As it says in the description, this is my belated Secret Santa gift for Winter Oak. Again, sorry it's a up a bit late. This is going to be a three-shot, so this first part is mostly introduction/set-up. I'll do my best not to make you wait too long for parts two and three.
I hope you had lovely holidays and are having a lovely 2017 so far, and I hope you enjoy this, for what it's worth. It's funny how stressful yet satisfying writing can be, it takes a lot out of you but it also gives you a lot, too. :)
|PART ONE: ROUGH STONE|
Tucker Abrahamson awoke from a dreamless slumber to rays of sunlight kissing his face. He blinked sleepily, watching the glimmering of dust in the sunlight as he slowly gained consciousness. He much preferred summer mornings to winter ones, where the sun rose later and rather than slowly being brought to wakefulness by it, he had to be jarred out of sleep by an alarm.
He felt a pair of arms wrap around his somewhat lean form and felt a face bury itself into his shoulder. "Good morning, darling." Came a muffled voice. "Did you sleep alright?"
Tucker covered one of the hands on his chest with one of his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Yes, honey, I slept fine."
Tucker's wife hugged him a bit tighter. "That's good." she breathed, something a bit like relief in her voice. "I suppose we should get up, shouldn't we?" she chuckled. "Or, of course, we can open the Accessory Store late and just say we felt like sleeping in."
Tucker turned over to face her and smiled as he looked into her eyes-an interesting blend of dark blue and gray that looked a bit violet in the right light. "Now, that wouldn't be a very responsible thing to do now, would it, Mira?"
"I suppose not. I guess we'll have to wait till Thursday to sleep in." Mira kissed Tucker on his forehead. "Come on, let's make some omelets."
When Tucker and Mira got up in the mornings, it was almost like watching two ballerinas dancing. While Mira showered, got dressed, and applied some makeup, Tucker was beating together the ingredients for the omelets and melting butter in a frying pan. Then suddenly they had switched places and while Tucker showered, dressed, and shaved, Mira was frying the egg mixture and adding the omelet filling.
They would eat and talk for a bit, and when they had finished, Mira would wash the dishes they had used while Tucker would dry them and put them away. Then they were pirouetting around the Accessory Store, putting things in order-dusting and cleaning off shelves that had gotten a bit dingy, cleaning pieces of jewelry, straightening up displays, putting up new pieces of jewelry in the place of ones that had been bought, and making sure there was proper change in the cash register.
And then, suddenly Tucker was standing at the front counter and Mira was standing at the front door, and their dance was over for the moment.
"I should be back in a couple hours." She said, clutching her purse. "I need to pick up some groceries and see about getting you a new formal shirt." She looked at him knowingly. "And you won't try doing any gem-cutting while you're wearing this one, right?"
Tucker brought his hand to cover his mouth and ducked his head a bit in embarrassment. "No, ma'am, I won't. I learned my lesson with the last one."
Mira smiled somewhat impishly and her eyes sparkled with laughter. "Good. I hope you get some decent job applicants today." She waved warmly to her husband before going out on her mission for food and a formal shirt.
Things were quiet for a while-Tucker passed the time polishing gems that had already been cut in between helping out the occasional customer. Things were never terribly busy for an accessory maker on Castanet Island-most people here weren't overly concerned with jewelry, and the majority of business came from people needing ore to be refined to make tools-but most people bought jewelry occasionally at least, whether it was for themselves or someone close to them, and there were a few people who bought jewelry regularly. But even with a rather relaxed flow of business, that didn't mean things weren't difficult at times…
After a quiet morning, Tucker was shaken out of quiet contemplation when a teenage boy swung open the front door of the store with a confident smile on his face. He had shoulder length purple hair, bright ruby eyes, and he was wearing a dark blue suit.
"Heeelllooo!" He practically sang as he approached Tucker. "I heard you were hiring." He held out a completed application form. "...and I would like to apply for any positions you have available!"
Tucker blinked in surprise, not only at the boy's cheery demeanor, but also at the fact that he was wearing a suit. People on Castanet Island didn't normally dress up so much simply to hand in a job application, especially not teenage boys. He took the form from the boy and immediately felt as if he had been smacked in the face.
The entire application had been filled out in magenta ink.
It took a few minutes and quite a bit of blinking before Tucker could look at the application without his eyes screaming in agony. Mentally he was already beginning to wonder if this was some kind of joke. Nevertheless, he skimmed over the application, which was written in a cursive so elegant he would have sworn it was a woman's handwriting.
Name: Julius Aalders
Previous Jobs: Garment mender, living room re-decorator, dog groomer, fashion critic, advice giver
Strengths: Excellent sense of fashion, eye for detail, winning personality...
If it had been any other day and any other person, Tucker would have politely told the applicant that he'd call back if he was interested and immediately thrown out the application once he'd left. He was that overwhelmed with the feeling that this couldn't be serious.
But when he looked up from the application and noticed Julius staring at the jewelry on display with his mouth hanging slightly open in awe, Tucker began to waver. And when Julius turned to face him, the most earnest smile in the world on his face, and said, "Well, what do you think?" Tucker broke down.
"...I'll take a closer look at your application after my wife takes over this afternoon, and we can have an interview at about four, if that works for you.
The teen nodded vigorously. "Yes, that should be perfect."
