My first day at the diamond shop started with rain. I tried not to see it as an omen as I walked down the cobblestone streets, with my drooping umbrella barely shielding me from the downpour.
The town was filled with a rainbow of umbrellas, contrasting against the grey of the rain-soaked city. There were tourists looking lost, priests on their way to one of the many churches, and regular towns-folk milling about on their day. To my surprise, I saw Mr. Taper, a leather goods store owner, helping a group of tourists. Most people that live here find it amusing when tourists get lost, but not out of cruelty, but because the labyrinth of our town has baffled us for years.
I held my yellow umbrella above my head in an attempt to protect my new wool sweater. Luckily for me, the diamond shop was only a couple blocks away from my house. When I reached the front window, I peered in at all of the display cases.
I hadn’t noticed that the windows were dark until Mr. Trumble came up and unlocked the door. He was an older man, small but straight as a pole. He wore a brown tweed suit and used a wooden walking stick. He looked at me from under his bushy, silver eyebrows. “Hello, young lady,” he said, “can I help you?”
“I’m Bethany, and I’m supposed to be your new assistant,” I said as I turned to him.
He slowly nodded, his eyes closed with remembering. “Ah yes, I remember now. Come in, and I’ll show you around.”
Mr. Trumble held open the door as I walked in. He quickly slipped by me and into the back room, where he put his jacket and walking stick.
“Alright,” he said, “this is where all the magic happens.” He let out a little chuckle at a joke I didn’t understand.
I walked down the long shop room, and gazed at the displays on either side of me. There were diamonds of every shape, size and colour. They glimmered and gleamed in the light, as if it had been specifically designed to show off all the diamond’s best qualities. If I looked close, some appeared to be two colours swirling around deep in the heart of the jewel.
“How did you make the different colours?” I asked, not able to take my eyes off of one diamond. It was a deep forest green with streaks of dark blue exploding from the centre.
“It’s all about being at the right place at the right time.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, looking up to see him suddenly standing behind the case in front of me.
But, he seemed distracted, looking down at the green and blue diamond. “Such a tragic story,” he mumbled to himself.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Bethany,” he said, shaking his head as if that could dislodge lost thoughts. “Forgive me, I am getting old and my mind has the tendency to wander.”
“You were saying that you need to be in the right place at the right time. What does that mean?” I asked.
He smiled at me and folded his hands on the case top. “In order to make these diamonds, you need the right amount of everything.”
I nodded, knowing the process for making coal into diamonds.
“For this one, here,” he pointed to the green and blue diamond. “It required the right amount of terror and grief.”
I blinked. “Terror and grief? Those are emotions, sir.”
“You think I don’t know that? The little girl who made this diamond had just lost both of her parents in a car crash.”
I blinked again.
“These are not just ordinary diamonds. These diamonds are made from tears.”
No more than two hours later, I found myself sitting beside Mr. Trumble at a wedding, in one of the most uncomfortable church pews. He was determined to show me the process of collecting tears, despite my rational disbelief. Diamonds were not made from tears.
This is madness, I thought as I tried not to fidget or be embarrassed that I wasn’t properly dressed for a wedding.
“We’re going to get a tear from the bride,” he told me.
“Seriously? What are you going to do, interrupt the wedding?” I asked.
Eyes were on us from every direction. Some more curious, others disdainful. Whatever Mr. Trumble did, there was a divide in opinion of it.
“I do what I need to.”
The music began and the bride appeared with her company. Her eyes were already red and teary.
As we stood, Mr. Trumble took a small glass vial out of his coat pocket. Without a word or a look, Mr. Trumble reached out towards the bride and placed the vial on her cheek. One tear dripped soundlessly into the glass container.
No one looked at us then, not even the bride.
“How did you—”
“Tear collectors are never seen at the moment of collection. I’m not sure why, but it’s part of the tradition.”
The diamond he made with that tear was clear and pure. It was tinted sunshine yellow with joy.
