Inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairytale, ‘Diamonds and Toads’, Vicky Pointing shares her flash fiction story ‘Gemma’ as part of her 35-day writing challenge.

The stories never mention that the gift was hereditary. It wasn’t just the first woman who was rewarded for her kindness with a fruitful mouth; this was passed down from mother to daughter, all the way to me.

I grew up with it, and everyone thinks their own family is normal until they meet someone else’s. I wasn’t allowed to go to school so I didn’t find out until I was seven, and sneaked under the hedge into a stranger’s garden. There was another little girl there. She seemed pleased to see me, but when I said hello and told her my name, she stared at the pearls that fell out with my greeting. Then she ran off to find her mother, who came back before I could make my escape and made me speak to her.

I think she would have called the papers if our housekeeper hadn’t come to fetch me. Strong words were had while I kept my mouth shut, and then I was marched back to the house.

That was when I realised we were unusual, and that most women did not chatter jewels into buckets that the servants held below their chins. I started to watch my mother. I saw the way her friends would beg for stories and then slip gemstones into their sleeves while smiling and nodding. I saw that she never left the house, did nothing but sit with my father, or walk the gardens, or gossip. I didn’t want that life, to be locked away, muted.

When I was old enough, my parents let me go, but insisted on providing me with bodyguards. I got a job in the city, pretended that I couldn’t speak. Everything went well for a few days, but then someone made me laugh and I coughed out a handful of diamonds. I had to make some adjustments then, and those bodyguards came in handy. Now, they stop most of the nutty ones who try to attack me in the street, screaming or crying for me to say something and save them. It’s strange to think that I could talk the economy out of recession, but these things are delicate and I can’t tip the balance, so most of my conversations go into bank vaults or more exotic hiding places.

I do help where I can, supporting good causes, and sometimes I sigh out enough to pay for a colleague’s new car or loft conversion. I have to be careful though. Shortly after I came out as a vocal goldmine, I was kidnapped and beaten. I only cried coal and pebbles, no matter how hard they hit me, but since then, my friends and lovers have been vetted. I wear a tag so that the bodyguards know where I am at all times. It’s not ideal, but better than having a constant chaperone. Dinner is not fun when someone is leaning over your shoulder to catch every sentence in their palm, while eyeballing your date. Not that I would have been whispering sweet nothings into anyone’s ear. This is not only impractical but also dangerous, as diamonds released at point blank range have a tendency to bruise and cut.

I don’t know how my father has coped with my mother all these years. He does have a few scars, but enough humour left by the time I was born to agree to call me Gemma. Very funny.
But it does make me wonder; if I carry the blessing, is there a woman somewhere who spits snakes when she speaks. And does she measure her words carefully.

Read more of Vicky’s flash fiction stories here.

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