The Spark That Started Our Story
Nita sat on the hillock overlooking the town. It was serene up there, a place away from responsibilities where she could simply enjoy the bioluminescence of the buildings in peace. Peace that was broken when she heard a sound akin to cloth being ripped followed by a soft plop. She turned around.
"Leo!" she cheerfully said towards the earthworm that had just fallen out of the small inter-dimensional portal. "Where have you been?"
The worm bobbed up and down slightly, happy to see his friend. His red scarf and top-hat were thankfully not lost during his wandering. Only there was something else glimmering in the worm's possession. Something he shouldn't have.
"Leo, what is that?" Nita said and narrowed her eyes. Leo curled up around the ill-gotten item. "Leo!" Nita said sternly. "Let me see- no, drop it! Drop it, Leo! No!"
Despite the worm's protestations, Nita managed to snatch the item away from him and inspected it - it was a silver locket in the shape of a treetop with several engravings - most of all a mushroom in the center. She looked at it with eager eyes, taking in the details, engravings, inspecting the materials, both curious and fascinated. She quickly broke out of her spell, however, and turned towards her friend.
"Leo, where did you get this? We talked about this! You can't steal from people, it's unbecoming of you."
Leo tilted his front half downwards in a display of shame.
"Oh, come on, then," Nita said with a cheerier tone and picked Leo up, placing him on the felt patch on her right shoulder. "Let's go return this to the rightful owner, shall we?"
Leo, eager to make it up to her, promptly opened another larger portal and the two stepped through into the hallway of a mundane residential building. Following Leo's pointing, Nita approached the nearest door and knocked.
Alex, the still half-asleep inhabitant of the apartment, rushed to the door, coffee mug still in hand. She didn't expect any visitors on a Saturday morning, much less someone knocking directly at her door, but that was no reason to keep them waiting. Opening the door, Alex paused for a moment, unsure what to make of her visitor.
"Hello!" the visitor exclaimed.
Before Alex stood a young woman wearing a beige sweater, a long grey skirt and, most curiously, a red wide-brim hat with white dots. Though none of her clothing was individually strange, together with her freckled cheeks, golden hair and warm smile, she gave off an almost otherworldly aura; like she was visiting from a place unburdened by the troubles of the modern world. It was, nevertheless, not what Alex expected this morning.
"Uh... hello," Alex cautiously replied. "Can I help you?"
"I, uh, came by this charm that I believe belongs to you," she said, pulling the pendant out of her pocket, "and I wanted to give it back to its rightful owner."
Alex took the pendant in her hands and inspected it.
"Oh, there you are!" she said cheerfully. "I've been looking every- thank you! Oh, that's a relief. Was worried it was lost forever."
"It is my utmost pleasure," Nita giggled with a small curtsy. "I'd hate to see someone grieve over a lost heirloom."
"Well," Alex titled her head, "it's not exactly an heirloom. A prototype, more so."
"You made it then?" Nita inquired. "A mould, I assume?"
"How did you know?" Alex tilted her head curiously.
"There's this-" Nita said and pointed towards the edge of the pendant, "slightest of imperfections, possibly caused during the cooling process. I'd wager it was done by someone not entirely experienced in the matter."
Alex inspected the pendant carefully and sure enough, the girl was correct.
"Oh," she gasped.
"But-" Nita rushed to say, "that's not to say it's not beautiful," she smiled. "I'm especially fond of the mushroom theme."
"Ah, well... I've always had a... I suppose you could call it a level of reverence for mushrooms. They're fascinating when you look into them."
"Oh, I certainly agree," Nita giggled. "I'm... exceptionally close to them, too. Do you plan to make more of these? If you don't mind me asking."
"No that's quite alright- I... hope so. I'm trying to start a business. It's still in the early phases, you know, miss..." she left the sentence open.
"Nita!" the girl smiled and extended her hand.
"Alex," Alex replied and gladly shook her hand, finally getting a closer look at her.
