In a world masked with lies and deceit, only few will remain pure.
Sunray filtered through the dusty window pane of the little antiquity shop in Fleet Street. Sky high piles of books were stacked in the desk next to the window, gathering dust and withering with the slivers of sunlight that bounced off its covers. Each book was of varying age, but with a common resemblance: the tattering book covers and yellowing pages. The duster twirled over the books, sweeping down the dust onto the oak floorboards. A sweet, hummed melody accompanied the delicate strokes of the feather duster.
“Dear father, we have to put away these books, it is such a pity that they’re here, unprotected against the merciless weather,” the young woman holding the duster complained. She tossed her head at the silence that followed her remark. Curtains of dark hair dangled gracefully over her shoulder and pulled back from her face with hair pins of varying colors. Her eyes scanned the room for signs of her father, proprietor of the antiquity shop she had devoted her past few years working and documenting for him. The place was shabby and careless, to say the least. Every week, new “treasures” as her father had it arrived, in order to be documented and then picked up to take it to some museum for display.
“I heard you Hazel,” an old man emerged from behind a shelf containing rows and rows of traditional argon lamps. He had a parchment and a quill, checking off objects that were already documented. “We’ve been very busy with the lamps and trinkets we received last week. Those books are not our primary concern now, however I promise to get to them as soon as I’m done.”
“Why does Peter have to go off to Kensington knowing we still have much to do before taking it to the museum?” Hazel placed both hands on her hip.
“Your brother is a very busy historian now that he has his degree,” her father, Mr. Rosehall sounded very please. “I hope you follow his path.”
Hazel sighed; she avoided this conversation like the plague. Mr. Rosehall went into the store room to document more. The Rosehall family were acclaimed historians ever since Hazel had memory, and it was expected of Rosehall descendants to continue with the tradition. This antiquity shop was handed down from generation to generation to every Rosehall of London that had ever lived; it now belonged to Mr. Rosehall and soon to belong to her older brother, Peter Rosehall. Sometimes Hazel wished she could breach from the tradition and do something else with her life other than examine artifacts with magnifying lenses. Female historians were rare and an honor to be one, her father and brother had made that very clear.
Every day, she sat behind her working desk and examined the value and age of artifacts brought to her by the House of Parliament. They wanted England to have a good sense of their history once the artifacts were placed in the museum for display.
The wind chimes attached to the door rang, announcing a customer.
Hazel lifted her head and was surprised to see her brother standing in the doorway, with a wary expression. “Peter, what are you…”
Peter dashed forward, cupping her mouth with his hand, “shh, sister, I don’t want dad to know I’m here. I’m not supposed to be here, but I’m meeting someone very important today.”
“You came all the way from Kensington to talk to someone?” Hazel asked suspiciously. “Who are you going to talk to?”
“I cannot answer right now,” he said agitatedly, “listen, just trust me. Go into the store room and keep dad from coming out. I promise we’ll stay five minutes and then we’ll be gone.” He half pushed her forward, to the back of the shop. “Please Hazel, I promise I will explain later.”
Hazel, half convinced, made her way toward the back of the room. Peter watched her disappear behind more bookshelves, before turning around, waiting nervously for someone. Hazel made sure Peter was not watching her, before scuttling behind a dresser, in order to see and hear better.
The wind chimes echoed once again. A tall man dressed in a long gray coat and top hat walked inside and touched the brim of his hat. “Good afternoon, Peter.” He had the most grotesque face Hazel had ever seen, it had a long scar running down the right side of his face, the right eye was gone, replaced by pale skin stretching over the recently healed wound. She blinked several times to appease her restless heart.
Peter bowed once and briskly walked to the newcomer. They were whispering and Hazel couldn’t hear a thing. She noticed, however, from Peter’s anxious whispering, that he was in some sort of trouble. He had always had gambling problems ever since he turned into an adult. She crossed her fingers, hoping he was not in problems again.
“Peter, calm down,” the man in the coat dragged every syllable in his tongue, to which Peter begged to lower his voice. “I have everything sort out. You shall be safe, I vow that.”
Peter’s shoulder dropped in relief, “we have to go now. My family cannot know of my visit.”
The man sneered, “don’t you think it’s ironical, Peter boy, that a historian who has to uncover secrets is hiding secrets himself?”
Peter’s body tensed, “the less they know, the safer they’ll be.” Both men exited the shop and Hazel was plunged into dust and silence once again. She emerged from her hiding place, her heart screaming in her chest for some understanding.
“Who was that Hazel?” Mr. Rosehall asked, startling Hazel, “I heard the door open a couple of times. Were they the loyal librarians?”
Hazel regained composure and smoothed down the creases of her dress from when she knelt down. “No father,” Hazel said. Her father’s curious gaze lay upon her, eager to know more details.
“The less they know, the safer they’ll be.” Peter’s words were echoing off the walls of her mind.
“They were just customers interested in some of these books,” she pointed to the pile next to her, “I told them we weren’t selling them yet.”
“Ahh,” Mr. Rosehall said. “Too bad we cannot sell them. We need more space.” He chuckled and went back to his workspace.
Hazel stared at the glass door, wondering what was happening to her crystal-clear world.