It was the sign above the door, The Shop of Lost Things. I tried to look through the window. Was it a lost property office? The heavy voile curtain obscured any view to the interior.
I was more than a little bored. The band had split for a few weeks and apart from me they had gone home to their families.
The tour had been chaotic and the band had moved on without me. So I had come back to my flat in my home town only to find all my friends and family were on holiday or avoiding me.
Here I was wandering around the town centre feeling jaded and a touch nostalgic.
I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. I liked what I saw, my hair gelled to perfection the colour a tad outrageous for this sleepy town. But hey, pink would look good on the cover of my new CD if I ever got to sing again.
My clothes are bang on the fashion, albeit the 1960s.
I couldn’t resist, the temptation was too great, so I gingerly pushed open the door.
A bell jangled somewhere in the distance. I was immediately hit by the smell – it was familiar to me but it took a few moments to place it. Then as I inhaled again it hit me: my grandmother’s house. She had burned joss sticks all her life and I was back in her front room every time I smelt that distinctive aroma. It took me back to when she was still alive.
‘Be with you in a moment,’ a lilting voice came from behind the beaded curtain.
I took the time to look around me. I felt a little like Alice, it was curiouser and curiouser. But the shop was nothing like I had visualised as I had stood peering through the window just a few moments ago. Now I found myself standing in the centre of an incredibly neat and tidy shop. Not quite the emporium I had expected. It was a cross between a haberdashers and an old-fashioned apothecary shop. The walls were lined with wooden drawers all labelled. I couldn’t read them from where I stood, but for some reason my heart beat faster.
Panic welled inside me. This place wasn’t for me. I turned to make a run for it. Too late. She appeared, speaking softly, smelling of patchouli oil. I did a double take. It was my grandmother just as I remembered her, but it couldn’t be, she was dead. I blinked and gone was the elderly woman with dyed hair. In her place was a young woman with a halo of vibrant red curly hair almost reaching her waist. Her face was pale and unlined. I wanted to touch her to see if she was real.
She glided to the back of the shop, her long patchwork skirt sweeping the floor as she went. Waving a bangled arm at me she said: ‘Jenny come over here, sit down and I will see if I can find what you are looking for.’
I froze, still wanting to walk out, but I turned and walked across the shop. The old floorboards creaked as I managed to place one foot in front of the other and sat in front of her aware my hands were shaking.
‘How did you know my name?,’ I asked, my voice small and unrecognisable even to me.
‘I know lots of things, Jenny, except I am not sure why you are here.’
‘I am not sure myself.’
‘So why did you come in? What are you looking for?’
‘I’m not looking for anything.’
‘You saw the sign above the door, didn’t you.’
‘Yes, the Shop of Lost Things, I was curious.’
‘I guess you have lost something?’
‘No. I haven’t. I just wondered what you were selling.’
‘Jenny, I am selling whatever you have lost,’ she said quietly.
‘No I already said I haven’t lost anything.’
She looked directly at me and I had to blink, for momentarily it was my grandmother with her piercing violet eyes sitting there. And then she was gone.
‘Oh, but you have Jenny, everyone has lost something.’
I tried to stand but I was stuck to the chair. Gasping, I asked for a drink of water. I felt sure I would be able to get up and leave when she went out the back to get my drink. But she merely nodded and without moving, she handed me a glass. I grabbed it and gulped it down greedily. The taste was incredible and I felt more relaxed as I handed back the glass to her.
‘Now Jenny, I know you are anxious to leave but I can’t let you go just yet. Let me tell you what I have available today.’
She paused and went over to the wall of drawers and started to read out some of the labels. ‘In here there is self-esteem, in here is dignity and in this one is confidence.’
I answered: ‘I’m confused, I think I have all those.’
She studied me carefully, ‘Stand up Jenny and walk over to me.’
‘I can’t,’ I said.
‘Yes you can.’
I stood up and floated across the floor towards her.
‘Turn round and tell me what you see.’
I turned and gasped as I looked into a huge oval mirror. The first thing that struck me was that the mirror had appeared from nowhere. I was sure it hadn’t been there a minute ago. Then it dawned on me that the apparition in the mirror wasn’t me. Or was it?
Gone was my pink hair. In its place was a glossy mane of auburn hair. Gone was my outrageous make-up. I couldn’t see my tattoos. ‘What’s going on?’ I looked at her and again she was my grandmother.
‘Jenny, it is me. I am trying to help you.’
‘I don’t understand,’ I said feebly.
‘I am trying to help you, trying to guide you. I’ve been watching you and you seem to have lost your way,’ she went on while I just listened. ‘Your mum and dad haven’t seen you in a year. They don’t even know where you are and what you are doing.
‘I know Jenny, I know about the drugs and that the band have kicked you out and why you are here.’
I stood and stared and said: ‘I don’t even know why I am here.’
‘You are here because you have lost your way.’
I looked again in the mirror, this time it was me. Pink hair, tattoos and all. I shuddered. Grandmother was gone and back in her place was the young redhead.
‘I am your guardian angel, if you like, here to show you the way back to the right path.’
She waved her bangled arm in the air and I blinked and I was back outside the shop gazing through the voile-covered windows. I looked around and nothing had changed except the sign above the window which said Shop for Sale.
I pulled out my phone and dialled. A voice answered and I said: “Hello mum can I come home?’
Have a story you’d like to appear in The News? Send it to the Portsmouth Literature Worker, Tessa Ditner at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information check out the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub Facebook page: facebook.com/groups/portsmouthwritershub.