Ten Little Teacups

Well, damn.

Just one cup left, one cup that had survived and now that was gone. Just a set of anonymous shards of the floor. Damn shaking hand. Damn unyielding back. I can’t even pick up the pieces now.

Ten cups with blue rims I had bought in the tea set when I was six. I hadn’t accepted the tiny plastic set I received for my birthday. Even at that small age, I had started saving up money in the small nooks and crannies of my room. Back then, mothers didn’t clean their kids’ rooms. The kids had to do it themselves but that was alright really. It meant you had an easier time of hiding things.

I hadn’t always come across that money honestly. I’ll admit that. I’m guilty as charged from stealing ten pence from my parents to make up the amount needed for the tea set in the antique shop. Mother never noticed the coin missing from her purse. It told her grave years later.

I broke the first cup taking it home. I swung my bag around too much on the way home and they didn’t pack china properly in that shop. I cried like a pet had died when I opened it up and found it cracked in two. When my older brother (was it Fred or Freddie? I can never remember what he called himself when) asked me what the matter was, I blamed Margie Diller and said she’d picked on me outside school. She hadn’t done anything of the sort. The worst she had done was get a better score in me in Maths but, my God, did it feel good to pin something on her. She got a good smacking from her parents for it too and I almost cheered when I heard.

The second cup got smashed when Freddie barged into my room during a tea party with my friends. He trod on one of the cups we weren’t using like the lumbering lummox he is. I blamed him for two cakes that went missing from the tray the next night. They were very nice indeed, as was seeing him forbidden from going to the weekend’s football match.

The third and fourth cups were cracked when I took it to university. They smashed during a party. I had been too busy dancing on the table but two of my hall-mates who had attended the party were pulled over by the police for driving drunk. They got arrested when they found baggies of pot under the seat.

That was when I had my first inkling that the china set might be cursed. I kept the cups hidden away under my bed, away from any accidents, before the next insult came along. That didn’t come until after I’d left university. I knew I was the better person for the job and I thought I could be good enough to make them see beyond my lack of family in the company. But, those idiots on the interview panel didn’t see it my way so down dropped another cup and, next thing I knew, I got a call telling me the git had pulled out and could I please take the job instead?

I found out in the local newspaper the next day what had happened to the git. Nasty business. Still, he’s got some family with better judgement that him he can leech off for the rest of his life when he gets out of prison.

The sixth and the seventh one had been wasted on ex-boyfriends. I really shouldn’t have done that. There were so many better reasons to use them. Still, it was satisfying to read about the unfortunate accidents they got into. And, it forced a car company to recall some of their models amid fears of faults in the breaking system. And, a food company to pay a huge fine for not putting the right allergy warning on the packaging. Apparently, they weren’t the only victims of those misfortunes so the cups did some good in the end.

I took a bit more care over the eighth one. So many people got lucky when they got a promotion over me, cut in front of me for the third time on the carriageway and could never get my drink order right. I took a few deep breaths and counted to twenty in my head like my Stan told me too. He had got lucky a few times after teaching me that method. It helped me not to use a cup on him.

In the end, even those calming techniques couldn’t stop me and, when that stupid school wouldn’t let my son in, I threw down another cup.

The cup must have felt my anger because it was much more destructive this time. You would think that a school with such good inspection reports would take more care over the electrical wiring. No one died but a lot more kids found themselves without a good school to go to after that. Some of them even got themselves in hospital for smoke inhalation. Not exactly what I intended but it made me feel a bit better.

It took me twenty more years to get around to the ninth cup. But, that one was one I definitely don’t regret. I had almost forgotten about the power I held in my hands until my dear daughter Helen came on the phone, crying her eyes out and telling me through sobs that she was in the hospital. She had thought he was her friend. One of her best friends. But, he was sneaky. She hadn’t even noticed him putting whatever it was in her drink.

I had met him once. I had his face clear in my mind when I cradled the cold china in my hand. He summoned his handsome face clear in my mind and threw the cup against the wall. It didn’t quite make the satisfying smash I had hoped for but the news I got from my daughter a few days later more than made up for it.

