When a trinket is not just a trinket
by Amy Andrews
It’s funny how a small thing you can write into a book ends up playing a much bigger role than you ever planned.
In All’s Fair In Love And Chocolate my hero, Reuben, gives the heroine, Vivian, an antique music box for Christmas, sort of similar to the one pictured. Here’s the scene from the book with its description.
The bartender arrived and Vivian gave him her order before turning back to Reuben, her knees brushing his, her gaze falling on the gift bag for the first time. She stared at it for a beat or two with confusion then what looked like trepidation before carefully schooling her expression and raising her eyes to meet his. “I thought we said no Christmas gifts.”
Reuben picked it up by the red raffia handles and placed it in front of her. “It’s not a Christmas present,” he said with a nothing-to-see-here smile. “I swear. I just…saw it today and…thought of you.”
She looked from him to it and back to him again. “You did, huh?”
“Yep.” He nodded. “You’ll understand when you open it.”
If she opened it…She was looking at it like it was a ticking bomb and he wouldn’t be surprised if she refused. The thought irritated him suddenly. He was allowed to fuck her but not buy her something pretty?
“I…” She glanced down then back up again. “I didn’t get you anything.”
Reuben gave a half laugh, a half sigh. “Vivian…I didn’t expect you to get me anything it was just an impulse thing. It’s not for Christmas, I promise.” He nudged it towards her because now he really wanted her to open it. “But I think you’ll like it.”
The bar tender interrupted by putting Vivian’s wine down and she thanked him and took a sip before returning her attention to the gift bag, putting her hand inside and withdrawing the box that was a couple of inches across the base and about four inches high.
It was the original box which, given it was almost eighty years old, has seen better days but he was pleased he hadn’t wrapped it in the Santa paper he’d almost bought for the occasion. She was freaked out enough as it was without getting Santa involved.
Placing the box down on the bar, she opened the top flap, glancing at him as she reached inside to pull the object out before looking back at the music box. Reuben glanced at it again because it was impossible not to. It was quite unlike anything he’d ever seen and here, in the understated elegance of the Graf, the music box with its old fashioned craftsmanship and well…whimsy, looked perfectly at home.
Returning his attention to Vivian, he watched as she examined it, her frown of irritation softening and then dissolving as her expression morphed to one of utter delight. “Ohhh Reuben,” she murmured breathily. “It’s…enchanting.”
It was enchanté. Just like her.
The inch-high, round base was made from milky mother-of-pearl and embellished with swirly clusters of fine silver filigree. Nestling it in her palm, she brought it closer to study it, turning her hand this way and that as her gaze roved over the myriad decorative details.
Atop the base protruding from its outer circular edge were four exquisite mother-of-pearl panels abutted to form a semi-circular screen. On the outside they had the same swirly silver filigree embellishments. On the inside a glossy hand painted scene of a snowy wood graced the panels. Dark green pine trees, their branches and tops laden with snow formed the perfect backdrop as they towered over the two, inch-high figures, placed in the centre of the piece on a mirrored floor that was tarnished in a spot or two.
It was a man and a woman dressed in old fashioned clothes similar to what the carollers had worn at the Stroll. They were standing in a waltzing position but they weren’t dancing. Ice skates were on their feet and their scarves and her hair and dress blew out behind them to indicate movement.
They were skating. On a lake. Surrounded by a wood.
“There’s a winder on the bottom,” Reuben reached for it. “May I?”
She nodded and Reuben took it, surprised all over again at how heavy it was for such a small object. Flipping it over, he turned the winder, and set it down on the bar. Irving Berlin’s classic tune White Christmas wafted into the air clear and high with a crinkly, timeless quality that harked back to the days of pianolas and smoky saloons.
The couple in the middle turned around and around, skating in circles and Reuben watched Vivian, watched the myriad expressions flit across her face as she smiled. “It reminded me of ice skating on Miracle Lake with you,” he said. “I thought it’d be a nice memento of your time here in Marietta.”
“Oh yes.” She dragged her eyes off the music box as the winder wound down and the couple slowed. “It’s the most perfect thing.” She slid her hand on top of his, her brown eyes dancing with pleasure. “Thank you, Reuben.” She leaned in and kissed him, her hand sliding onto his face, her fingers pushing into his hair. “It’s so…thoughtful. I will treasure it.”
Which was exactly what he’d hoped for when he’d bought it.
“Then my work here is done,” he said, keeping his voice light and teasing because his heart was filling with something heavier and more serious and they didn’t need that.
“Sir? Madam?” The bar tender interrupted. “Your table is ready?”
Being a bit of an antique nut, I had a lot of fun researching this little trinket! I knew what I wanted it to look like in my head and was utterly delighted when I found similar objects to drool over! But, aside from the pure and utter gorgeousness of the gift, it went on to play a much bigger role in the story. In the end, it’s the music box that becomes the catalyst for Vivian to re-examine certain things.
I can’t say much more because spoilers, suffice to say that Reuben sure knew what he was doing when he purchased it for Vivian ☺
And if you’d like to check out more inspirations for the book, why not drop in to my Pinterest board here – https://www.pinterest.com.au/amyandrewsbooks/mareitta-xmas/