We went to a wedding on Saturday night. We were told not to bring presents or money... just a bead. Preferably one with a story behind it.
When I was in my early twenties I lived in a flat of my own, in a run-down area of Manchester. My main preoccupations were politics and parties. If I'm honest the parties got the most attention. Most of my friends lived within a half-mile radius and we spent a lot of time in my shambolic flat, talking nonsense and admiring pretty things. Various flatmates drifted in and out, one of which was Rachael. She’s still a close friend now, and a funny caring ballsy woman.
I had a patchwork coat she coveted, and she had a necklace made from incredible beads. They appeared to be made of turquoise foil, surrounded by swirls of coloured resin. They caught the light like tiny crystal balls. If you stared into them hard enough you could see whole movies unfolding in front of you.
We agreed to a swap. She got the coat, I got the necklace. Even though it was very small and choker-like, and there's something about my neck and chin and ears that doesn't suit chokers, I wore it a lot. I would stroke the satisfyingly-smooth beads, and invite people to stare into their depths. There was one bead that was flawed, with a rough scarred surface on one side. I turned it around to hide the injured side. A friend noticed what I was doing, and it became Our Special Thing. Whenever he saw me wearing it he would find the flawed bead and turn it around for me with a ritualistic solemnity and a twinkle in his eye.
My patchwork coat has long since died, and I've discovered that the distinctive twisted links which connect the beads are made of red gold. The whole thing is rather valuable. I should really give it back. Occasionally we agree that I should return the beads, and I promise that one day I will... but I never do.
It broke one time, and a link was lost during the repair. A bead had to be removed. I still have it. I still wear the necklace. I may have worn it at the wedding. I'm not sure, as I'm writing this post before the wedding but posting it afterwards, and I haven't decided yet... but anyway. The bead will be my gift, and this is its story.
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