Soo, this is admittedly getting posted late. Whoops!
I can’t help it, I’ve been reading, okay?
So, Tuesday’s prompt was “Arthur Cloreo”. My initial instinct was that Arthur was an antiques dealer, and I wanted to tie this back to the Darlingo prompt. Then, as I started considering it more, I wanted to tie Mr. Cloreo to an object. A photo. A momento. So, I hope you like what I came up with.
I am beginning to really like Dee, really hate Meredith, and…I hope you enjoy Lolli as much as I did. He and Dee might be making other appearances soon.
Prompt: Arthur Cloreo
The door above the door of Junque Junction jingled as Meredith and I stepped into the cool, dimly lit interior. Meredith immediately sneezed and I rolled my eyes. A gentleman, and I don’t use that term loosely, looked up from where he seemed to be highlighting various ads in newspaper. He looked weirdly young to be in an antique shop (pot, kettle, black) and the suspenders attached to his pants made him look like a total hipster. At the same time, as I caught this cloud-grey eyes, I knew I’d spotted a kindred, as my Grandmother said, Old Soul.
“Ladies,” he said coolly. “Can I help you find anything?”
“God no.” Meredith sneezed again. I once again pondered why I brought her anywhere. Sigh.
“Are you Lolli?” I asked.
He raised an eyebrow. “I am. You are?”
“Oh, I’m Dee,” I introduced myself, feeling a little foolish. “This rude asshole is Meredith.” I gritted my teeth. Cursing while speaking to someone I hardly knew was vulgar and I knew it. “Sorry. Uh, we were told to say that Rae said hello.”
“Ah,” he turned back to his newspaper. “You went to my sister’s shop.”
“Rae is your sister?” Meredith sounded surprised.
“She didn’t mention that?” Lolli’s voice was dry and unsurprised. “She has the exciting sex toy business and her brother takes care of the boring family antique store. I don’t blame her of course.” He paused for a moment. “That seems a strange combination of shopping. No judgments.”
“It’s my birthday,” I said, as though that explained things.
“She’s eighteen today,” Meredith added helpfully.
Lolli hummed. He circled another newspaper listing with his highlighter. “I see. Well, you’re welcome to wander. There are some interesting new pieces in the paper paraphernalia. Some vintage post cards and photographs.”
“Ugh,” Meredith sighed. “I’ll just wander around here at the front. You can go on your little treasure hunt, Dee.”
I slipped through the cramped aisles of Junque Junction. There were always interesting things to see. Some trash, some items that I would swear were overprice, but occasionally…I’d see something that was just so oddly unique and within my price range that I couldn’t resist.
I was looking at a display of vintage cologne bottles; some still partially or even completely filled with their ancient and probably rancid scent, when I saw the photograph. It was in a silver plated frame that had to have dated back to the twenties at least. The face that stared out was…oddly familiar. The photo was as old as the frame and the man wore a trilby hat. While the photo was only from the waist up, his white shirt was open and his pinstripe jacket was hooked on his index finger, flung over his shoulder. Looked at the camera like a 90’s Abercrombie model. I picked it up, turning the frame over in my hands.m
“Find something you like?”
I jumped as I realized how close Lolli had gotten. How I hadn’t noticed him approaching over the creaking floor, I had no idea.
“I’m not sure.” I turned the frame back around to stare down at the photo again.
“Ah, you found Mr. Cloreo.”
“Arthur Cloreo. He was the original owner of this store, before my parents bought it,” Lolli’s eyes rolled back, “gosh, I was only like eight, so about fifteen years ago?”
I couldn’t help but do the mental math. Lolli was only twenty-three.
“You have a picture of the original owner lying around the store?”
“His ashes are tucked away around here somewhere too.” Lolli looked contemplative. “It seems like they reappear at random. I forget about them until I spot them somewhere…usually where a display might need to be dusted, or rearranged, or if I’m trying to place something in the store and not sure where it will go. It’s like he’ll show me.” He looked down fondly at the picture. “I’m surprised that has stuck around though. It’s a nice picture. And a nice frame.”
I hated how my heart did a little flutter as his lips twitched in a suppressed smile.
“Which one caught your eye? The cute boy or the pretty frame?”
“Can’t it be both?” I asked, trying to keep my voice as deadpan as I could.
He didn’t hide his smile. “I’m not sure how Mr. Cloreo would feel to go home with a pretty girl. I’m pretty sure he was gay. It was his business partner,” he finger quoted, “that sold the shop to my parents. It was a stipulation of his will that his ashes remain. A lot of his inventory and personal items ended here as part of the sale too.”
