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There was something about Samantha Gonzales that I couldn’t put into words. The first time she came into my shop, she had this look of wonder in her eyes, contrary to the dejected and sorrowful ones I’ve seen from all of my customers. She stood motionless by the door as she stared in awe of the trinkets that adorned the hardwood walls and glass cases of the small place.
I cleared my throat and then smiled politely, “How may I help you, miss?”
She smiled at me which, if I were to be honest, took me off guard.
I watched her make her way to the glass cases, taking a good look at each one of the charms like one would look and examine artifacts in a museum.
“These are beautiful,” she said and I felt my heart swell with pride. “Are they handmade?”
“Yes, miss,” I bowed, “by yours truly.”
She put her face closer to the case.
“Would you like to look at them more closely?”
Her face brightened. “Can I?”
I made my way to her and unlocked the case in front of her, gently getting the display out and placing it on the table nearby. She picked one up – a silver bracelet that looked like roses coiled around a vine - and turned it in her hand, examining it carefully. “You did a wonderful job. The details are very precise.”
“Thank you,” I said as she started examining the others. As she moved, a rattle-like noise sounded, and I noticed the different colored bracelets that adorned her arms. “You like charms?”
She consciously fingered her bracelets, “I collect them.”
“I see. Have you found anything to add to your collection?”
She sighed deeply, “There’s just so many!”
I grinned. “Why don’t I show you something far more interesting then?” I said as I hurried to the counter and produced a single charm – a small, empty hourglass the size of a thumb, its protective metal frame embroidered with vines. “This is a new product. I finished it just yesterday.”
“Beautiful,” she said. As I watched her, I could see how she looked differently at the hourglass than the other charms. Her expression was gentle, as if in a daze, and then slowly, her brows furrowed and she asked, “Wait, isn’t an hourglass supposed to have sand inside or something to pour to the bottom half?”
I felt my mouth curve up to a grin once again. “That’s the key to activating the charm, miss. What it needs are your tears.”
“Yes. Tears are believed to be pieces of our hearts overflowing out of our body in order to express our sorrow or happiness. You feel your heart fill with joy so much that it would burst or your heart gets broken and you’re in pain. You cry so you can express and get that feeling out of your system.” I grab the charm from her and open the top, “A few drops of your tears, filled with the love for the person you desire, and a wish to be with him, is all it takes. And it’s yours, free of charge.”
“Oh, no. I don’t think that would be good for business, especially since it seems to be a limited edition.”
I smiled and handed the charm to her. “I don’t think it is either but you’re the first person to appreciate my art. I want you to have it. I’m sure you’ll need it someday.”
* * *
“And so Nygma kills this bastard cop, dismembers him in his lab, and washes his skin down with acid so no one will know whose corpse it was, cause you know, he doesn’t want anyone else to find out about what he did, especially Ms. Kringle.” Jason inhaled deeply to catch his breath before taking a big bite out of his hotdog sandwich, “Seriously Sam, you have to watch it.”
“I don’t think I have to,” she laughed at the ketchup covering his pimple-covered face.
“Dude, you just narrated, what, four episodes of Gotham?”
“Oh,” he said, just before his eyes caught sight of Cara – the girl of his dreams – and he sighed like a love struck toad. He fumbled for a tissue to wipe his face with and tried to fix his dark, tousled hair to no avail. “Do I look okay?” he asked her.
She nodded, quite disappointed at the sudden end to the moment they were having.
When Cara passed by, Jason stumbled on his words. “Uh, h-hi, C-Cara.”
Cara threw him a disgusted look and continued to make her way down to the table where her friends sat, four tables away.
Jason sighed, “And here I thought I was making progress when I finished her physics project for her.”
“I don’t get why you have a crush on a girl like that. I mean, she has enough make-up on her face to share with her friends. She doesn’t even have to bother getting her make-up kit from her bag. Just rub a tissue on her face and rub it on other people’s face.” She shrugged. “ Instant make-up!”
He glared at her and spat, “You have no right to make fun of her, Samantha.”
“Whoa, okay, I’m sorry,” she said, which for Jason felt quite insincere.
He stood up and grabbed his bag.
“Where are you going?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“I said I’m sorry.”
“Didn’t sound like you’re sorry.” He glared at her once more. “Why don’t you stick to your stupid charms? They might help you learn where to draw the line.”
