June sat quietly atop the steps which led to her family’s second-story apartment. Just below her feet awaited a day’s worth of work to be done at her father’s jewelry store. She had grown quite accustomed to opening up the shop during the summer months. Hearing rumblings on the other side of the closed door behind her, she knew there was only a few fleeting moments left before her father was dressed, ready to disrupt her solitude.
She ran her fingers through her thick, brown hair and carefully adjusted her pale green cardigan. She had purchased the top at a secondhand store down the street, as she did nearly all of her current wardrobe.
Though she was tall like her mother, at age seventeen she still had not quite blossomed into womanhood. Her work attire typically consisted of a skirt rising just above the knee, paired with a buttoned-up cardigan in a wide range of colors. No matter the occasion, she always wore her white, high-top Converse sneakers.
June’s mother never could understand her only child’s fashion choices, particularly when it came to her oversized retro-wingtip glasses. As the years passed, she had seemingly given up the fight, and resorted to mere snarky quips every now and again concerning her daughter’s appearance. June had learned to ignore such comments, as she knew retaliation would never be a viable option.
“Lorraine! Have you seen my watch?” she heard her father ask, heavy footsteps pacing the kitchen floor behind her. The relationship she shared with the patriarch of their family was considerably warmer than the challenging dynamic she had with her mother. He was both down-to-earth and charming – a salesman through and through. It was from him that June had acquired most of her business savvy. She wondered how he could possibly misplace his watch, it being the only piece of jewelry he donned personally.
His attire consisted of a long-sleeved denim shirt, paired with blue jeans of a very similar hue, which he wore every day of the week. He did, however, always check to make sure he chose a button-up with no visible holes or bleach stains for church services every Sunday morning.
She knew that her father fastening his watch was the last of his morning rituals, and that once it was located, the work day would soon begin. Her mother, on the other hand, likely wouldn’t be down for another hour or so. Her morning routine took a bit more time and effort than that of June or her father. Lorraine had worked at a local mall selling and applying makeup as a teenager. She had continued to hone her skills over the years, never leaving the apartment without full glam, as well as hair which had been curled, teased, and hair sprayed – a style which she’d adopted in the mid-90’s.
Lorraine’s mornings consisted of meticulously placing clothing items on her bed – matching outfits with coordinating jewelry. The pristine collection of necklaces, bracelets, and rings her mother had amassed over the years was undeniably extensive. There was not a birthday, Mother’s Day, or anniversary that went by she didn’t claim a piece of jewelry in the shop as her own. Even a random Tuesday could be cause for adding to her assortment.
June began her descent to the shop - counting each step, as she did every morning. She took a moment to enjoy the cooler temperature as she reached the bottom. She had always appreciated their store in this time of loneliness, before customers crowded in for the day. The glass counters were nearly barren, as they were every morning. The sun shone through the windows, revealing every speck of dust she may have missed from the day before. As she headed to a nearby cabinet to fetch the glass cleaner, she could hear her father’s footsteps as he made his way downstairs.
She began each day by wiping down the glass jewelry counters, vacuuming the floors, and making sure all the shop’s lights were switched on – a task which she saved until after the cleaning was done, as it somehow seemed more peaceful with only the light streaming in from the windows to guide her efforts. Next, she would make her way over to the large, green safe located next to her father’s office. As she passed, she spotted him sitting at his desk, likely catching up on paperwork. A small, unassuming sign hung on the door which read, “Edward Randolph, Jeweler.”
Opening the safe, she gazed upon the dozens of rows of black, velvet trays which contained virtually their shop’s entire inventory of merchandise – organized via category of jewelry. She knew exactly where each tray was to be placed so that customers could easily find what they were looking for as they stared through the glass countertops.
A man of large stature, Edward towered over his daughter as he joined in the task of stocking counters for the day.
“Mornin’ June Bug. How’d ya sleep?” he asked, placing his hand on her shoulder.
“I slept fine. Wish the Camdens could keep their TV down though.”
“Well, their kids don’t know what it’s like to get up early in the summer,” he said. “Bet they get paid for cleaning their own rooms.”
June gave her father a knowing look as they continued setting up for the day. As the clock inched closer to opening time, she decided to check that the mini-fridge was fully stocked. She quickly counted the bottles of water, knowing how many her father liked to have on hand to offer patrons as they made their way out of the summer sun. It was then that she climbed the steps back up to their second-story apartment to grab another case.
As she opened the door at the top of the stairs, she could hear music blasting from her mother’s bedroom. Tanya Tucker singing “Delta Dawn” filled every corner of their home as June made her way to the kitchen pantry. As she rummaged past the half-eaten bags of chips and canned goods, she noticed the music had been turned down to the point of being barely audible. In its place came the voice of her mother, clearly not speaking to June.
“I don’t understand why this is taking so long…” she heard as her mother’s voice had now completely drowned out all traces of Tanya Tucker.
