It grew from a speck of sand, nestled deep within its mother's breast, safe inside the mothering mantle. In the dark, layers of nacre – incandescent, transcendent – formed around the embryo and in the bivalve dark it glowed like a new star.
The mother-of-pearl was protective of her lustrous child. She felt its iridescent warmth and the blush of its subtle color. Though luminous and pale, in its depths swam the colors of the ocean – green, silver, blue.
She knew that many would seek her chaste birthstone, would hunt for her radiant teardrop. She feared the harvest of her illustrious offspring and hid beneath the heavy currents, beyond the sweeping tide, behind the fish that curved like a metallic horizon.
But hands will reach far when the demand is high. The mother was pulled from her world of enigmatic tributaries, sculpted grottos and coral islands that carved a map across the ocean floor. She was no longer a part of the sympathetic ocean, but a stranger in a world of stinging air and a knife that with careless expertise cut the pearl out of her.
The mother had always been ugly; all of her beauty had drained into her child. Now she was useless as well, and ready to die. But her pearl was carried away with the other orphans.
It was put on display, a solitary fruit on a black velvet field – the better to show its pallid gleam. All memories of the sea were polished off its skin. It was destined to suffocate in a box along with the other tropies torn from the mysterious alchemy of a protesting earth.
And I am guilty too; I own four of these delicate prisons.