That night, Sam locked herself in her room and cried. She did not know what to do. She did not want to lose her best friend. She knew she wanted to make it up to him but she doesn’t know how. She realized her face was covered with tears and sweat. She fumbled in her bag, looking for a tissue, but then she caught sight of something glimmering at the bottom. She took it out and stared at the small empty hourglass on her hand.
She was always a believer of charms even though some had failed her. She always thought that you can only ensure the outcome of something if you have a charm on your side to help you. Even though many people, including her parents, thought it was silly to believe in them, Sam just couldn’t let go of them. If she would leave them at home, she would get sick. Seeing the bright colors that adorned her arms or her bag, it was like magic – something that would make her feel like everything was going to be alright. And now, holding an hourglass that grants love wishes, she couldn’t help but wonder if it would really work.
“Well, I have nothing to lose anyway,” she muttered to herself before shedding a new set of tears to fill the upper part of the hourglass, imagining Jason holding a girl in his arms – but it wasn’t her in this picture of his happy ending, it was Cara – and wished that her best friend would be given the love he deserves from the girl he loves.
Little did she know that I was watching her and that I knew what she had done.
* * *
The next day, Sam walked to school like a zombie – lifeless and always grunting. She even wore her glasses (she hated them so she always used eye contacts) to make her puffy eyes seem less obvious. She hated this day, mostly because she knew Jason will be avoiding her unless she find a way to make it up to him. The charm probably didn’t work anyway, she thought. Suddenly, she was tackled by something – or someone – from behind, which almost made her lose her balance if not for the lanky arms holding her steady. When she turned around, she saw the smiling face of the person she least expected to see.
“Guess what?” said Jason, taking his arms off of her.
“Cara called me this morning and asked me to have lunch with her today!”
Her left hand automatically went to her bag, where the charm was hidden.
It worked? She thought.
“Oh, wow.” She forced a smile, “Um, congratulations!”
He hugged her again, “Thanks!” and seeing Cara, whispered to Sam, “I’ll give you an update after school,” and ran to his lady love’s side.
Seeing them talking and suddenly acting so close, Sam could not help but be depressed. Becoming more aware of how lonely she felt, she started to regret ever using the charm. But seeing her best friend happy made her think that maybe she made the right choice after all.
* * *
For three days, Sam spent her lunch breaks in the classroom, nibbling on her food on one corner of the room. She tried her best to stay away from the cafeteria, from the possibility of seeing Jason and Cara spending time together.
The first day Jason had lunch with Cara, Sam waited for him in her classroom. After almost two hours of waiting, she knew he was never going to come – probably busy with Cara – and went home by herself. Before she went to sleep, Jason called. She hesitated for a few seconds but answered the call anyway.
“I’m really, really sorry, Samantha!” was the first thing he said. “I had to walk Cara home.”
And though feeling disappointed for being stood up, she still told him, “It’s okay.”
“Well guess what?”
She felt her chest tighten, “What?”
“I confessed to Cara and she told me that she would like to be my girlfriend!” She could imagine him pumping a hand up in the air. “We’re a couple now!”
Sam swore she heard her heart break.
“That fast? You’ve only spent time together for like, half a day!”
“Yeah, but I’ve been trying to get her attention since fifth grade. I mean, I’ve been given an opportunity here and I’d rather not waste it. So I just hoped for the best and got a yes. Isn’t it great?”
“Yeah,” she said, trying to keep her tears from falling, “great.”
On the fourth day however, Cara had slapped Jason hard on the face when he tried to put his arm around her. She told him that there was no way she would be his girlfriend and drove him away, confusing the other students who thought they were going out. So at lunch break, Sam didn’t have to eat at the classroom anymore. She sat with Jason at the canteen and grew uncomfortable every silent minute as she watched her best friend sigh every five minutes and play with his food.
“I don’t know what the hell happened. She was acting all sweet and flirty with me this morning then the next thing I know, she slaps me on the face,” he said, touching his left cheek.
Sam wondered the same thing. She got the charm out of her bag and examined it for scratches or cracks, thinking it might be broken from the way she always threw her bag on the floor. But there wasn’t anything – not a single scratch. All she could see was that the hourglass was empty but the lid did not show any signs of being opened at all.
“What’s that?” Jason asked.
“It’s, uh,” she wanted to keep it from him, knowing that he will get angry once he knew that he only had a shot at Cara all because of a charm. But there’s something deep inside her that wanted to tell him about it so that he would realize that Cara’s love for him wasn’t real and that would probably make him give up. So she told him – about the store, about the charm-maker, about the power of the charm – everything he needed to know. As the story went on, Jason’s face went from confusion to disbelief to understanding. When she finished, he grabbed the charm from her and examined it. She waited for him to get angry and yell at her but he only smiled.
