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Short story: A shark-like smile

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By Ritwika Mandal 

“Now, Mr. Harry, that ring isn’t really worth much.”

Ignoring his guardian’s conversation, Tom looked over the tall edge of the table, teetering on the tips of his toes.

On the table were laid various trinkets, colourful vials of simmering liquid, pearl-shined clocks with intricate designs, a golden variation of headpieces, and piles and piles of jewellery, glittering in the stubborn light of the pawn shop. A locket, green of the emerald, caught the nine-year-old’s eye.

He smiled and the ends of his lips twisted up in a shark-like manner. With a little distraction for his guardian and the swipe of his hand, a locket was secured. Then, the pawnbroker turned around.

Immediately the boy planted his feet, glancing at the tall man next to him.

“And yet, you entertain me with a fair mind again, Mr. Corvidae.” Harry smiled, genuinely, “Thank you.”

Tom knew his guardian was too kind, too naïve, too much like the others. So, Tom decided Harry would love the pendant. As long as he didn’t know it was stolen. There was so much joy in vanity, Tom had heard, enough to distract people of the war and their losses. And if the worse came to worse, Harry could just resell it in a different town.

The world was too dark to have morals, anyway.

Tom barely listened, as the two others droned on, finally bothering to turn to Harry once they were back home in the dingy little space posing as an apartment, as a result of the war.

“I got you something.” Tom was nervous. He would be caught but he opened his palm anyway, a dazzling green pendant in the centre.

Harry smiled and ruffled Tom’s hair with a comforting hand. Tom smiled too, shark-like, knowing that Harry didn’t notice.

It was all going according to the plan.

Until, two days later, when Mr. Corvidae showed up at their batty home. Tom was just reading a book when the screaming started. He got up and hid behind the peeling plaster of the archway which led to the living room intending to find out what was happening.

And then he realised. Harry stood there with his back to Tom as Mr. Corvidae yelled at him.

“I’m so disappointed in you Harry!” He cried out, “Was it truly you?”

“…Yes.”

“If it was really you, then I’m afraid that I won’t be able to support you any more.”

Tom’s heart dropped. Harry was taking the blame for his theft. He didn’t mean for this to happen. Was a single theft really that damning?

“I understand.” And just from his voice, Tom could tell that Harry was smiling, not the genuine one or the happy one, a sad depressing smile instead. Tom ran forward, propelled by the sheer guilt of making his guardian take the blame, “I TOOK IT!”

The silence was truly damning. Then, he felt Harry’s comforting hand on his head and he broke down in tears. Mr. Corvidae laughed as Tom barrelled into Harry, hugging him tightly, knowing that he was defeated. “Adults were cruel in their moral lessons.”

“I was happy that you thought of me, but a stolen necklace is no compliment.” Harry grinned. A smile bloomed on Tom’s face too, much less shark in the natural colour of innocence. If, after that, Tom had to grudgingly change his previous opinions, it was no one’s business but his own.

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