It was just an ordinary day for Alex Harper at Harper's Antiquities, until Callum Winters walked in with a watch.
"It was my Grandfather's. I was hoping you could tell me something about it."
A love story of two couples, generations apart.
***Second Edition. Earlier edition released in 2012. No additional content has been added.***
This novella may be a short quick read but it is more powerful than many full length novels I have read. I was sitting in my front yard under the shade of my maple tree and was so glad I had sunglasses on because otherwise I probably would have scared the children playing across the street when the tears started running. The blend of contemporary and historical is perfect for the emotional buildup for the story the watch represents.
The historical part of the watch's tale touched my heart a bit more but I am a bit of a history buff so stories of the past usually do. As my mother's 24/7 caregiver for the past 20 years, when Callum said "My life hasn't been about me in a long time" really struck a chord because in those 10 words she summed up what every caregiver lives not to mention the kind of man Callum is and the fact that Alex understands it also goes a long way in describing his character as well.
I rarely give novellas a full 5 bookmark rating just because my heart prefers full length stories but this is such a powerful emotional ride that nothing short of the full 5 is fitting.
Sitting in the back room at my desk, with a dismantled 1901 Newman's clock, I heard the bell that chimed every time a customer walked through the door. My dad was behind the counter, and I heard him greet the customer, making small talk, discussing whatever antique it was they'd brought with them.
It's what we did.
My father's love of all things antique grew into this business, Harper's Antiquities. Dad was the expert and Mom did the research, but they both traveled, scouring the globe for their life's passion. My brother Scott did antique furniture restoration, but it wasn't something I ever saw myself doing. Then I started helping out when I was a kid at school, and I found a love of clocks.
It’s my specialty.
I could hear Dad talking to the customer, but didn't pay them any mind until I heard my name.
Putting down the part in my hand, I walked through to the showroom where I found my father and the customer he was talking to. Very different from my pale skin, black hair and grayish eyes, he was a good looking guy, similar age to me, but with sandy brown, kinda longish hair, tanned skin and blue eyes. He was holding a pocket watch in his hand.
"This is my son, Alex," Dad explained. "He's the expert on watches like yours."
I extended my hand in professional courtesy. "Hello."
"Callum Winters," he said by way of greeting, putting the watch on the counter before shaking my hand. There was an accent, Southern I thought, but I wasn't sure.
Dad waited for us to let go of each other's hands, then he looked at me and smiled. "Callum was just telling me he'd like to know more about this watch."
I looked at the silver watch casing and fob chain, then at its owner. I reached my hand toward the watch, but before I touched it, I asked, "May I?"
"Sure," he nodded.
Picking it up, I could tell a few things from a visual inspection. "This casing was a popular design in the 1940's," I told him. Gently, I opened the casing to reveal the quartz face. "The dial is Hamilton, but I won't know dates or maker for certain, unless I take the back off and look at the movement."
"Could you do that?" he asked. His accent was definitely southern. "I was hoping to know as much about it as I could."
I smiled. "Sure. I'll need to grab some details, and I should be able to look at it in about two days. Then I can tell you everything I know."
Callum nodded. "That'd be great." We looked at each other for a little too long, and I couldn't help but wonder if this cute, Southern man was gay.
Dad seemed to think so, because with a cheeky smirk, he handed me the register log, looked between us and not-so subtly said, "Callum, I'll leave you in Alex's very capable hands." He pointed behind us, "I have... stuff... I need to do out the back."
Callum politely thanked him, and I considered kicking my father in the shins. We were behind the counter, so it's not like Callum would have seen me do it. But Dad must have picked up on the look I gave him, because he smiled, turned quickly and disappeared through the door.
I grabbed a pen, handed Callum the register and asked him to fill in his details. I picked up the watch, turning it over in my hands. It was a nice piece, and I couldn't help but ask, "What do you know about the watch?"
He looked up from the paperwork. "Um, it was my grandfather's. That's about all I know."
He handed me the completed form, and I told him as procedure, I required some ID. Taking out his wallet, he handed me his driver's licence. His Texas driver's licence.
"I just moved here," he said. "I've got my change of address receipt here somewhere."
He started looking through his wallet, and I stopped him. "No, its fine. I just need to sight photo ID, that's all."
He smiled kindly and nodded. "So, two days?"
"Yeah. I'm half way through another job. Then I can look at this, and I'll give you a call when I'm done," I told him. "Is there anything in particular you're looking for?"
He shrugged one shoulder and shook his head. "No, not really. Just dates, make, model... to be honest, I'm not really sure."
As I was putting the watch and paperwork in a paper envelope, I asked him, "Would you like a valuation?"
"No," he said simply. "Monetary value isn't important."
He thanked me, I told him I'd be in touch and he left. When I walked back into the workshop, Dad grinned at me. "He was a nice young man," he said.
"Mom!" I yelled to the upstairs office, where my mother would have undoubtedly had her head in a catalogue. "Dad's trying to set me up again."
She yelled back, "Was he cute?"
Oh for crying out loud.
He was actually, but that's not the point. Dad chuckled at me.
Ignoring him, I sat the pocket watch on my desk and turned my attention back to the clock I was working on.
I managed to ignore both my parents and their comments about cute, brown-haired watch owners until they got bored and left me alone. And I managed to push the thoughts of the pocket watch and its handsome Texan owner out of my mind until it was time to go home.
I arrived back at work a little before nine in the morning and headed straight for my desk, which was more like a workstation, when the paper sleeve holding the pocket watch caught my eye.
I picked it up and took the watch out, feeling the cool, heavy weight of it in my hand. I didn't hear my dad come up behind me, and his voice startled me. "How's Mr. Yeo's clock coming along?"
"Oh, shit! You scared me," I said with a laugh, clutching my heart. Then looking back to the clock I had half done, I told him, "Um, it should be ready by lunchtime tomorrow."
He nodded thoughtfully. "I think you should do the watch instead."
I looked at the pocket watch I was still holding. "Why?"
"Because Mr. Yeo is a collector," he replied with a shrug. "To him that clock is just something else he acquired. Even old Mr. Yeo will tell you that. But this," he pointed to the watch in my hand, "this means something."
Dad smiled at me. "Mr. Yeo can wait a day or two. He won't mind. I'll even phone him myself."
"Are you sure?" I asked.
He nodded. "He wants me to go with him to look at an 18th Century hand-carved Italian rococo centre table he'd seen at an auction house anyway, so I need to speak to him."
"Okay," I agreed. Within twenty minutes, I had Mr. Yeo's clock itemized and put away and the silver pocket watch in front of me.
I made my usual notes as I proceeded detailing. There was nothing remarkable about it, until I removed the back casing.
Because what I found hidden in the back of the pocket watch was unlike anything I'd encountered before.
I took out the client form with Callum Winters' details on it and picked up the phone. "Callum Winters? It's Alex, from Harper Antiquities. I'm calling about your watch."
"Yes?" he answered, unsure.
"Can you come into the store?" I asked. "There's something you need to see."
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.
She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn't have it any other way.
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don't let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things...but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She's been writing ever since...