Izzy didn’t believe in luck, until that cat crossed her path. She swerved to avoid it; glad she had a nimble Vespa scooter. She came close enough to see it’s raven’s breath fur and glowing green eyes. The cat seemed to grin at her malevolently, and Izzy swore it said, “I give you my 13th share.”

She couldn’t shake a weird feeling. As if she was holding the string to a dark cloud shaped balloon. A shiver as if someone had walked over her grave. An indrawn breath when forced to walk under a ladder. The uneasy feeling after getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

But Izzy was a practical modern girl; no room for irrational superstitions in her world of rational science. A cat is a cat is a cat. Hardly something to influence her day one way or the other. It was her shopping day; she zipped around town to get the freshest fish, most perfect fruit and vegetables, the creamiest cream. She didn’t mind the distance or the bother; she felt quite alive and free on her Vespa, and shopping was the perfect excuse for speed and skill.

“Silly girl,” she said to herself. Distracted, she turned down the same alley as the cat, rather than continuing along the main drag. The alley opened up into a small square. The buildings were tall and thin, and leaning on each other for support. The upper stories had rows of narrow windows, shuttered or dark. The first floors were shops with dusty displays and curious signage. Exterior paint seemed in short supply. There was an eld and arcane feel to the square, as if Izzy had ridden into a foreign place and time.

But curiosity, “which killed the cat” popped into her head, made her park the Vespa and explore. Each shop was similar: a creaking door with jingling bell opened into a long and narrow room, with a counter at the far end. The air was stifled and stale. The shelves held more cobwebs than merchandise. What was for sale often spoke of another era – ink pots and quill pens; mysterious gadgets; bolts of material; vials and corked bottles of coloured liquids; battered leather-bound tomes; silver back mirrors and hair brushes; hat pins; thimbles and packets of pins; yellowing lace handkerchiefs; candles and lanterns; porcelain and enameled wear.

As Izzy went from shop to shop, she realized another common theme. The proprietors were as ancient as their stores. Bent with age, wrapped in shawls or wearing vests with pocket watch chains, they showed little interest in Izzy. Busy drinking tea, or wrapping items with brown paper and string. Or disappearing into the shadows behind the counter, talking quietly to themselves.

There was a decided lack of other customers. Not that she was alone, exactly; she sensed other shoppers in the shadows, or scurrying in the periphery of her vision. Maybe milling about in the space curtained off at shop backs?

Izzy glanced at her watch. Had she really spent hours wandering around the square? She hopped on her scooter and tore through the streets. She was relieved to encounter no more black cats, though she hit every red light on the way home.

She parked the Vespa, and climbed the stairs to her apartment tucked under the eaves of the old Victorian house. She did feel more restless than usual; she turned on the radio for background noise as she put away her purchases. “Damn” as she dropped a jar of pickles, sending glass and vinegary liquid all over the floor. After mopping up the mess, she needed a calming distraction.

She watched the eight orange and one black goldfish exploring their large bowl, swishing the agate and amber gravel on the bottom. The two real aquatic plants added an exotic touch. The bowl sat on the top of her bookshelf. She interspersed books on the other shelves with figurines in ceramic, porcelain and wood: cats; dolphins; rabbits; elephants; giraffes; frogs; mice and mythical creatures. Holding one in her hand helped give her a sense of reassurance. She repeated her mantra “Calm as a koi pond.”

She placed seven jasmine incense sticks in a narrow vase and scattered old coins on a tray to form a centerpiece for her kitchen table. With a piece from a faded tapestry for a place mate, she arranged mismatched hand painted large and small plates from Portugal and Thailand, and laid out equally unmatched old silverware. An embroidered handkerchief from someone’s dowry hope chest completed the setting. Although her fridge was now full, suddenly nothing appealed. Feeling tired, she thought about take out, but couldn’t decide between Turkish, Asian Fusion, or classic Italian.

Instead, she settled into the deep tapestry cushions of different shapes on her couch. With a large red and black enameled bowl of garlicky, buttered popcorn in her lap, a shaker of salt and a cold beer beside her, she was ready for binge watching Bridgerton by the light of 2 white and 1 orange candle. She clicked the remote and for several hours was transported to an alternative historical universe.

Later, as the full moon cast long shadows catching and refracting the crystal prisms strung on thin wire hanging in the window, and wind-chimes lilted softly on the warm summer breeze, she tucked sprigs of lavender under her pillow. She took off her black tourmaline and rose quartz beaded bracelet with tiny silver four leaf clover charms and sapphire pinkie ring. In the bathroom, petals from seven different coloured flowers floated, invitingly. She slid down into the water, closing her eyes, and day dreaming of attending grand balls wearing fancy frocks. Large, thick towels, scented with sandalwood essential oil, were piled next to the tub. Before pulling on her green silk pajamas, she rubbed a basil and rosemary balm on her rough elbows.

A transformative day, to be sure, she felt. Through, there was the nagging thought that the cagy merchants of the square threw black cats in the path of likely marks.

There are 13 items Izzy purchased from the shops in the square to ward off the cat’s bad luck. Can you spot them? Written for mlmm 1st line Friday: Izzy didn’t believe in luck, until that cat crossed her path. 

Dylan provides us with the first line, and we do the rest.