The Legend of the Watch
By Amanda deBerardinis
She dipped her fine-tipped brush in the thick, glossy black paint and etched her signature on the bottom of the canvas: Spark Rowen. A finished painting of the Place de la Concorde stared back at her; the tall pink granite Obelisk of Luxor glinting in the sun. This specific monument captured her interest, for she found it oddly remarkable for an Egyptian building commemorating the reign of Ramses II to be standing in the middle of Paris. Her inner spirit absorbed the warm, calm atmosphere, reminding her of her passion for painting these wondrous sights at her own leisure. The heavenly aromas of freshly baked bread wafted from the boulangeries, and pastries seemed to wink at her from behind the glass windows invitingly. This college art program at the Sorbonne was proving to be a great experience, even if she could not mouth more than a simple "Bonjour" or "Merci." There was nowhere else she would rather spend her free month of June.
The only thing that bothered her was that at this very spot used to stand a large wooden guillotine that had chopped off the heads of thousands of people during the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were executed at the very spot she sat at. She imagined their heads flying off, blood splattering everywhere in front of a horrified crowd on onlookers. Even though history captured Spark's interest, she couldn't help but shiver at the thought of all the innocent bloodshed. Swallowing deeply, she tried not to let the image of the oozing red blood littering the streets, polluting the city with its putrid smell consume her mind. Trying once again to clear her mind of the dreadful subject, she turned her gaze toward the Seine, marveling the cultural beauty around her, as she smoothed her blonde updo. Her sparkling blue eyes were another attribute to her unique yet divine beauty, capturing the looks of many Frenchmen. Clacking her new clunky red heels from Walmart, she shifted her sixth toe on her right foot to avoid it from sticking out too much. As Spark stood up, her sweatpants dragged on the ground, causing her to lose her footing and topple to the ground. Flailing her arms clumsily, she sighed, relieved that her easel was still standing; none of the paint seemed to have spilled. A Parisian couple pointed at her, snickering, while muttering rapidly in French. She looked at her scraped elbows, feeling foolish. "Why am I such a klutz?" she thought out loud. She groped for her art stool upon hearing her name.
Just then, hovering directly above her was a young man with brown wavy hair and a kind smile. "Hi Spark. You need a hand?" he said, extending his arm toward hers, which was strong and muscular with veins practically popping out of his skin, contrasting her pale and bony one.
She smiled faintly, her long black eyelashes fluttering in the afternoon sun. "Um, sure. Wait, what's your name again? You're in my art class, right? Aren't you the guy who does the funny French accent?" She felt kind of bad for not remembering his name although he knew hers, but Spark was not exactly one to forget.
He ran a finger through his hair and gestured off into the distance, dramatically removing his sunglasses. "Yep, croissant. That's me. I love the accents here. They make Americans seem so…boring. But anyway, I'm Edward."
"Cool. Thanks so much for helping me up. I just, uh, slipped." Spark brushed dirt off her sweatpants and her green Abercrombie tee. She looked down at the cobblestone street, embarrassed about her uncoordinated self.
Edward squinted, transfixed upon her wrist as if it had hypnotic powers. "Wow, that is an incredible watch if I say so myself. Absolutely stunning. Is that real gold?"
Spark held out her long thin wrist and ran her fingers over the thick watch band. "Oh no, this? It's an old family heirloom. It was given to me by my mother on my thirteenth birthday. Apparently it's some family tradition. When I have kids, I'm supposed to pass it on to them. It's not worth much money, I don't think. I'm sure it's not real gold, but it still means a lot to me." Spark eyed him with a look of disbelief, unable to understand his sudden interest in this watch that cost the world to her but probably had no real monetary value.
"Are you sure?" He could hardly contain himself with excitement from looking at it. "How much will you sell for it?"
"Oh, I'm not interested in selling it. It was given to me by my mother, and passed down the family line for generations. It's special to me, but I don't understand why it would be to anybody else."
Edward smirked, his eyebrows rising, wearing an odd twisted face of fascination, yet annoyance and slight anger. Suddenly, his gaze shifted to her painting. "Nice painting. Quite a different spot compared to what most people would choose to paint. Hey, is that Marie Antoinette? You guys kind of look alike."
