It all started with a necklace.
A beautiful pendant, made of gleaming silver in the shape of a dragonfly, strung on a green silk cord. Its eyes were tiny crystals that caught the light, and the wings were a delicate filigree. I spotted it on the last day of the Willow Creek Renaissance Faire, while Emily—or Emma, since we were still in character—and I strolled the grounds. We were in our usual tavern wench costumes, with our personalities to match: a little louder, a little more brash and flirtatious than we were in real life. We stopped to interact with patrons—especially tiny ones dressed as knights or pirates—and we did a little surreptitious shopping as the vendors took one last chance to sell stock before packing it all up and moving to the next Faire on the circuit. That was when I saw the dragonfly, winking up at me from a jeweler's table.
"What d'you think, Emma, dear?" I held it up so we could both see it. I was wearing the pewter Celtic knot I'd gotten the summer before last, but my outfit needed a refresh. As the silver dragonfly rotated slowly at the end of its cord, its eyes flashed at me, whispering, Yes. You need me.
"Oh, Stacey, it's so pretty!" Emily clapped a hand over her mouth and turned wide eyes to me as she realized her errors. First, she'd called me by the wrong name, and second, she hadn't even made an attempt at her usual Faire accent. "Sorry," she said around a grin.
The vendor snorted. "It's all over but the shouting now. No one's going to notice you breaking character."
"I mean Beatrice, of course." To her credit, Emily slid back into character in a heartbeat. "Because that's your name. You truly deserve something new. I think it would do quite nicely."
"What's going on here?"
Now my wide eyes matched Emily's as we looked at each other in reaction to the stern voice behind us. Then we turned in unison to face Simon Graham, the Faire's organizer and Emily's boyfriend. He was still in costume as Captain Blackthorne the pirate: all black leather and roguish smile. But his forbidding tone was pure Simon the English Teacher, as though he'd already shaved his beard and cut his hair short as he did at the end of each Faire season.
So I scoffed at him, because a pirate and a tavern wench were roughly the same in the hierarchy of things, and out here he wasn't my boss. Not while we were in character. "Nothing wrong with a bit of shopping, Captain. Surely you wouldn't deprive your ladylove of a little indulgence."
"Oh, I don't need anything." Emily's hand went to the pendant she wore around her own neck—a deep blue crystal hanging from a silver chain. Simon had gotten it for her from one of the other vendors earlier this summer. "Why would I, when I have this?" Her eyes practically glowed when she looked at him, and I could tell she wasn't just talking about the necklace.
Simon raised an eyebrow, his stern expression melting away as though he had trouble maintaining it in front of Emily. "Quite right." He bent to brush a kiss across her mouth.
I coughed and glanced over at the vendor, who rolled her eyes good-naturedly in my direction. We probably had matching expressions. "Get thee a room," I muttered, and the vendor snorted in amusement. I fished in my belt pouch for the cash I carried to pay her for the dragonfly necklace. I didn't have anyone buying me gifts; I had to get my own. But I didn't mind. That way I was guaranteed to end up with something I liked.
Simon turned his attention back to me, and his brows drew together again. "Are you sure about that necklace, Stacey?" His voice was pitched low since he'd dropped the accent and his character. "It seems a little...elaborate for a tavern wench."
A flash of anger rose like bile in the back of my throat, and I swallowed hard against it. He was right, of course; the necklace didn't match my costume. Tavern wenches weren't high-class characters; my pewter Celtic knot was as fancy as I dared. But I'd inhabited this same character for six years now, and it was starting to chafe. I was tired of plain. Tired of settling.
My fist closed around the pendant, the dragonfly's wings digging into my palm. "Perhaps it's time for a change, then, Captain." I kept my voice light, almost teasing, so neither of them could see my irritation. This was a new revelation, and I wasn't quite ready to share it.