Tucker held out his hand. "Oh, and my name's Tucker Abrahamson. I guess I'll see you this afternoon, Mr. Aalders."
"Oh, just call me Julius!" Julius took Tucker's outstretched hand in both of his and gave a rather odd, sporadic handshake. "I look forward to our interview, sir!"
Tucker spent the next few hours trying to make sense of Julius' strange behavior and job application, going back and forth between thinking it was an elaborate prank and believing the boy had been completely earnest.
He didn't once think he would hire the boy either way.
But at four thirty that afternoon, to his own shock and surprise, he did.
The first few weeks he worked at the accessory store, it seemed Julius would never cease to perplex Tucker.
He just seemed so bizarre and flighty. One thing Tucker noticed very quickly was that every afternoon when Julius came to take either his or Mira's place at the front counter, he seemed to be wearing a different colored suit. Black, blue, tan, green, gray, red, solid-colored, plaid, vertical striped-Tucker had never seen anything like it. It seemed Julius wore nothing but suits. Why on Earth would anyone-let alone a teenage boy-always be wearing formalwear unless they were working a white-collar job? And yet...trying to imagine Julius wearing the sort of things most young men wore...it just seemed wrong. Baggy t-shirts, blue jeans, and khaki shorts seemed to exist on a completely different planet from Julius.
Tucker began to realize that not only was Julius' behavior - and interest in jewelry - completely genuine, he was actually very reliable and competent. He hadn't come to work late once as of yet, never gave customers the wrong amount of change, and yes, he did seem to have a knack for helping people choose jewelry that looked good on them.
Tucker was grateful to have him around. Keeping the Accessory Store open from eight in the morning to eight in the evening, as well as getting household chores done, refining ores and gems, and making jewelry was difficult, especially with Tucker's health in the state it was. Having a third person doing some of the work definitely took some weight off of Tucker and Mira's shoulders. But even more than that, Tucker was grateful for the enthusiasm and energy Julius brought to their otherwise quiet and calm lives. He felt a sort of deep relief every time Julius made Mira laugh or smile. She had wanted a son or daughter so badly, and he knew that finding out they would probably never have children had hurt her badly, even if she tried to hide it.
Usually when Julius was working, Tucker would be back in the living room, sitting in the corner where his gemcutting tools were kept, refining and shaping and faceting all manner of jewels. Because the bathroom was connected to the living room, Julius would occasionally pass thorough the living room to take care of business, and Tucker couldn't help but notice how Julius' eyes would inevitably wander toward Tucker and his work, and how he would always linger just outside the bathroom door for a minute or two before continuing.
When summer turned to fall and Julius finally worked up the courage to ask Tucker if he would teach him how to cut gems, Tucker wasn't surprised at all.
It had been decided that since the shop was closed on Thursdays, that would be the best day for Tucker to introduce Julius to the art of lapidary.
The first week, Tucker had decided, would be best used introducing Julius to the equipment. Then next week would be when he actually started to show him how to actually cut gems-Tucker figured it was best to start out slowly.
He and Julius were outside, where Tucker kept some of his larger pieces of equipment. There were what looked like two different sized blue boxes sitting on top of wooden tables.
"These are my fourteen-inch and ten-inch diamond-bladed saws." Tucker explained as he removed the top of one of the boxes. "I use the fourteen-inch one to cut wonderfuls into slabs, and then the ten-inch one to cut the slabs into smaller, square pieces."
Inside the box was a saw whose blade protruded from a flat blue surface which was covered in some sort of brown liquid. Julius eyed it warily. "That looks...dangerous."
"Don't worry, Julius." Tucker chuckled. "After you position the wonderful correctly, you put the top back on the saw before you turn it on and let it work, so you don't have to have your hands near the saw while it's running."
"Oh, that's a relief!" The violet-haired teen continued to examine the piece of equipment, taking special note of the brown liquid that pooled around the sawblade like swampwater.
"What's that stuff?"
"Vegetable oil, to keep everything lubricated. They used to use kerosene, but that smelled much worse and wasn't as safe."
Julius' face scrunched up in displeasure. "I can imagine so!" He stared at the saw in both fascination and disgust. "Hmm...it appears that this whole process will be rather...messy."
Tucker nodded. "Yep. Ehm, next week you should probably wear something you won't care about getting dirty."
Julius sighed. "...in other words, I'll have to wear something drab."
"Yes, I suppose that's one way of putting it."
Julius gave an even louder sigh, then clenched his fist and stared at the saw in determination. "Well, I guess it's a sacrifice I'll have to make!" He turned to Tucker. "Well, lead on, boss! Let's take a look at the rest of the equipment!"
Tucker smiled at Julius. "Huh, I was a bit worried that you'd back out after you saw what all gem-cutting involved, but you never cease to surprise me, Julius."
"Well, I am full of surprises! Don't worry, boss! I won't let you down!"
The two of them headed back into the Accessory Store, ready to delve deeper into their art.
Phew! And that brings part one to a close. I really do hope I've done a decent job so far, despite basically all of my knowledge of gem-cutting coming from online research. And let me tell you, it took a while to find sources that dumbed things down enough for me to understand. Most of them threw out all kinds of terms I didn't know and left me feeling dizzy. Yikes! And I hope I'm doing okay with Julius, I love him so much but he seems tricky to write, or maybe I'm just overthinking it, I don't know. Anyway, I hope I'm not messing him up too badly or anything.