Orphan

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Jennifer sat quiet in the front pew, eyes forward, emotion hidden from her expression. Her feet barely brushed the ground as they dangled from her seat. In front of her, at the alter, old people gathered, said words, some cried, some laughed. Jennifer heard none of it. The words were numb in her ears. Her eyes were fixed on the body.

The talking was done. She stood in a line and waited her turn to pay her respects. She walked past the the tall stocks of foxglove. The purples and white perennials smelled sweet and out of place.

It was her turn. She stopped in front of the casket. No tears, just wonder. The body inside hardly looked like it had before the tumors. This one was thin as bones. Something Jennifer was sure she would have appreciated if not for the sickness that made it so. The hair looked plastic. Jennifer shuddered.

Someone placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned to look, and saw an older gentleman. The woman in the coffins father.

“I’m sorry, dear,” he said.

Jennifer turned back to the body.

“It won’t be easy, being an orphan. But just know that your mother is at piece now. And I’ll take care of you.”

“I know,” she whispered.

She withdrew a small barrette from her pocket. She kissed it, and placed the topaz trinket in her mother’s hand.

“Isn’t that your favorite?” he asked.

“I want her to have it,” she said.

Jennifer turned away and walked down the aisle. But she didn’t stop. Down the stairs of the church, around the corner, down another street, she kept going. Once out of site, she began to skip merrily. A smile lit her face as her tresses bounced in the warm summer air.

People smiled as the saw her. The little girl so full of joy. They didn’t know where she had come from, or what had happened before that. It was her secret to keep.

Two more streets down she found the store she was looking for. From the outside, it appeared to be a thrift shop. On the inside, however, it was more of a worldly curio provider. She hummed a small melody as she went inside.

An old hound raised its head as she entered. Sleepily, seeing she was no threat, he laid it back down in a huff and resumed his nap. The dog was the only life in sight. She knew that the proprietor was here, however. He was a hermit, and only reviled himself if he felt a sale imminent.

The space was filled with shelves. Objects that had long ago lost their luster, old books, and wooden items took up their share. There was a glass counter in the middle. An antique register sat upon it under a thick layer of dust.

She removed a lollipop from the counter and began to unwrap it.

“Hey, you have to pay for that!” a voice erupted from a back room.

She smiled.

“I’m going to. I just wanted a little candy,” she said.

From her small black purse, she produced a handful of bills. She peeled off one and handed it to the clerk. He looked suspiciously at her as he took it.

“Are you sure that you only want candy?” he asked.

“It depends,” she said.

“Well, let’s see what we can find for a little girl such as yourself.”

He picked up a white object from the counter. It looked like a giant, long tooth.

“Do you know what this is, my dear?” he asked.

“No.”

“This is a whalebone,” he said.

He turned it around to reveal a drawing on the other side.

“This is called scrimshaw. This drawing tells of a place with monsters. But also, eternal youth,” he said.

“It’s a fake.”

He acted offended.

“What? This is hundreds of years old. How dare you say it’s fake,” he said.

“I know because I already followed that map, and it got me nowhere,” she said.

Her voice sounded familiar to the old man. Not in tone, but inflection. Far to big for such a little girl.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“You really don’t recognize me?” she asked.

He swallowed hard and shook his head.

“Well, I’ll tell you who I’m not. I’m not Jennifer. That little brat escaped my loins ten years ago, and everything has been about her sense. Even when I was dying, it was all about, ‘what’s going to happen to Jennifer?’ Ugh. Well, I’ll tell you what happened to Jennifer. She was the perfect vessel for me. And that’s all she was,” the girl gloated.

His eyes shot wide.

“Vivica?” he asked.

“That’s right. And I’ve found a way to get myself another twenty years before age is an issue again. By then, I’ll have another vessel.”

“Then, the Djinn?” he asked.

“Worked like a charm. Well, he couldn’t cure me and he couldn’t give me eternal life in my former body. But I found a work around. I get two more request from him. I’ll figure out how to phrase everything just right before I run out.”

“So your daughter is?”

Jennifer walked over to a wall mirror and began admiring her new body.

“Gone. Poof. I don’t know what happened to her. Frankly, I don’t care.”

“My god, woman, you’ve got acid in your veins.”

“Hey, I gave her this life. It was mine to take back. And I couldn’t have done it without you,” she said.

The shopkeeper felt sickened and terrified as he watched her giggle at her own reflection. Remorseless. Childlike. Evil.

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