A flat jewellery box lay on the table between us. Next to it, my manuscript was an untidy heap of scruffy papers.
“So are you going to have a look?” Marcy leaned forward, eyes transparent and deep as she watched my face.
“I’m almost too nervous.” I admitted. “I don’t know what you’re going to say. What if you hated it?”
A slow smile lifted her cheeks. “Did you bring the bag with you?”
I pulled the velvet cocoon from my pocket and spilled the contents across the table: a lump of fake gold, a misshapen pearl, rough glass fragments and a couple of gemstones.
“Do you remember why you chose them, Chloe?”
Her voice was reassuring and I began to relax. “They signify the characters in my story: the hero, his beloved, their dog, the circumstances that brought them together ...”
“And what did we discuss.”
“That although the story may be a little rough around the edges, it has potential.”
“So why are you worrying?”
“I’m just nervous. A couple of editors went through it and made so many changes it didn’t even resemble my original work.”
Marcy tapped a fingernail on the jewellery box. “I’ve heard that before. In fact that’s what inspired me to do what I do. My love of writing and jewellery has come together in a unique way.”
“Polished Gems,” I said out loud. “Inspirational critiques of your story and a personalised piece of jewellery. Your ad caught my attention straight away.”
She smiled. “At this stage, it’s better for you to make the changes yourself - and I loved the story by the way. It’s full of life and I felt passion raging and anger flaring; tears flowing and hope building. I felt tenderness and mercy and saw the dog with his sloppy tongue and faithfulness. That’s what good writing is about. It engages the reader and pulls him or her into the pages.”
I picked up an amethyst and rolled the purple stone between my fingers. “So how do you present your critique?”
“I’ve analysed your title, story line and chapter construction and have checked your dialogue, opening sentences and conclusion. My comments are in here.” She pushed a brown envelope across the table. “Your job is to go through them and improve your story where you can.”
I picked up the envelope, stiff and new. “I don’t know whether I should open this or the jewellery box first.”
“The jewellery. It will inspire you while you read the critique.”
Slowly I pulled the flat box toward me and lifted the lid. A necklace lay inside, nestled in plush midnight velvet. “Oh, Marcy!” I scooped it up with gentle fingers. “This is magnificent.”
“Let me fasten it on you.”
I dangled the necklace between us and a ray of sun caught the gems. She’d used a thick gold chain and at regular intervals had placed creamy pearls, clear glass swirled with gold, polished turquoise and richly hued amethysts. The overall effect was amazing.
“This is your published book.” she said as she fastened the chain around my neck. “Just as I shaped and polished these bits of stone and metal, you must now polish your work.”
I touched the necklace and then picked up a handful of glass bits, gems and the misshapen pearl. “Quite incredible.” I said, “Inspiring, beautiful, amazing.”
Marcy chuckled softly as she picked up my battered manuscript. “So tell me, Chloe, what do you see here.”
The answer came from deep within. “I see a novel, polished and shaped so it can touch the hearts of millions of readers.”
She nodded, confidence glowing in clear eyes. “I believe it will, Chloe.”
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