STARFISH

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Sarah had once been in love with a man who was rich in pocket but mean in spirit. As he was such a skilled lover, she failed to notice that he was emotionally pusillanimous. It was a mistake easily made. She thought that his heart would follow his body, as hers did. But he could never bring himself to say he loved her. A very odd pattern emerged over the years. The less he could engage with her, the less he could look at her (even then, at those times), the more he would buy her very expensive jewellery. It became embarrassing. Gold chains, little diamonds, the odd ruby, thick bracelets that felt like manacles. She put them away in her drawer.

Well, it finished. On a rainy day, in his dining room, he advised Sarah to take another lover. She was cast back to an image from her childhood when, in the butcher’s shop, all the animal corpses were suspended from hooks and bled onto the sawdust. That was how it felt. After a while, she looked at the contents of her drawer. There the jewels lay. She knew that there was a language of gems in Victorian times: each stone then had a different meaning - constancy, remembrance, tenderness. But these gifts had none of that. They spoke of bitterness, of longing, of loneliness, of silence. What to do with them?

She thought she would make them into something else. An animal, perhaps. One that she admired. A starfish, now. A limb could be severed and it would grow another: it might be cast up on the beach, but could revive if thrown back into the sea in time. And even stiff in death, it was beautiful. A starfish would do nicely. She put the gold into a little bag.

She took it to a jeweller, and explained what she wanted. The jeweller intuited that Sarah would like to see the gold being melted down. Watching that felt as though her heart was melting too. All revenge brings a sense of loss in its wake. There the jewellery lay now, a golden pool, its texture trembling like mercury.

Some weeks later Sarah was called to the shop to collect the starfish. Along each leg were little precious stones that glinted in the sun. If she moved with vigour, the starfish seemed to be alive. A woman stopped her in the street and said “is that really gold?” And Sarah replied “no. It is blood”. Which in a sense, of course, it was.