As Catherine Vendae paced through the twisting streets of the market town she could feel eyes on her. Normally this was a common enough feeling for the young woman. Normally she didn’t mind it. But today felt different – important. Catherine ordinarily didn’t put stock in feelings and instinct, but rather preferred to trust rational thought and facts. Though today was different. The market, and everyone in it, seemed on edge – keeping their heads down, doing their business, and heading home without any idle chatter or a friendly smile. Even the day seemed darker, despite the fact that it was a summer afternoon. Not that anyone could tell – the sun had been hiding behind black clouds, without raining, for days. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the bleak atmosphere of the market, even force of habit couldn’t prevent Catherine from stopping dead in the middle of the market when a withered, twisted old man met her eyes. It didn’t feel like an accident, regardless of the fact that Catherine had simply been scanning her surroundings. But when her eyes found the man, he was already staring intently at her.
Despite the chill she now felt hovering, Catherine drew nearer to the man. She heard the voice of instinct, usually ignored, telling her that this meeting was important – it would affect her future decisions. So she approached the old man, and the counter he stood behind. An array of common household items, worn but still useful, lay there, as if the man was trying to earn extra income by selling things he no longer needed or could no longer use. He seemed undeterred by the fact that no one was even looking his way except for Catherine.
“Good day.” Catherine attempted to keep any nerves out of her voice. What had gotten into her?
“Seems to me that many in this town would disagree with you there,” the man said by way of greeting. His voice was deep and smooth, not at all what one would expect from his appearance. Catherine nodded, but didn’t respond. She was looking at him, but her thoughts were tuned toward herself. What was it about the day that had everyone feeling and acting so strange?
“Are you interested in buying anything today? I have some things that might interest you,” the man said as he gestured to his table.
Catherine scanned the assortment of kitchen equipment, knives, and other household items on the table before quickly shaking her head. She hadn’t entered the market with any intention of buying anything. It just happened to be the quickest way home. She started to say as much when the man offered another suggestion.
“I also have some of my wife’s luck.” The man showed Catherine an old but well made necklace, patterned to look like gold leaves lying across the skin, with colored glass – surely it wasn’t a real gem – standing in for a jeweled centerpiece. He also presented a silver pocket watch. Its exterior was scratched and dented, but when he opened it, Catherine could see the second hand ticking steadily. “My wife swears that the necklace will lead anyone to their true love, and that the watch will bring you your destiny.”
Catherine laughed at that. “You can’t be serious.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“I don’t think that those trinkets will do anything that I can’t do for myself.” The man looked surprised at Catherine’s blunt statement, and stared at her as intently as he had when she first spotted him. He seemed to be assessing her, trying to make a decision. As the silence continued it grew an uncomfortable edge. Catherine was about to excuse herself when the man spoke again.
“You remind me of another young woman I knew once. She had a fiery, independent streak in her. Some strange things happened in her life, and after them I never saw her again, but she did give me her journal to remember her by.” At that the man pulled a worn leather-bound book from an interior pocket. “She told me that I should pass it one to anyone who might benefit from it. But if you believe in doing things for yourself, maybe you could learn something from her. And even if you don’t, you could write in it yourself. It’s only half full.” The man extended his arm, offering the journal to Catherine.
She adopted a guarded expression to hide her curiosity. “How much?”
“My memory of her is priceless, but, apart from sentiment, the book has little value unless the reader is able to uncover the lessons written here.” At Catherine’s continued silence he added, “You can have it, if you promise to use it.”
Allowing him to hand her the little book, Catherine could only ask “Why?”
“I already told you, you remind me of her. She had an interesting life. She wanted to do everything herself, which made her life harder than it needed to be. Besides, that journal wasn’t doing any good sitting in my home. I brought it today on a whim. Anyway, it’s yours now, so what does it matter why I gave it to you?”
Unable to think of a reply, Catherine nodded her head in thanks, tucked the book under her arm, and hurried home looking much like the other nervous townspeople she noticed earlier. The man, for his part, watched as she retreated across the road. He kept staring into space, even after he could no longer see her. Even after a roaring crack of thunder announced the arrival of the torrential rainfall that the black clouds had promised. If anyone had cared to watch, they would have seen the man gather his things and head towards his own home deep in thought, as if reliving the strange events that he brought into Catherine Vendae’s life.
“Walking in the Rain.” Source: Listing More
Continue to Part One