“Strange,” I looked down at the face again, trying to discern more from the image, “to think of someone devoting their life to objects and essentially becoming one themselves.”
“That’s one way to think of it,” Lolli agreed. They both stared at the face for a moment before he hitched in a breath. “Oh, your friend is being extremely rude about the porcelain doll collection and keeps asking if any of them are haunted. She doesn’t seem to believe me when I insist that, no they are not.”
I sighed. Leave it to Meredith to ruin Junque Junction for me.
“I’m so sorry.” I started to replace the frame.
“You’re not going to take him with you? I was just teasing.” He frowned. “Well, not about him being gay.” He reached out a hand, and I watched him touch a large, simple silver urn that I hadn’t noticed on the shelf under the photo. “I think he’d like to go home with you.”
I probably should have felt spooked, but I didn’t. I looked back down into the face, and…strangely, I felt like he wanted to come home with me too.
“Yeah. I’d love to look around more, but Meredith is the literal worst.” I rolled my eyes.
“You go everywhere with her?” Lolli asked.
“No. I hate going anywhere with her, but I also didn’t want to go to Darlingo alone,” I felt myself start to ramble. “Not that I wanted to go to Darlingo anyway, but Mer has a way of getting under your skin. I really would have preferred to spend the day going around to places like this.”
“Antique stores, thrift shops, second-hand stores,” I said.
“You like old and gently used then?”
I shrugged. “I like places where all the objects tell a story. Like this.” She held up the photo. “Mr. Cloreo. I wonder what he was like when he was this age. Who took the photo? Was it for someone special? Doesn’t it look a little too posed even though he looks very casual?”
Lolli nodded. “I get it. I’ve spent most of my life going with my parents to estate sales and shit like that. Sometimes you see something that just seems to have a certain kind of energy that you can’t resist.”
There was one of those long, dramatic freezes and I noticed how close Lolli had gotten to me. My breath hitched in my throat and I had the brief inkling of wondering what his penis looked like –then my face flushed red and I took a step away from him.
“Anyway, I’d be happy to give Mr. Cloreo a new view,” I stammered. “How much?”
Lolli considered for a moment. “Nothing. Happy birthday, Dee.”
“Yeah,” he nodded another smile. “As long as you promise to come back again, soon. Without her.” He motioned toward the front of the store where I heard Meredith sneezing again.
“I…if I come back, how can I be sure I’ll see you and not your parents?”
“Ah,” he nodded, “my parents are in the UK this summer. Buying pieces. I’m keeping shop and doing the local buying. So, if the shop is open, I’m here.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a crisp white business card. “Here. If you want, you can call ahead and make sure we’re open. Sometimes, I have to close up to do auctions and the like.”
I looked down at the card. Leonard Darling was printed in rich black text followed by Junque Junction Antique Emporium – Buyer, a string of numbers, an e-mail address, and a website. Then I looked back up at him.
“Your last name is Darling?”
“Yes? Why does that surprise you? You went to my sister’s shop. She wasn’t very creative about it with that extra letter.”
“So it’s not Darlin’ Go or Darling O?”
Lolli repeated the pronunciations softly. “Hearing it, I don’t know. Maybe she was trying to be clever.” He bit his bottom lip. “Anyway, yes, my name is Darling. And before you ask, no one calls me Leonard, or Leo, or Lenny. It’s always been Lolli. I don’t know why. Yes, it is annoying feminine, but if I’ve been stuck with it my whole life.”
“I think it suits you,” I admitted.
“What about Dee? Is that short for something?”
I blushed. “Just Dee is fine.”
“So it’s something embarrassing? More embarrassing than Leonard?”
“It’s…Dorothy,” she admitted.
“It’s delightfully vintage,” he grinned.
I felt my blush deepen. “No one calls me that either. Just Dee.”
“Okay,” he acquiesced. “Dee then.”
“Thank you.” I tightened my hold on the frame. “I better get Meredith out of here before she breaks something. But, I’ll be back. Soon.”
“And I’ll see you then.”
The image of his little smirk was held in my head while I ushered Meredith out of the store and back into my car.
“Oh thank god,” she sighed. “That was insufferable. Let’s hit the mall, huh?”
“No, I think I’ve had my fill of you today, thanks,” I sighed. I turned to set Mr. Cloreo on the back seat. “The only other place I’m stopping today is your house to boot you out of my car.” Honestly. I couldn’t take her anywhere!