Angela quickly got ready, changing into casual clothes for Axion women, which consisted of wide legged pants, a wrap top, and a long, sleeveless robe that she decided to forgo. In the bathroom, she pulled her hair back into a messy bun, then hurried to the stylist’s room, where she could already hear excited voices.
“Mmm, I’m just not sure about that color,” Angela heard Harrison say.
“But look here, with her eyes, it would be perfect!” Maya exclaimed excitedly.
Angela walked in as Harrison and Maya were comparing color palettes on life-sized vid versions of her. She grabbed some food and walked over, but honestly couldn’t see the difference between the two blues on the screens.
“Oh, Angela, good, what do you think?” Maya asked her. “I’m leaning more towards this one, but Harrison thinks this one will look better.”
They both stared at Angela expectantly, but she still just saw two blues that looked identical.
“Umm…,” Angela gave them an apologetic look. “I’m sorry you guys, but they look the same to me. Pretty, but the same.”
Both Maya and Harrison seemed to deflate before Harrison very obviously changed the topic.
“The Crown Prince’s Sonsara Pendant is arriving any minute! It will be so much easier to design when we know what it looks like.”
“I thought it was silver,” Angela said. Harrison stared at Angela in horror as Maya’s mouth dropped open in shock.
“The precious jewels might have a silver quality, but it’s so much more than that!” exclaimed Maya. “It’s how it looks under different lights, how the colors change, if it glitters or sparkles, are there any hidden colors that only come out under specific lights. Precious jewels are never just one color. They’re a multitude of brilliant lights and colors. Some are said to even be able to tap into your subconscious so you’ll remember that last time you saw a similar jewel.”
Angela raised her eyebrows, pretty sure both Maya and Harrison had lost it a little when it came to clothes and jewelry. A jewel is just a pretty rock, after all.
“Okay, well, while we’re waiting, I had an idea I wanted to run past you both,” Angela said. “Exalon mentioned that you like to take designs from different cultures to make new styles. Have you ever used any of Earth’s clothing?”
Maya looked less than impressed, but Harrison gave a weak smile.
“Um, no, we’ve never looked at Earth fashion,” he said, trying to be diplomatic. “I’m afraid I’ve never heard it was particularly…exciting.”
Angela rolled her eyes at the insult and put on one of the vid gloves.
“Earth didn’t have a central government that was responsible for the planet, but hundreds of countries, and cultures, and fashions. My mother’s people came from a country called India and I think one of their celebratory outfits, with a few intergalactic tweaks, would be perfect.”
Angela quickly pulled up multiple pictures of various kinds of saris, and when they appeared, both Maya and Harrison gasped. They both walked closer to the vid monitors, seeming to forget you could just zoom in, to get a closer look at the colors and embroideries.
“These are…,” Maya paused, but Harrison took over.
“…beautiful. By the Fates, they’re absolutely…”, Harrison paused letting Maya pick up the conversation again.
“…perfect. The colors.”
“The draping of the fabric.”
“The separate top and skirt on most of them.”
Maya and Harrison looked at each with wide eyes, then squealed, Maya even jumping up and down in excitement.
“Angela, these are perfect!” Maya cried out. She grabbed Angela in a tight hug, throwing her off balance. Angela caught herself, laughing. Harrison joined their hug, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“They’re gorgeous, darling!” Harrison said excitedly. “And the fact that they’re from Earth? Perfection! You’re playing the game exactly right! Oh, I can’t wait to see the Sonsara Pendant so we can figure out which look goes perfectly with it.”
At that moment, a sharp rap was heard on the door, then Mrs. Cotterhill entered, carrying a gorgeous box of polished wood inlaid with jewels. She bowed deeply to Maya.
“Your Royal Highness,” she said.
“Mrs. Cotterhill,” said Maya, acknowledging her.
Mrs. Cotterhill turned toward Angela and sniffed, but also gave a brief bow.
“Miss Winslow. Your Sonsara Pendant has arrived.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Cotterhill,” Angela said, trying to be diplomatic with the unmovable woman. “If you could leave it on the main table where it will be safe.”
Mrs. Cotterhill gave a slight nod, almost as if she agreed with Angela’s idea, but she would never admit it.
