quality. He wore a faded turban that in another lifetime might have been a brilliant red.

“I was just looking at the rings,” Amber said with a quick glance back to the window. The man had to be a hundred, if he was a day.

“These rings, not for you,” he said, gesturing her inside the shop. “Come in. Come in. I show you something special.”

She hesitated, trying to remember if she had ever passed this window display before. Stores like this didn’t just appear overnight. Eventually, curiosity and the promise of relief from the heat carried her across the store threshold.

“Gaudy rings not for fine young fingers.” The strange man wove a path through dusty display cases filled with odd crystals and twisted figurines. His cane bumped several teetering stacks of leather-bound books. Amber, following the circuitous route behind the old man, dragged her finger across one of the books, uncovering gilded lettering and liberating a tiny cloud of dust. (Donna’s treasure is Magic trapped in Amber) She sneezed, sending more dust into the air. So much for the overnight theory, she sniffed, searching for a tissue. Dust like that takes years to accumulate.

The old man rummaged beneath a glass counter. His faded turban bobbed erratically with his search. Amber paused to admire a collection of clear glass orbs of various sizes. Paperweights, she supposed. The jumbled eclectic collection in this place could take hours to explore. “Lynn would love this stuff,” she murmured, deciding to bring her best friend back for a visit.

“I found it.” He called, barely straightening his rounded spine. The edge of a flat wooden box poked from beneath his arm. “This is your namesake,” he said, with a reverent smile. “Come see.”

The box unhinged with a stubborn creak. Amber stepped closer. There, on an inviting bed of black velvet, lay an amber amulet encircled by deep burnished gold.

“How did you know my name was Amber?” Her fingers darted out to touch the semi-precious stone.

“The necklace told me. Try it on.” Before she could press for details, the heavy pendant dangled before her, light dancing in the deep golden shadows.

“Something’s trapped in there.” She peered closer in the dim light. “A bug or something.”

“Or magic,” the little old man whispered, drawing out the word. “Try it on.”

DreamQuest

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