(1939-11-10) The Carved Elephants
Details for The Carved Elephants
Summary: Zoe drops in to look around Prewitt and Fawley World Imports. She is delighted to learn that Michais has kept the carved elephant she sold his partner last summer in the south of India.
Date: Monday, November 10th, 1939
Location: Prewitt and Holmes World Imports

The morning was quiet, which is when Michais usually inspects any new merchandise that might have been sent in. He keeps the door to the back room open so that he can hear the bell ring out front, as he inspects the weave of a tapestry laid out on the table in front of him. One hand reaches up to push along his scalp, lingering at the back of his head, fingers curling as he thinks. He lets out a breath and straightens, taking off his glasses to clean them.

The bell sounds through the shop as the first customer of the day seeks refuge from the cold drizzle in this shop of curios from afar. Zoe wanders through the ordered chaos with a soft smile of delight. She rises onto her tiptoes. Her eyes shine with fascination as she peers at the intricate carvings of a jade figurine.

The sound draws Michais from the back room, his footsteps naturally quiet as one who is used to being in libraries and other such places where silence reigns supreme. His properly accented voice bears a hushed, yet clear quality as he greets the young woman. "Good Morning, miss. May I be of assistance?"

Zoe looks to the shop keeper with a soft smile. "Not yet. But, this shop is beautiful. Is it yours? Who brought these treasures to you?" She approaches the well-dress gentleman with her hands clasped behind her back, beneath her winter cloak. She tilts her head, taking in the dichotomy of the perfect order of his robes and the unruliness of his golden locks.

As the young woman's attention turns his direction, Michais bends from the waist in a bow of greeting more reminiscent of the typical Asian greeting, rather than European. "I am a partner, yes. Michais Fawley. Aliphora Prewett is the other half of Prewett and Fawley. She trots around the globe seeking the treasures you see here," one had releases from behind his back to give a small gesture to the items arrayed around them. "She enjoys the procuring more than the catalogueing and selling." A very slight, reserved smile curls at the man's lips with his accounting of the partnership.

The Far Eastern-style bow stirs even greater curiosity in Zoe's eyes, but the mention of his business partner soon captures her attention. "Does she? How long as she been doing this? Perhaps we have met. Aliphora? Wait… was she in the south of India last summer?"

Michais inclines his head in assent, the mention of India bring the tiniest bit of pink to his cheeks. "She was. She worked her way north and across Nepal and Mongolia after that. She is not one to stay in one place for long." His hand now returned to be clasped lightly behind his back, the man raises his eyebrows. Though is attention is clearly on Zoe, he doesn't look right into her eyes. "Were you traveling in Southern India at that time, perchance? You would know her if you met her, she goes through a room very much like a tsunami."

Zoe laughs with impish mirth and nods. "Yes, I've met her. I think twice. She and my mother were friends. I'm so pleased to see her treasure trove at last. I'm sure she must have sold the carved elephant that she bought form me. It had a baby elephant underneath it." Although his eyes avoid hers, she drinks in his features with keen interest.

The man's lips curve into a warmer smile. "That piece was not for sale, I'm afraid. She wrapped it as belated birthday present, or a half birthday present, as she called it." Michais's eyes briefly hold Zoe, acknowledging her presence and the conversation before drifting slightly again. "They are on the mantle of my parlor."

Zoe clasps her hands and folds them to her chest, tilting forward with an open smile of delight. "In truth? She kept them for you? Did she remember to tell you their story? A blind boy with hands as soft as rabbit's ears carved them for me because I sang to him and kissed his cheek. He told me the baby elephant was an orphan. His mother was shot for her tusks. The elephant he is with is his auntie. Elephants never abandon their children."

Michais nods once. "She did enclose a little note with the story. It is true. Perhaps humans could learn a little something from elephants," he theorizes with another of his reserved smiles. "I think it was the story that prompted her to gift them to me, as much as the carving itself."

Zoe drifts closer, half turned to the side as she tilts her head. She lingers at arm's length, rocking back on her heels. "Are you an orphan as well? Or… do you just love stories?"

Michais blinks his eyes at the question. "Goodness, no," he replies quickly, before modulating his voice. "My parents are alive and well, though far away. An interest in old stories, or indigenous stories, is something Miranda and I shared from our school years."

"I love stories. Especially the ones that are new. Invented stories. Legends are difficult to tell well. Too often, they sound like a History lesson." Zoe half lowers her eye lids and does an uncanny impression of a particular ghost's monotone drone, "And then Troll, son of Trone, played the trombone for all the land to hear in the midst of the thirteenth century when…" Eyes drifting shut, her head lolls to the side and she pretends to fall asleep.

Michais chuckles. "It is true, in the hands of the inexperienced storyteller, an old legend can be rendered colorless. But…" he sighs. "When a master storyteller imparts the legends of his or her heritage, it is a magic all of its own." He pulls himself out of his brief reverie, and nods. "I know few of the newer stories, to be honest. It is something Miranda often enjoys teasing me."

Zoe shifts a bit closer, grinning up at Michais. "I tend to rush through to the parts I am most eager to tell. I am better about letting events unfold and settle when I write them down. I can shape the story like clay, but when you speak a story, it is like painting calligraphy. You can't return to fix something if you miss it."

"Ah, yes. The impatience of youth, I see," Michais replies lightly. His eyes crinkle slightly at the corners. "That is why it is best not to rush a story. As in many other things, a story is a living thing, that must be nurtured attentively, else it grows wild and unmanageable."

Zoe grins, a touch sheepish, but unapologetic at his light remark. "Perhaps you can tell me stories. And I will sing to you in return. I can tell stories through songs. Some I have made up- others I have learned. And I might even kiss your cheek if you let me hold the elephant and her child again."

Michais clears his throat. "Ah, hem. Yes. I am a great reader of stories, but, I am afraid, not a great teller of stories." The bell rings, admitting another customer to the shop, pulling his glance. He offers a smile, and a small bow of slight withdrawal. "Miss -," he trails slightly for the lack of name. "It is a pleasure, if there is anything else I can do for you, I shall return." With that, he turns and walks towards the front of the shop.

Zoe watches his proverbial feathers ruffle with a bit of a smile. As he seeks her name, she supplies, "Zoe. Zoe Qian. So pleased to have met you." Her eyes follow as he heads off to tend to the new customer, but soon she is drifting deeper through his shop. Soon after sifting through an album of painted leaves, she loses herself in the hanging wind chimes that sound gently through the shop.

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