“I don’t want to hear that you’ve hit a dead end…”
It was abundantly clear that Lorraine did not know her daughter had returned to the apartment. For a moment, she considered what to do. Should she try and sneak back downstairs? Purposefully drop a can of tomato soup so that her mother would be made aware of her presence… and then of course pretend she’d heard nothing when confronted? Instead, she stood in stunned silence at the kitchen pantry, holding bottles of water in both hands, as well as squeezed under her arms.
“Tell me what I’m paying you for!” Lorraine exclaimed, before the sound of something being hurled into the bedroom wall echoed throughout their home.
June wasn’t entirely sure she could move her body even if she tried. She wanted nothing more than to get out of there, but her brain didn’t seem to be communicating that message to her legs. Unable to process her mother’s not-so-private conversation, the lyrics of Lorraine’s favorite song filled the apartment louder than before, as Tanya Tucker was once again the only voice to be heard. She seized the opportunity to quietly make her way back downstairs, once again welcomed by the silence of her father’s shop just before it opened for the day.
As she finished up the last of her morning tasks, she could hear her mother’s words still ringing in her ears. Who could she have been talking to? What has hit a dead end? These were all questions she knew she couldn’t possibly answer based solely on the conversation she was not meant to be privy to. She had very little, if any, context to work with when it came to trying to figure out anything having to do with Lorraine Randolph. Her mother was not a terrible person, nor would June describe her as being a negligent parent. She and Lorraine simply were not close.
She could recall that her mother was much more attentive to her as a young child, which, as she thought about it, made perfect sense. Younger kids need their parents more than teenagers, don’t they? Besides, now being fully capable of caring for herself, June understood that different personality types exist in the world – and not all of those personalities are going to complement one another, even as a mother-daughter relationship. Lorraine had always made sure that June had everything she needed. She may not have been a fan of her simple clothes or lack of hairstyle, but she did seem to care about her daughter, in her own way.
Edward Randolph could always be counted upon as a mediator between his wife and daughter, seemingly communicating with each of them with a great amount of ease and understanding. Where Lorraine and June struggled to connect, Edward filled in the gaps. His topics of conversation were never in short supply, always finding a way to connect their vastly different ways of seeing the world. They say that ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’ and June felt certain this was at least partially to blame when it came to herself and her mother.
As she found herself lost in thought, wiping down counters she’d already cleaned, and straightening trays of jewelry which were perfect to begin with, she heard her father’s voice, though she couldn’t make out the words.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I said it’s time to unlock the doors, June Bug.”
As she walked to the front of the shop, she heard the sound of music playing once again. Stepping outside, she could see that the hot dog vendor was setting up for the day. While he was only there during the summertime, he always made his presence known on their typically quiet street. This being his first day back since the end of the previous summer, she was happy to see him. He always brought a nice change of pace to the neighborhood, and as Edward put it, “Them hot dogs come with all the fixins’ you can think of.”
As June wondered who could possibly eat a hot dog so early in the morning, she remembered – the lemonade! While there may not have been many hot dogs sold until lunchtime, just as soon as the shops were open and customers had decided to venture out, that man could sell lemonade “like it had healing powers,” as her father would say. The summers were hot, and a $3.25 cup of lemonade was perfect for cooling you down while wandering in and out of the mostly ‘mom and pop’ establishments along the streets. While antique stores were a staple in their town, so were homemade goods such as children’s clothing, scented candles, and handcrafted wood furniture.
Fortunately for the Randolph family, they were the only jewelry store for miles, though not if you counted jewelry made from painted sea shells and multi-colored beads - but why would you? If you were in the market for diamonds and gold, Randolphs was the place to go. Not only did Mr. Randolph sell jewelry, he also made it. Should a young man want a custom engagement ring made from scratch, that is where Edward could really showcase his talent.
June’s talent, on the other hand, was helping people figure out what they wanted. The customers trusted her, and valued her opinion. Whether they be shopping for a gift, or browsing for the perfect piece to justify a splurge for themselves, June could always be counted on for guidance.
“Dad, Mr. Haygood is back. Would you want a lemonade?”
“Oh really? I think I’ll stick with my coffee for now, but you go ahead,” he said, picking up a large, chipped coffee mug. June had made the mug for him in a pottery class as a child. It donned about twelve different patterns and colors, none of which coordinated.
Crossing the street, she could see that several other shop owners were opening their doors for the day, propping them open with door stoppers and placing chalkboard signs in front which read, “Summer Sale – 20% Off,” and, “Roasted Pecans – $3.99/bag or 2 for $6.99.” She could see that the clothing boutique next to the wood furniture store had yet to open, as the owner was a bit more flexible with her hours than most. While Mathilde’s Boutique and Salon was undeniably busting at the seams with stunning clothes, shoes, and accessories for women, it was entirely too expensive for June’s taste.
Of course, her mother was a frequent customer at both the boutique and the connecting hair salon. While expense did, indeed, play a factor in her avoidance of Mathilde’s, she wasn’t in the habit of spending much of her summer pay – so she likely could afford something from the shop should she desire.