The next day, it was my turn. Mr. Trumble gave me the assignment of collecting four tears by the end of the week. He told me any tears would do, so I didn’t have to exert myself too much. He warned that collecting tears was terrible work sometimes.
“Us collectors are there for moments of joy and sorrow. Emotions run deep and we must keep our heads about us.”
I started with a child that had fallen on the pavement. First I collected the tear, and then I went to find her mother. The stone that came from it was clear and a light sky blue shot through with streaks of red. The next tear came from an old man visiting his wife’s grave. The diamond was a deep indigo but an intricate shape that held many stories. The third tear came from a wife after a fight with her husband, sitting outside on a bench. The jewel came out a deep orange with red highlights and jagged edges.
During this time, Mr. Trumble also had me help with his booth at the daily market. I hurried around the stalls, trying to get tourists to look at the jewels. But, as hard as I tried, I found it hard to convince people to buy others’ tears.
I also noticed that Mr. Trumble would visit a boy at the market, who sold flowers.
“His name is August,” he told me. “I used to know his grandfather.”
“What happened to him?” I asked.
“The town couldn’t keep him alive anymore.”
I had become used to Mr. Trumble’s cryptic ramblings. This one sent a shiver down my spine, though it was no more mystical than the others. The worst was when he would come into the store and tell me about a “premonition” he had the night before. I never found out if he was right or not most of the time.
The last tear I needed to collect was the hardest. All week I had been seeing the extremes of different emotions, trying my hardest not to be affected. I couldn’t tell Mr. Trumble that my heart broke every time I collected a tear. It was like I was stealing something personal from them, something that was not mine to take.
Before I collected the first tear, he told me, “Collecting tears is very difficult for the soul.” He wasn’t kidding.
A week after I started work, with three out of the four tears I had to collect, it was raining. I tried not to take that as an omen.
I knew I couldn’t go back to the store without the last tear. But, I couldn’t handle the intense emotions that I’d been exposed to. I couldn’t take someone’s feelings and turn them into something to make a profit from.
I avoided the shop for most of the day. Instead, I wandered through the streets trying to get lost. Though, the one thing about this town is that you can’t get lost if you try. At least it never worked for me. I hid out in various restaurants, I strolled around the parks, and I even went to one of the many churches that towered over the town. But, I couldn’t hide from the knowledge that I had failed Mr. Trumble.
It was still raining when I walked down the stairs of the church.
“Oh, to hell with it,” I snapped as I pulled out the vial from my pocket. I held it out in front of me and let a single raindrop fall in.
I didn’t say a single word as I marched the vial back to the store. Mr. Trumble processed the raindrop without question, oblivious to the fact that it wasn’t a tear.
“I’m really proud of you, Bethany.” he said as he turned to me with a smile. “I’ve had many assistants, but not one has made it through the week like you have.”
My breath caught in my throat. He was proud of me, thinking that I had accomplished what others couldn’t. I had failed twice.
“Mr. Trumble, I have to apologize. I didn’t really collect a tear. It’s just a raindrop from outside.”
“What?” he asked. “A raindrop?” He jumped out of his chair with too much vigour for someone that old. From across the room, his eyes were fixed on the diamond sitting on the desk. It was a deep muddy black, perfectly shaped, but no light reflected off its surface.
“Bethany, I don’t know what that is, and I don’t know what that means, but I know it’s not a good sign.”
“Mr. Trumble, I—”
“Leave!” he cried. “Get out of here.”
So I did.
A couple days later I went back to check on Mr. Trumble. The shop windows were dark and the inside empty. I asked around and found out Mr. Trumble had gone into great debt and had to sell all his inventory to pay for it. That must have meant selling the raindrop diamond.
A little while later I saw a tourist wearing it. I tried to ask her if she knew what had become of the owner, but she didn’t respond or look at me.
Slowly, the tourists stopped coming and the town businesses died.
One day, a week after the disappearance of Mr. Trumble, a dark stranger showed up in town. He knew who I was, and called himself the caretaker.