Papa had given it to Sarah when she had been four years old. It was the last thing he had given her before he had gone to the store with the neighbour and never returned.
‘It’s a dreaming stone,’ Papa had told her. He had held up the little stone, no more than a pebble, and in the light, it had looked almost see-through. It was a transparent pink colour, shades of purple dancing around the flat edges. It looked perfectly circular. ‘It’s special. Here, take it.’
Sarah had held out her hand and he had placed the stone in her palm. It had been cooler to the touch than she had expected, and she had twitched a little at the feel of it. The stone was smooth and it had been large in her tiny hands.
‘Why is it special?’ she had asked. In the throes of her childhood, she had been willing to believe anything was real: Santa Claus, pixies, goblins, fairy tales, and monsters under the bed had been some of the most memorable. One by one, she had discovered they weren’t true as she had grown up. Back then, though, anything had seemed possible.
‘It’s a magic stone,’ Papa had said. ‘You keep it under your pillow and if you have a nice dream, it remembers it. Then, when you have a bad day, and you’re sad, if you want to be happy you just kiss the stone and go to sleep. When you dream, you’ll have that nice dream again.’
Only a few days later, Papa had left. Sarah had only seen Mama crying once, although even as a four-year-old she had been able to tell just how upset her Mama had been. She hadn’t understood why at that point, because she hadn’t been able to process the idea that Papa wouldn’t return.
The worst part had been when Mama had tried to throw the stone under her pillow away, and Sarah had explained that it was a magical stone that Papa had given her before he had gone. Mama had looked down at Sarah like she couldn’t find the words to reply, and then she had walked out of the room and sat down at the kitchen table in silence. Even though Sarah had tried to talk to her, Mama hadn’t moved or said anything until the doorbell had rang.
It had been the husband of the man Papa had gone to the store with. Mama had ushered Sarah out of the room and told her to get ready for her bath. Sarah had returned to her room and checked that the stone was in the right place before obeying.
At first, Sarah had believed to worked, but the longer that Papa had been away, the more she noticed the lack of good dreams. Something was always missing, and there came a point when even if she did dream of Papa, it was not a happy dream. He was either sad, or Sarah was, or he was disappointed in her for thinking his magical stone wasn’t actually magical at all.
There came the day when she took the stone from under her pillow and put it on the shelf. From the shelf, it moved into a tin. The tin was stored in a box when Mama and Sarah moved house, and she had rearranged her new bedroom to suit her. The box had been shoved to the back of the wardrobe, and Sarah had forgotten about it for a while.
Then, one day, she had been packing a suitcase to go on holiday, and she had been looking for something in the wardrobe when her finger had touched the tin. She had pulled it out with a frown, and opened it to see what was inside.
It was the flat, circular pink stone with the purple swirls around the edges. She picked it up, feeling the smoothness, and held it in the light. It was translucent.
‘Do you feel ashamed?’ she asked the stone.
It didn’t reply.
She put the tin back in the wardrobe and tossed the stone out of the window. She had no need for silly stories, anyway.