"Yeah, I've been told that before. That's why I painted her. But, it's brutal how she died, I mean, that's gotta be painful. Imagine your head being chopped off; for a second you would feel the searing pain as it hit the ground, and then it’d be over. Although she did do a lot to deserve it. And during the French Revolution, the bloodiest and most brutal war of the eighteenth century.” She shuddered at the thought of the Revolution again.” Changing the subject, she shrugged her shoulders. “Ah, well, I wanted to capture something with an interesting historical background, and I know everyone else will probably paint the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. So, what did you paint for your project?"
Edward nodded, seeming not to hear her question. "I like the subtlety of her face fading into the background of the obelisk. That's cool. Different." His eyes shone with delight and intrigue as he was captivated by her painting. "Madame Loisette will love it. I'm not finished with mine yet. But good choice on yours. It's a masterpiece; really inspiring." He shifted his weight to his other foot. "Listen, Spark. I was wondering, would you like to go out with me tonight? I have been daydreaming all day about you. Ever since I laid eyes on you, I was transfixed by your silky blonde hair. You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. I will treat you to dinner at my house. It's not far from here, only a few metro stops. There’s an art collection full of elaborate pieces defining important moments in French history. Please?"
Spark was a little uneasy; this guy seemed kind of creepy the way he kept bringing up her watch and seemed transfixed by her beauty. Plus, she was still seeing Rob back at home. She bashfully looked down, examining the cobblestone road beneath her feet, then shook her head in disagreement. "Sorry, I uh, have plans tonight. You know, with friends. I gotta go." Spark gathered her art supplies, feeling Edward's stares intently boring into her back.
A week later, Spark smoothed her brown skirt like a puffy cloud billowing around her knees, with a matching cardigan as well as her same favorite pair of stilettos, and matching red dangling earrings. She stood in front of a rather large house for a suburb outside of Paris. It was pretty far out of the way from her hotel; ten stops on the metro. The house was not shabby, but plain and white with a few shrubs in front. She knocked on the large brass door and waited, her heart racing inside. Her art class was having a celebratory party to start off the program, which seemed like a nice gesture. One of the students lived here, although she was unsure of whose it was. Her class was fairly large, about thirty people, so she did not have a chance to meet everyone yet, but she hoped she would make new acquaintances. The door opened, revealing a small, ornately decorated living room. From what she saw, red must be the owner's favorite color. There were two red couches propped in front of a small TV, a grand red Persian rug with floral designs, and many tapestries on the wall, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette with their heads in the guillotine. Whoever lived here had an odd taste in art. She looked down at her disproportioned toes, slightly disturbed by all the gruesome paintings from the French Revolution that decorated the already blood-colored walls. A middle-aged woman with her graying hair in a tight bun greeted her with a kiss on each cheek. "Bonjour, mademoiselle. Make yourself at home. The other students are outside. Would you like anything to drink? Perrier?"
Spark muttered awkwardly, "Uhh, sure. Merci," she quickly added. Then, joining the others outside, she briskly approached a group of chatting girls sitting on a ledge outside. They babbled on, not seeming to notice her presence. A tall brunette led the conversation, talking so fast Spark could hardly keep up. Not that she really cared what they were saying anyway. She found a seat in the corner, near where Madame Loisette sat. She could feel people pointing at her deformed sixth toe while whispering her name, calling her a teacher's pet. She took their glares, as she shifted her gaze to the windowsill, examining the beautiful French designs, imagining how she would paint them. Crossing her legs, Spark stared motionless into space. She felt a large clammy hand upon her shoulder, causing her to jump in her seat.
"Hey Spark? How goes it? Welcome to my summer home." Edward popped up out of nowhere, his smooth pale skin shining with the late afternoon sun. He wore a nice dress shirt and khakis, his brownish red hair slickly combed back. "You look lovely tonight. Here, come inside." He grabbed her hand as she passively followed him down the hallway. Her eyes widened with uneasiness and confusion, as she was dragged to a long rectangular table in the dining room. He placed two plates made of fine china elegantly across from each other at the long rectangular table. Even the napkins were red and corresponded with the white crystal glasses with red rims. A bowl of freshly tossed salad sat in the middle of the table on a silver platter. Spark was half afraid there was going to be a head underneath it like in those horror movies that was going to pop out. She uneasily placed herself in the comfortable chair's cushion, jerking around and unable to keep still.