He suffered for it. If he had survived, he never would have been able to use his legs or anything in that vicinity ever again. He held out the longest out of all of them. The good boys in the hall had died instantly when the roof fell on them but the scumbags lasted the longest. That’s how I could tell which out of them had done when he did, by how long they survived in agony.

I only had one cup left. I let it sit in the top cupboard, away from clumsy hands and waiting for the right time to put my last revenge into action. Nothing came. My daughter married a lovely man who believed her when she told him what happened at university and who didn’t mind not sleeping in the same bed as her. No grandchildren came but I was happy with that, even if my Stan wasn’t. He didn’t know. He wouldn’t understand and he went straight to his grave, not knowing.

So, now, it was only me in the house while my memory and my body raced to see who would give out first. I had forgotten where I put the painkillers and I was raiding the cupboards for the box of pills when I came across it. I had forgotten what that little cup and teapot was far so I reached up and took it down. Then, my hand slipped on the dusty china and the thing broke on the floor.

That sound brought all the memories flooding back. But, they couldn’t do me any good now.

What would happen? Had I been thinking of anyone while I was searching around the cupboards? Would it hold fire until I could think of someone to get revenge upon? What would I do if something came along and I didn’t have my cursed cups at the ready? Well, there was always the teapot, I suppose.

My husband had died the year before. I had told his grave all about the cursed cups I had been hiding. I had to stop whenever the vicar got too close. I didn’t think the sanctity of confession would stretch that far and God help me if he was one of the types that believed in exorcism.

Yes, I thought, perhaps, if I wished hard enough, that curse could be directed at him. Now that I thought about it, he did sneak up on me when I was telling him about the vengeance I had wrought on the boy who had done that to our Helen. He must know. He’s too nosy for his own good. He can go. He’s been here too long anyway.

As have I, really.

*

The Gleason Antiques shop was a few roads away from the main village and constantly inches away from closing down. So, most days, Danielle was left to man the cash desk, desperately bored and sneaking games of Solitaire on her phone.

When the bell above the door rang, she thought that it must the postman or some other non-customer. She was stunned to see a square-shouldered man, carrying a wide box in both hands with incredible care.

He came up to the counter and placed the box upon it. His eyes didn’t want to meet Danielle’s at first but roved across the counter before he sucked in a breath and said, “It’s a donation. From Mrs Cannock. She died a few weeks ago and she left this to the shop in her will.”

Danielle shrugged, “Okay.” She had never heard of a Mrs Cannock but donations were all okay. Besides, she wanted this man out of the shop and out of her personal space now. His clothes were stained and he smelled musty, like a walking abandoned house.

With a few signatures on a few forms, the man was out of the shop and Danielle was left to peep inside the box. It was an old-fashioned tea set with ten little child-size cups and an indigo edging around each rim.

The manager at last stumped down at the stairs, his walking stick slamming down on each step harder than his feet “Oh, was that Mrs Cannock’s donation? Good, good. Let’s see if she’s used them.”

He opened the box and his crinkled eyes went wide, “She used all of them? Well, well, never thought she had it in here. I don’t think I’ve seen that before all my life.”

Danielle had tuned out by then. She barely spared him a glance as he reached up to put in out on display near the window. Against her will, she managed to catch the words directed at her, “Died in her bed, you know. No one knows what caused it. No one’s really paying attention to it. The vicar’s murder’s got all their attention, of course.”

2 thoughts on “Ten Little Teacups

  1. I think the concept of 10 tea cups being broken one by one is a great plot device.

    A couple of suggestions for improvement: 1) In the opening paragraph find a way for the reader to feel an emotional connection to the cups. Perhaps they were a gift from someone special in the speaker’s life, someone who is now dead. The fact that they were bought from stolen money doesn’t create an emotional connection for me. 2) I think the opening line is the climax of the story: “Just one cup left, one cup that had survived and now that was gone. ” I wouldn’t give away the ending from the beginning. Keep the reader in suspense to see how many of the cups become broken in the end.

    The story could end with the last cup broken, and yet this allows the reader to finally let go. Anyways, just suggestions for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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