This happened when I must have been about eight years old. One sunny summer afternoon, my parents took my sister and me to a local pub as a reward for our good grades. We went there often. It was a friendly place with a bouncy castle and great staff.
My parents were sitting on the terrace outside and had sent my sister and me in to ask for the bill. We loved doing that because we would always get a sweet from the friendly lady behind the bar. After we had asked for the bill, this woman sitting on a chair at the corner of te bar called us over. She told me she had something for us.
Our parents went everywhere with us and had never really warned us about stranger danger, so my sister and I just naively walked up to the woman. She was probably somewhere in her fifties, with bleached blond hair and heavily made-up eyes. She smelled strongly of smoke and a heavy old lady perfume.
When we came near her, she told us how pretty we were and started to play with our hair. As a kid, I used to have hair down to my bottom and so did my little sister, who was five at the time. We were used to this kind of attention. People always liked our long hair, which I always wore in two bunches and my sister always wore in pigtails. But this lady seemed more interested in our hair than others and it made us very uneasy. She kept brushing her fingers through my hair and couldn’t let go of my sister’s plaits.
After a while of playing with our hair, she pulled out a small purse with a zipper and pulled out two rings and a necklace. The design on both rings and the pendant on the necklace were the all the same, two metal shapes, a bit like leaves, surrounding a little stone. She gave us both a ring, slipping it on our fingers, and tied the necklace around my neck, all along telling us how she had saved those things for when she met two pretty girls.
At the time, we weren’t really aware of this, but when I took a closer look at these jewels later on, I discovered that they were made of real gold, real platinum and each had a small, but real diamond in them. I don’t know where she got them or why she gave them to us, but I was pretty shocked when I found this out.
After giving us these jewels, she asked us: ‘Now you will give me a kiss, won’t you?’
Hesitantly, my sister and I each gave her a kiss on her perfumy cheek.
The lady behind the bar had been watching everything and told us to go back to our parents, or else they would get worried (even though they could just come inside to fetch us). So we went outside and told our parents what happened. They didn’t seem to think much of it since people always told us we were pretty and had pretty hair.
But that whole afternoon, my sister and I just spent the time making up conspiracy theories. Had she stolen the jewellery? Was it something from her ex-husband? Did the bartender send us away because she thought the lady was going to take us?
To this day, I still feel a bit weird about this woman. I don’t think she ever meant us any harm, but the way she kept playing with our hair and kept telling us how pretty we were, sort of freaks me out. Now, I do have another theory. Not for the jewellery, which has gotten lost somewhere between our old toys, but for why she liked us so much. I think we perhaps reminded her of someone she lost. Maybe they passed away, or she couldn’t see them anymore. I don’t know. The bartender definitely didn’t like the woman, so maybe there was something off about her and my heart is just too soft. Anyhow, maybe I should stop thinking about it and just be glad that it was an overly friendly lady who did just keep some old jewellery for when she found someone worthy of receiving it and not a creepy old lady who wanted to bake us for her supper.