“Of course,” Mrs. Cotterhill said finally, answering Angela but staring at Maya. “If there’s anything else you need, I’m just a phone call away. Lunch will be brought in shortly.” The older woman swept out of the room, and Angela, Maya, and Harrison all glanced at each other before bursting out laughing.
“Okay, okay,” Harrison said, trying to get the girls to calm down. “Let’s take a look at this Pendant. Then everything else should fall into place.”
They were all silent as Harrison slowly lifted the lid of the box. It was almost as if something magical and forbidden was happening. When the box opened, showing the Pendant sparkling inside, all three of them gasped.
Angela was suddenly hit with a poignant memory of her mother, as if the Pendant was somehow making her remember. Trying to shake it off, Angela looked closer at the Pendant. It was utterly stunning, with shining gems that resembled Earth’s diamonds glittering throughout the entire circlet, down to the enormous jewel, cut into the shape of a teardrop, that would rest on Angela’s forehead. She glanced over at Maya and Harrison and they both seemed to have been trapped inside a memory as well. Maya had tears in her eyes and Harrison had a dopey grin on his face.
“Did you guys…”. Angela paused, staring at them. “Did you see something?”
“I was on the ice planet, Dadaari,” Maya said almost dreamily. “I’ve only been there once. We were on a family vacation, the only one we ever took, the four of us. Ex was throwing balls of snow at Father and they were laughing. Even Mother was happy, smiling at them as she held me in her arms. She almost never held me, that’s what the nannies were for, but on this trip, she wasn’t the Queen, just a mom and a wife. And Father was so loving, so happy to have all of us together. Ex was the happiest I’d seen him until you.”
Maya turned to look at Angela, a tear trickling down her cheek. She quickly brushed it away as Angela put her arm around Maya’s shoulders and Maya leaned her head onto Angela’s shoulder.
“I don’t even… I didn’t remember any of that until just now. I was so young. Was it even real?” Maya asked rather forlornly.
“What I saw was definitely real,” Harrison said. “I was back home on Vlaxa. I had just turned four years old. I had taken all the decorative jewels off one of my mother’s dresses because I thought the pattern was just awful. When she caught me in her closet rearranging them and sewing them back onto the dress, I thought she’d be so angry. But she just laughed.” Harrison gave a slight chuckle. “She laughed so hard and so long. Then she sat right down on the closet floor with me and helped me sew the rest of the jewels on. She told me I’d be a wonderful stylist one day, because, as she put it, ‘You have real taste, Harrison, darling, which is sadly in short supply’. We spent the whole afternoon just laughing.”
“What did you see?” Maya asked, looking at Angela.
“My mother. Dancing in the rain behind our old house. When she saw me watching, she reached out her arms and I went running into them. I was probably only five. But my mom and I stayed out there, dancing as the rain fell, long after the sun had set. It’s my favorite memory of her.”
“Maybe that’s what the Pendant does!” Maya said excitedly. “It unlocks your favorite memory!”
“I’m not sure,” Harrison said, biting down on his lip as he looked at the Pendant. “I have memories of my husband and my kids that are much more precious. But it is my favorite memory with my mom. She died not long after in a fall while she was painting a mural. The ladder gave way beneath her.”
“Then maybe that’s what it does. It gives you your last memory with your parent,” Angela said. “Or maybe your favorite memory with them. I mean, my mom died years later in the factory fires, but whenever I miss her, that’s the memory I always think of. Huh. That’s fascinating, I wonder how the Pendant does that. Maybe there’s a light refraction outside the visible spectrum from the way the stone is cut that effects certain neural pathways.”
Angela started reaching for the Pendant to take a closer look, but Harrison quickly grabbed her hands with his own.
“No one is touching that until we put it on your head,” Harrison said firmly. “It’s much too valuable.”
“I thought objects didn’t have value here?” Angela asked, confused.
“Darling, something that’s a few thousand years old always needs to be handled with care,” Harrison said, gently closing the lid of the Pendant’s box. “And it definitely has value. Trust me.”
Angela just shrugged. Maya and Harrison understood this world much better than she did, so she trusted they knew what was best.
“So now this means…dress time!” Harrison cried.
“Or maybe not,” Angela muttered under her breath, not looking forward to an entire day of clothes, despite how excited Maya and Harrison were.