And saw the earthworm on her shoulder with a tiny red scarf around its... well, upper half. And a tiny top hat.
"Is that a worm wearing a scarf?" she asked incredulously.
"That's Leo," Nita giggled. "Say hello, Leo."
Much to Alex's surprise, the earthworm wiggled towards her.
"And is that a tiny top hat?" Alex continued, still unsure if what she was seeing was real.
"To be honest with you," Nita whispered and put her hand beside her mouth to make sure Leo wouldn't hear, "I suspect he's trying to copy me," she smirked.
"Huh," Alex said. It's all she could think of at the moment.
"Will all the pendants be about mushrooms?" she asked suddenly, breaking Alex's stunned silence. "Apologies for prying, but I can't help my interest."
"No, it's- ah, would you like to come in? I could show you some blueprints. Least I can do to thank you for returning it to me," Alex smiled. Nita nodded enthusiastically and stepped inside. The two walked towards the living room where various blueprints and documents lay scattered about.
"See," Alex said and put the coffee mug at the nearest place that wasn't occupied by papers, "it's not about mushrooms specifically. It's more about creating something that's..." she took a deep breath, considering her words. She started anew.
"When I was a kid, I had a Tamagotchi. Had it on me all the time. It felt like a friend that made sure I was never alone, someone I could share my experiences with," Alex explained. "That's what I want to achieve with the jewelry. To create something that you get because you love the way it looks at first, but later develop a... connection, I suppose you could say. Something with its own story, a specific moment that you can enjoy and explore. Something that provides you with comfort and companionship like my Tamagotchi once did. That's why you got it - not because it was just another item to buy."
Nita listened with a smile on her face as her eyes darted around the room from one sketch to another, each more curious than the other.
"And these moments - are you trying to capture reality or something more... fairy-tale-like?" she asked.
A sly smile spread on Alex's face. "Depends on which side you're looking at it from. To blur these lines is something I strive towards above all else." Nita grinned and nodded.
"Did you design all these?"
"Well, yes, but I hope that eventually, the store will allow other artists to express themselves - to share their own stories and moments. That way you'll have something for everyone. And that everyone can afford, mind you."
"I think that is a sublime idea, if I may be so daring," Nita smiled. It felt... genuine of her. "Have you thought about how you will be marketing them? Something as unique as the jewelry itself, I'd wager?"
"I...," Alex slowly said, "truth be told, I'm not quite at that point. I do intend for the store to be online, but I'll have to look into a way to market it. I'm perfectly capable when it comes to technology, just a little... behind the times on its various features and options."
"Oh," Nita said with a slightly surprised expression. "Well, the most sensible option would be a very no-nonsense marketing campaign showcasing both your and the other artists' creativity; perhaps something going hand-in-hand with using social media to put out more creative content for people to enjoy?"
Alex stood still, a little dumbfounded. This was slightly more knowledge than she expected.
"You seem... familiar with this," she remarked.
"The fashion world waits for no one!" Nita said with comically overblown gusto. "And it's easy when you're enthusiastic about the items - like these pieces," she motioned towards the sketches.
Alex's eyebrows furrowed as her brain ran amok with thoughts.
"Miss Nita," she said, "if I may be so bold... you seem truly passionate about this - and rather acquainted with marketing. Since I intend to work with other artists... do you think I could perhaps offer you a partnership, of sorts? I do- I do apologize if that is odd of me, it's just... you seem like a truly amicable person - someone perfect for this endeavor."
Nita's face lit up with the brightest, warmest smile Alex had ever seen from a stranger.
"Miss Alex," she said, "it would be my pleasure!"
"And- of course, we'll have to discuss salary. I'm trying to run a business - one that respects both its customers and people working with it."
"Very honest of you," Nita beamed.
"Uh... does... Leo require a salary?" Alex asked with a slight chuckle.
"I'll share of my own. But - worry not. He doesn't need dental," she laughed.
And Alex couldn't help but laugh back.
This felt... like the start of something wonderous.