The sign on the Apothecary’s door is still hanging on the doorknob when Goldsmith returns and knocks. The curtain on the door parts slightly, and a pair of eyes briefly peer out.
Goldsmith knocks on the door again. After a moment, the door opens slightly.
“What do you want?” asks a woman’s voice.
“I am looking for the Apothecary,” Goldsmith says. “Is he here?”
Goldsmith feels the warmth of the jewels against her skin once again. She reaches into her front pocket, and a particular jewel rolls into her hand, as if it had a will of its own.
“The Apothecary is running errands,” the woman says and starts to close the door.
“When will he be back?”
“I do not know. I have no watch. The passing of time is of no importance to me,” the woman says as the door begins sliding shut.
“Wait a moment!” Goldsmith cries and pushes open the door. “Who are you?”
The woman turns her head away and forcefully tries to pull the door closed. Goldsmith catches a glimpse of the gloomy room behind her. Its murkiness is broken only by a tiny triangle of light that hazes in through a chink in the door. Dust particles glimmer in the light, dancing lazily around in the beam of light. An emerald green dragonfly wings its way inside and disappears into the dark.
“I have something for you,” Goldsmith says and shows the woman the jewel.
The woman stares at the watch-shaped ring resting on Goldsmith’s palm. Bewildered, she backs away from the door.
“Does this look familiar?” Goldsmith says softly, taking a step toward the woman.
“No, no,” the woman answers and retreats into the dark shop.
Goldsmith follows her in, noting the glass jars with Latin labels on old wooden shelves. Dried herb bouquets hang from the ceiling. A range of metal weights sit beside an old scale.
The woman starts sweeping the floor with a broom. The dragonfly now sits atop an old apothecary jar of brown glass and flutters its wings.
“Do you live here?” asks Goldsmith.
The woman’s sweeping swirls dust in the air.
“No, no,” the woman says, now clearing out cobwebs from the corner.
“I come here to clean sometimes,” she says. “Not nearly as often as I should,” she continues and pulls a sticky string of cobweb off the broom.
“Are you a cleaning lady?”
“Yes and no,” she says and brushes her hair from her face. “I am a teacher, but no-one wants to learn anything around here. With knowledge comes pain, they say. And nobody wants to feel pain.”
Goldsmith holds out her hand.
“I think this is yours,” Goldsmith says and pushes the watch-shaped ring over the counter towards the woman.
The ring shines in the dark room, lighting the whole space with an incredible silvery glow.
The teacher glances at the ring and looks at the floor. A teardrop rolls down her cheek. The only sound is the sweeping of the broom.
Considering her next step, Goldsmith shifts her weight.
“I wonder if you could help me?” Goldsmith asks.
Teacher doesn’t raise her eyes from the floor.
“One of my amulets is not ready,” Goldsmith says. “I can’t really explain this, but I feel like something is missing.”