Afternoon sunlight washed the oak floor golden as Tobias made his way to the office. Behind him, the sunlight poured through the open door where the other children played in the backyard. He lifted his hand and with delicate fingers he let beams of light slip through, highlighting in gold the dust motes.
“Abra-ca-dabra!” He whispered under his breath as his fingers fluttered, making the light and the dust motes spin.
“Toby?” Mrs Morris’ head poked around the corner of the office doorway, “Toby, day-dreaming again?” She asked in exasperated tones.
Tobias quickly brought his hand down and he put on his sweetest puppy-dog expression.
“Mr Morris said you wanted to see me?” He said it like a question, but they both knew there was no question about it.
“Yes Toby, come into the office please.” Mrs Morris stepped back and Tobias walked in and plonked himself on the worn leather lounge like he belonged there. Mrs Morris, who had hoped to use the authority of the office desk to instill a little fear, now had to move her notes and a small black box to the coffee table. Tobias eyed the little black box, but said nothing. He swung his feet back and forward in a disarming way.
“Toby, is this your box?” Mrs Morris picked it up gingerly like it was some exotic creature.
“Yes, “ He replied simply. It was his, everyone knew it.
“Yes, it is and I would not have usually taken it out of your room without permission but Jancy has lost her bracelet, the one her mother gave her before she past.”
Mrs Morris always talked about people having past instead of saying they were dead. Tobias wasn’t sure if it was lying or not.
“Well I didn’t take it.” He protested, his large eyes creasing and his rosebud lips quavering only slightly.
“It’s just she was very sure she saw you put her bracelet in this box. If you didn’t do it, the bracelet won’t be inside.”
Tobias nodded with the sensible logic, but did not move to take the box.
“Toby, please open the box.” Mrs Morris thrust it out and place it in Tobias’ lap.
Now the box wasn’t just any box. Just two Christmases before he had received it from an old man who had shown Tobias the one secret he knew and assured him there was more to learn, with patience. No other secrets had appeared, yet, and knowing that sometime in the future they may appear made the box all that more special.
The small worn book that had come with the box was gone. Michael had been angry one weekend when his mother hadn’t come though she’d promised and promised. He’d made a bonfire in their bedroom out of magazines, school books, other paper and bedding. Tobias has saved the box only because Michael had been unable to grab it from Tobias’ quick hands.
It hadn’t mattered. Tobias had learnt all he could from the book and afterwards he’d had the room to himself. What was important was the box. He looked at his box and then up at Mrs Morris, his eyes now shining with tears.
“But… they’re my specials.” He said in a hurt childish voice nothing like his more confident tone.
“I know Toby, but the bracelet is Jancy’s special and you know what God thinks about stealing. If you could please let me have a look…” Mrs Morris’ voice trailed off. She didn’t look or sound confident she was doing the right thing.
Tobias looked back down at his black box and carefully picked it up in his slim dexterous fingers.
What happened next, Mrs Morris could never say later. One moment Tobias was twisting a corner and pulling out a secret pin, the next the lid of the black box flew across the room skidding across the polished wood surface of her desk and onto the floor.
While Mrs Morris fetched the lid, Tobias pulled a fine gold chain out of a secret compartment and just as quickly slipped the chain down the sleeve of his jumper. The whole action had taken a fraction of a second and Mrs Morris returned with the lid of the box none the wiser.
“Could I look inside please Toby?” She said not gesturing for the box. He could see a timidity in her, a shyness now that the box was open.
She doesn’t want to do this. He thought, and the thought gave him a ugly sort of happiness.
Slowly, reverently, as if revealing something precious and rare, he turned the box to Mrs Morris. There were a few coins, some foreign, a shiny brown pebble that Mr Morris had helped him polish up. A shell button found a trip to the city and no bracelet.
She sighed and handed back the lid to the box, “I’m sorry I had to ask you to do that. Thank you for being so honest.”
Mrs Morris stood up and returned to her desk where she felt more comfortable, as the little boy carefully put together his puzzle box, wriggled off the leather lounge and walked out of the room.
“Oh, and Toby,” Mrs Morris called now back in her seat of authority. “I hope you know you too can always come to Mr Morris or myself if you need help. I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re alone.”
Tobias just looked back at her, his large brown eyes now genuinely glistening and turned to go upstairs to his room.
It was days later, and the incident of the missing bracelet had seemingly been forgotten by the Morrises. Tobias waited for the perfect time to find Jancy alone.
She was pulling the petals off a yellow rose and laying them between sheets of newspaper for drying. Her attention was totally absorbed with pulling the petals off whole, she did not notice Tobias until something gold glittered just to the edge of her vision.
“My bracelet!” she exclaimed grabbing for the glittering tricket, but only grab at air.
“You said you’d see Christine eyeing it. You’d said you wanted it kept safe!”
Jancy’s face darkened, the remainder of the rose crushed into yellow pulp in her fist. “Me and Christine made up, and then you ate the last piece of toast at breakfast.”
“So you thought to get me in trouble with the Morrises?” Toby boiled inside though, on the outside, he looked to be having a polite conversation.
“They like you….they love you.” She teased, “They’re all… ‘Toby did this…and Toby did that…’ ” Jancy’s quite pretty face crunched up into something wicked and mean, her dark eyes squinted so only pin-prinks of black could be seen.
“You were jealous…of me?” Tobias’s voice became low and menacing, though his expression remained serene, “You have a grandmother who still visits, but I have no one. Why would you be jealous of that?”
“I…oh it doesn’t matter.” She gave up her indignation with a sigh, looking down at the now crushed rose in her hands, “Are you going to give me my bracelet back or what?”
Tobias glared down at Jancy, his anger now clear, the bracelet still swinging from one finger.
“What a good idea. ‘Or what’ seems a very good idea to me.” He smiled maliciously, “I’m going to use my magic to send your bracelet into a pocket space where nasty girls can’t get to.” And with that, he swung the bracelet once more around his finger, flicking it up, slingshotting it directly into the sky. With two hands up he went to catch it in his right, but secretly let it slip through, palming it in his left. As he dramatically opened his right hand and showed Jancy the bracelet wasn’t there, he slipped the bracelet down his sleeve of his jumper again.
Instantly, Jancy grabbed his empty left and then looked around on the ground, but the bracelet had disappeared, just as promised.
“I’m telling Mrs Morris on you!” She balled and ran inside without a second’s thought to the inevitable scolding she’d receive about telling lies.
Later, months later, while making a floral decopage card for her grandmother, Jancy would find her mother’s bracelet pressed and waiting for her, between yellow rose petals.