This little pendant was given to me by Emma, my lovely mother-in-law, many years ago. It’s a pretty piece, which might have originally been a broach. I’ve worn it on a chain a few times but the loop which it hangs from is so worn that I’m scared of losing it.
It’s about the size of my thumbnail, very light and it tarnishes ever so quickly. There is no hallmark, so it’s probably not actually silver. It looks like a locket, but it doesn’t open, although it looks as if it might. Don’t you think that one, or maybe a particular combination, of those decorative pins around the edge might spring it open? But sadly, no.
However, it did spark my imagination.
Spool on a couple of decades and my little pendant was transformed. Now a fully functioning locket with a strange little face engraved inside, it became the eponymous star of my debut novel, The Silver Locket which I wrote under the pen name, Holly Atkins. My pendant even took pride of place on the cover, flanked by photos of family members on Emma’s side, whose identity has disappeared in the mists of time.
I often say, ‘never let a good character go to waste’, and followers of my most recent micro-fiction series, The Jade Camel, will discover a bit of backstory to two of its characters who first entered my literary world in the scene below.
Excerpt from ‘The Silver Locket’
“So,” said Ceridwen, pushing back her long red hair, “you have something to show me.”
Laura reached into her handbag and drew out the locket. She slipped it out of its wrapper and held it out to her.
“I found it…” began Laura.
Ceridwen held up her hand. “No, don’t tell me anything about it yet. May I hold it please?”
Ceridwen took the locket, as she did so she avoided touching Laura’s hand. She drew in a sharp breath and closed her eyes, running her thumb gently over the face of the locket. She sat there, motionless for several minutes, then clasping the locket in her fist, she opened her eyes, leant over and switched on the lamp which stood on the table beside her.
“Now Laura, I’d like you to tell me all you can about the locket. Where you found it, what you’ve observed about it, what it means to you.”
Laura paused. “It’s complicated.”
“Take you time, my dear. Start with the facts. Don’t worry if your story seems strange or fanciful. That’s why you’re here with me now.”
Laura recounted all she could from finding the locket to the most recent dream in which the little face had been different from the one Laura knew. While she was speaking, Ceridwen was carefully examining the locket. As Laura finished speaking, she was studying the oval mark inside intently.
On the window sill, Cullen uttered a low, menacing sound. Laura could see his silhouette through the blind, his back arched, head erect.
“Would you mind going to see what he’s growling about? It must be something in the park outside.”
Laura went to the window and raised the edge of the blind. A solitary figure in a brown coat was looking up at the window. The figure was too far away for Laura to make out her face, but it looked awfully like the old woman from the churchyard; the same woman who had appeared outside the jewellers and whom Laura had seen hurrying away from the station.
Cullen continued to growl. The woman turned and hurried away. Cullen sat back down on the window sill and was quiet again, his fur settling back into place.
Laura returned to her seat. “It’s strange, I keep seeing this woman in a brown coat. It’s as if she’s following me. But when she sees I’ve seen her, she rushes off. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I’m sure that was her again, just standing there looking up at the window. I couldn’t see anything else which might have disturbed your cat.”
“She could be following this.” Ceridwen held up the locket.
“Why? What is it?” Laura looked at Ceridwen. “The little face inside… it’s starting to scare me.”
“Well, let me tell you a little about the charm within the locket. Please don’t worry. I’m quite certain that there is no need for you to be afraid of the locket or its ‘little face’, as you call it.”
“You say it’s a charm of some kind. That’s what the jeweller told me yesterday. A charm or a talisman, he said. What does that mean exactly?”
“These little pieces are very rare, although long ago they used to be quite widely made and circulated amongst the Roma peoples of Eastern Europe. It is said that charms or amulets of this kind actually originated in Ancient Egypt and were part of their magical rituals or heka. The oval shape certainly does resemble the cartouches from Egyptian hieroglyphs.” Ceridwen paused.
“But that need not concern us. Your locket with its hidden amulet doesn’t date back quite that far, although it could be as much as two hundred years old. Who knows where a young gardener would have obtained such a precious object. He can’t have known what it was, or paid the true value.”
Ceridwen went on: “An amulet is essentially something which is designed to bring good luck or to offer protection to the wearer. It need not be made specifically for the wearer, but the wearer will benefit from the powers imbued in the amulet. From what you’ve told me, and what I can feel from holding it, his amulet is a special one, known as a ‘reflector’. A reflector amulet not only gives the wearer protection, it also mirrors emotions, usually from its wearer, but also from people around her, particularly if they are antagonistic or threatening towards her. This amplifies the power of the amulet, offering the wearer even greater protection. It is said that the expression on the amulet’s face will change according to the prevailing emotion. I’ve never seen a one before, but I believe that is what you have here.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Laura, “do you think I have upset the amulet by finding it?”
“I doubt it, but tell me, Laura, have you been wearing the locket.”
“Only for a few days. I started wearing it after I first found it, because it kept disappearing. It fell behind the dresser and then between the cushions of an armchair. But I haven’t worn it since I took it to the jeweller’s and he opened it. I guess I’ve been a bit wary of the expression on the little face. I’ve kept it close to me though, either in my bag, or on my bedside table.”
“May I take your hand now, Laura? Please, come and sit by me.” Ceridwen patted the seat beside her.
Laura perched on the chaise-longue and Ceridwen took her hand in hers. She closed her eyes, gently massaging Laura’s hand, much as she had done with the locket.
Opening her eyes she said gently: “I sense that there is some turmoil in your life.” Ceridwen smiled. “I detect that you doubt someone close to you. You also have some important choices to make. Am I correct my dear?”
“How you would know that?” Laura pulled her hand away.
“I am sensitive to people’s emotions. I can feel things just from a touch…”