“Wow, that’s amazing!” He gave the charm back to her, “Can you do it again?”
“What?” She was dumbfounded by his reaction.
“Put some of your tears in there and wish us back together.”
“You serious?” No ‘why were you crying that night?’ Or ‘why would you wish something like that?’ She thought.
“But I don’t know if it will work. Besides, I don’t feel like crying right now,” she lied.
“Why don’t you ask the charm-maker then?” He grinned.
* * *
When Samantha entered my shop once again, she finally had eyes like those of my other customers – sad, lonely, and defeated – but in the blink of an eye, it was gone, and a smile replaced the frown that was once on her face. My stomach lurched. How could you still smile? I thought. I forced one myself. “Welcome back, Miss. How may I help you today?”
She placed the charm on the counter. “It stopped working.”
“Ah yes. I should’ve warned you about the expiration date.” I grabbed the charm and held it up. “You see, when all of your tears have reached the bottom, the magic disappears along with it, which is in three days.”
“But can I still use it?”
“Yes. It is refillable but you can only wish for the same thing if you wish to use it again. Though I should tell you, it does not work without a price. Refilling it too much could be…” I let it hang in the air, unsure of how to put it.
“In a way, yes.”
She looked at the charm and it confused me why she was thinking about this, why she was considering such a consequence for someone else’s happiness.
I used to think that my charms were for my amusement. Seeing my customers use my charms in order to get the heart of their loved ones even if it’s fake, and then seeing them lose control and lead themselves to their own destruction. I know what my charms could do and of its horrible consequence, but imagining her in that state, I don’t think I ever want to see it.
Her hand held my own and I realized that I was trembling.
“Have you ever been in love, charm-maker?” She suddenly asked, looking at the ground.
The question threw me off guard. No one had asked me about my life before. I squeezed her hand and sighed. “Once, but she ran away with another man.”
She looked up at me. “Why didn’t you use your charms then?”
I smiled at her, “I find those who use charms to get what they want as those who are desperate and ignorant of possibilities.”
She only stayed silent.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean -” I said, suddenly feeling defensive.
“It’s okay,” she said, “I know that I’m always desperate to have things my way.”
I shifted my foot, feeling uncomfortable. “It doesn’t seem that way to me though.”
She looked at me with a confused expression.
“That boy, Jason. You wished for his happiness with someone else.”
She looked surprised for a second, “I – I guess I thought that was my only choice: to make him happy.”
“There is never an only choice. You shouldn’t lock yourself away from other choices or possibilities.” I gave her the charm, “You would find that there’s something much bigger the world has in store for you.”
* * *
After much deliberation that night, Sam decided to continue what she had started. She cried and poured her tears into the hourglass, thinking about Jason and Cara together. And every fourth day since the charm had worked, Jason had made it a big deal to remind Sam to cry and make sure the charm was working before going to school. Sam must have cried gallons in the three months she had been crying for her best friend. With every teardrop, she could feel herself getting weaker, and more dehydrated even though she always made sure to drink at least ten glasses a day.
One day, a fourth day, when she was on her way to school, she couldn’t stop her tears from falling and she didn’t know why. She tried her best to wipe her face every few seconds with her handkerchief trying to keep other people from noticing. All of a sudden she felt dizzy and her limbs felt heavy. She could hardly bring herself to take another step. Black spots appeared in her view until she could see nothing but darkness.
* * *
When Sam had woken up in the hospital a few days later, she was greeted by a frenzy of relatives crying in joy and asking her what the hell had happened. Jason was with them, and although he had hugged her and showed his concern, as soon as they were the only ones in the room, he took the charm out and asked for some tears again.
“You’re crazy, Jason!” was what she told him after he insisted over and over again that she cry, even shaking her hard and threatening her just so she would draw tears for him. When her parents saw them, Sam’s father tried to restrain him. Hearing the commotion, the nurses followed and tried to help drag him out of the room.
When they were gone, I took this chance to see her. One look at her and I knew that something was wrong – her brown eyes no longer have the sparkle I’ve seen in them like when we first met. Her tears had not only drained her body but also her capability to love. She was as good as dead. Unless… I do something to save her. I fingered the charm in my pocket.
“Charm-maker?” she said, without the smallest hint of smile from her face.
Knowing I would never see it again, I felt my chest tighten, and it was the first time I’ve cried after a long, long time.