"Th-this is your house? I’m guessing you like red," was all Spark could manage to stutter. Gasping, she clapped a hand to her mouth, saliva dripping out the corner of one end. Her eyes were wide as she shrieked; just now noticing the bizarre centerpiece. "And what is that?"
Edward pointed to a squirrel skeleton. "Oh that? That's just my old pet squirrel, Fluffy. One summer when I was visiting my grandparents here, I skinned him to see what he would look like. I called him Fluffy from then on to be ironic. I keep it as a reminder of all the good times I had here when I was little. But, that was a long time ago. I would do something that gruesome now." He smiled that same malicious smirk. "I see you are wearing that dazzling watch of yours. I'll buy it off you for any price you ask. How much?"
Spark swallowed, clearing her throat. "Um, I already told you once. It's not for sale. You know, I gotta go. I just realized…”
He pointed a finger at her, shaking with rage. "Give me the watch or else…your life will not last too much longer. Don't think. Separate your head from your body for once like Marie Antoinette. Figuratively, and literally, or you will be next." Spark shook her head in horror at this creepy threat, not sure of what to make of it. Not hesitating to think, she took off down the narrow hallway, her skirt puffing up like a cloud behind her. She tripped over her large lopsided feet, one after the other on the long red carpet. Hearing his footsteps sound closer and closer, she felt his breath hot on her neck. Forcing her wobbly and uncoordinated legs to move further toward the front door she longed for the portal of escape. Screams were trapped in her throat, her vocal cords wanting to scream, but no sound escaping.
Quickly, she ducked into the nearest room, bolting the heavy wooden door behind her, panting heavily. Darkness greeted her with its menacing presence as she groped for a light switch. In her haste, her legs thumped against something hard and large. Searing pain shot up her right leg, as she clutched it, crying out violently. She collapsed, falling to the ground, her head colliding with a round object that felt like a human head, surrounded by something soft and squishy. She yelped, “Is anyone in here? Who is this?” Only her own voice echoed through the walls, as her fingers rubbed against something rusty, chipping like paint, but reeking of sour metal. Her stomach lurched at the familiar smell, her heart pounding through her chest. Sprawled across the floor, Spark could hardly feel the numbness in her leg, her mind racing. The sound of a key clicking in the lock rang in her ears, as the light was turned on. She faintly recalled the last moments of her life. There was a blurry image of an oak guillotine towering above her, stained with deep red blood. The vulgar red liquid stained the walls, painting a picture with words: You will be next! Her screams were drowned out, as everything became blurry all around her, nothing seeming real. Looking down at her red and bloodstained fingers, she realized the round object which she was clutching tightly was her teacher, Mme Loisette’s head, the bloody and blank expression staring back at her, haunting her for the next few minutes of her remaining life. Powerless to do anything else, Spark knew what she had to do, hoping her mother would forgive her for using her most prized possession in a desperate situation like this. Removing the watch from her pale and shaking wrist, she threw it violently at the wall with all the strength left that she could muster, watching the tiny gold fragments blast into thousands of tiny pieces.
Spark Rowen’s last fading memory was Edward’s voice crying, “No! You are next Marie Antoinette. You ruined her watch, one of the most prized and searched for artifacts in history. It has been missing for hundreds of years, and now you have destroyed it. You do not deserve to be here. You’re gonna pay with your life, so watch your head!” After that, all became black and nothing was left of her.
The Year That the Real Marie Antoinette Watch Was Stolen
Three years later, the famous Marie Antoinette watch was stolen from the LA Mayer Islamic Art Museum in Jerusalem. No watch would ever be as unique and valuable as this intriguing Breguet one, containing so much historical significance. It was originally constructed for Marie Antoinette; however she never had the chance to wear it, for she was guillotined in 1793 during the French Revolution. The watch was not finished until 1827 after her death. Although replicas have been found, the true identity of the real watch remains a mystery. Spark and Marie Antoinette were unfortunately very unlucky and had their share of wrongdoings in life, and paid the consequences with their heads.