June had never quite seen herself as a girl that should wear anything which might draw unnecessary attention. When she did happen upon something which ventured from her typical style, but yet she found herself attracted to – the phrase, “I couldn’t pull it off,” would inevitably come to mind.
As she approached the hot dog stand, Mr. Haygood greeted her with a smile as he quipped, “Still workin’ for the man, I see.” She couldn’t help but laugh as he poured her a glass of lemonade.
“Well, next year I’ll be a senior, so this may be my last summer at home,” she responded.
“Maybe so… but you’ll be back. That jewelry shop blood is just coursing through your veins, dear.”
“I guess we’ll see,” she replied, grinning.
“Your dad has got himself one of the finest establishments in this town. Not a bad setup if you ask me.”
“I don’t mind it,” she replied. “Of course, it’s all I know. I’m hoping college will help me figure that out… what I’d really like to do.”
“Yep. Well, I know you’ve got a knack for retail. It’s good to see you again, June.”
As she finished up her lemonade, Mr. Haygood insisted she take a refill “for the road.” Although she had intended to take her time and enjoy the brief outing, in an effort to get her mind off her mother’s conversation earlier in the morning, she could see from a distance they were getting their first customers of the day. She headed back across the street, hoping to feel more at ease once she was caught up in the hustle and bustle of the work day. There was not a lot of time to sit with one’s thoughts when there were customers to be helped, as she well knew.
Entering the shop, she could see that her father was helping a young couple browsing engagement rings. “This here is a radiant-cut diamond,” he said as he handed the bride-to-be a ring sporting a white gold band and large center stone. Placing her lemonade beneath the counter, she made her way over to the couple.
“June Bug! This young lady here says she’s a fan of white gold, but she’s not sure yet what shape she’s looking for in a center stone – how ‘bout you show her some options.”
“No problem!” she exclaimed, as her father made his way over to help another customer. After introducing herself to the couple, she learned that they were already in the process of planning a wedding for the fall, but wanted to pick out an engagement ring and wedding bands together. The bride worked as a photographer and loved the idea of an outdoor wedding with fall colors as the backdrop. The groom smiled along as his fiancé described in detail her plans for their big day.
“We have several engagement rings in our case of antique jewelry if you’d like to take a look.” At this, the bride’s eyes lit up with excitement, confirming for June that she was on the right track. As they made their way to the other side of the shop, she could see that the gentleman her father had been helping was looking in their direction as he browsed the glass counters. Looking up at him, she smiled politely as she and the young couple reached the vintage pieces.
As she had anticipated, the bride-to-be quickly locked eyes on an engagement ring which dated back to the 1920’s. She barely had it on her finger before proclaiming its perfection, while beaming from ear to ear. As they discussed the specifics of the ring, June noticed once again that the only other customer in the shop was looking their way. Assuming he was simply amused by the young woman’s enthusiasm, she once again smiled politely.
June could see that the man, whom she presumed to be in his late fifties, was nicely dressed, sporting a buttoned-up shirt and tie, despite the summer heat. His hair was wavy and thick, though she saw no hint as to what the original color might have been, as it was completely white. He wore a Rolex watch on his wrist, as well as a simple wedding band on his left hand. She wondered if he was shopping for a gift for his wife, as she could see he was currently admiring the pearl necklaces, which were housed in a counter near the front of the shop.
After speaking in private for a few moments, the couple decided on the engagement ring, but said they would return another day to shop for wedding bands. June reiterated her excitement for them, and complimented the bride on her selection. Seeing that her father had emerged from his office, she called him over to assist them in sizing their new purchase.
Focusing her attention on the older gentleman still browsing, she grabbed a drink from the mini-fridge and made her way over to offer it to him.
“Looks like summer starts early around here. It’s not even June yet and I find myself looking around for a snow cone truck,” he said as he took a swig of water.
June laughed as she reached for the cup of lemonade still waiting for her under the counter.
“Yes, sir. Did you just move here?”
“I did. It’s a fine town. I’ll just need a little time to adjust to this heat, I suppose.”
“Yeah, it’s not so bad once you’ve been here a while,” she said, taking a sip of her drink.
“Have you lived here long?”
“All my life,” she answered with a grin.
“That must be nice, though, living in a place so familiar. My wife and I have moved a lot throughout the years, truth be told.”
“Well, we’re glad to have you guys. My dad owns the shop… so if you have any questions, just let me know,” she said with a grin, as she heard the sound of the apartment door opening at the top of the stairs.
It was then that she noticed her customer’s face was turning a bit pale, and that his eyes were fixated on something located just behind her. She turned to see that her mother had emerged from the bottom of the stairs. June turned once again to look at the man on the other side of the counter, yet he continued to stand in stunned silence. After a few moments, he mumbled something about needing to get home, apologized, and headed quickly out the front door – disappearing into the glare of the summer sun.