London had drawn her home once again, but it had been so long since anywhere had truly been home that she had almost refused. She had come, though. The pull had been too strong, and there was nowhere else she had to be. London was as good a place as any.
It was just past three in the morning as she stood on the sidewalk and peered through the windows of the store. A reflection did not block her view of the things scattered higgledy-piggledy inside. They whispered to her, but she was not sure she liked the things they said. All the same, she pulled until the lock broke on the old wooden door that led into the shop, then she walked inside Trevor's Timeless Treasures.
The smell hit her first, and she wrinkled her nose in half-hearted disgust. Everything held an odor of age and mildew, a feeling of the passage of time. Though what flowed from the shelves and cluttered the floor would have been conversation pieces or odd bits of bric-a-brac to those people whose hearts hummed throughout the city, to her, they were once the things of everyday life.
Her long fingers toyed with objects one by one, and each held some memory. They had not been hers, of course, but they were familiar to her. She picked up a buttonhook, the same kind she had once used to fasten her boots long ago, and twiddled it between her thumbs absently. Hanging from the rafters was a flock of parasols, frayed and faded, well past a century old, and she saw in her mind's eye that they had once held fresh, vibrant colors and been twirled flirtatiously on young girls' shoulders. A glove box lay on the counter top, the ones every lady once had resting on her bureau to hold the lace and cotton gloves that were as natural for them to wear outdoors as shoes. Next to it sat a small, round hair receiver made of tortoiseshell, a place where the stray hairs that had collected on a brush would have been kept to be used for any number of things. Her own had been of celluloid, she recalled, and she had shared it with her sisters, the threads of black and brown and gold mingling together and waiting to be worked into embroidery.
A wood and tin washboard stood in the corner, and she remembered rubbing her fingers raw against its twin, both as human and as vampire, in an effort to make things come clean that never really would. Near the door, a cylinder full of walking canes looked like a strange bouquet of chipped black and gilt twigs. Daddy had carried one, many years ago, not for any infirmity, of course, but for the look of the thing, as so many men did then.
Further into the shop, things began to change. A phonograph, just like the one she and her Spike had danced to in their Chicago apartment in the 20's, was covered in a layer of dust and grime. Beside it were stacks of old records. Each one's lyrics she knew by heart in spite of whatever else might clutter her mind. A group of framed photographs of legends of the silver screen decorated a corner of the wall. The pictures had been clipped from old movie magazines, and her sharp eyes could see the tiny wrinkles and creases on the paper. She remembered when the women and men whose images they captured were young and full of life. Now almost all of them slept in the ground.
Sets of chipped china littered the floor, their patterns ranging from the floral patterns of the 30's to the geometrics and strange sunbursts of the 50's and 60's. Her hands stroked thoughtlessly over basket purses and patterned handkerchiefs. When had she last seen a handkerchief, she suddenly thought. Perhaps twenty years ago? They were gone now. Such a simple bit of life, little things that everyone had once carried, and they had disappeared completely, replaced and forgotten.
There, against the back wall of the store, was a display of hippie and punk artifacts. She giggled for a moment as she remembered Woodstock and the funny taste the people had there. And there, hung haphazardly on a jewelry display, was a selection of leather collars with studs that seemed far too familiar to her. It couldn't have been so long ago as all that, could it?
She felt out of place there and quietly made her way to the front of the shop once more. Her feline eyes came to rest on a mannequin that she had overlooked, dressed to the nines in a wedding gown from the reign of Victoria. It's white silk had aged to a dull bone color, and the pattern of the lace broke down in places where the moths had done their work, but it was a lovely confection still. With the delicacy she was so capable of when she desired, she softly undid the rows of pearly white buttons down the back and gently took the dress from the false form. She held it in front of her as though she were afraid it might break and looked down at the skirts that hid her toes from view. As her eyes moved upwards once more, she saw a most unusual sight.
An antique, full-length looking glass, which she had not given any notice to for obvious reasons, was just across the aisle from her, and it reflected the dress as though it had been suspended in mid-air. The effect was startling to her. As she moved her arms, the sleeves moved with them, and the skirts swayed with the movements of her body. For an instant, a heartbeat, she looked in the mirror and caught the briefest reflection of a girl from almost a century and a half before, laughing at all the silly, useless things in the room that had long since survived their purposes.
Her most of all.
"No use," she suddenly called out in a voice like shattered glass. "No use at all! No one needs us!"
She fell to the floor in a rage of pain, sobbing and wailing loud enough to wake the dead, and her writhing form knocked over a table full of oddments. It was pure chance that the old matchbox landed before her face. Her hands clawed for it greedily, and when the compartment was swung open, a single match fell onto her palm. The long dead stick flared to life instantly with a rough rasp against the side of the box, and she held it in absolute stillness for a long moment.
"Pretty," she murmured to herself.
When the fire brigade arrived a few minutes later, the store had been reduced to ashes. Old things have a tendency to go up like so much tinder in a blaze. Very little was spared by the conflagration, but a tarnished and blackened mirror was found in the remains of the store, miraculously unbroken. Its ruined face, though, would never reflect again.