By Amanda McLeod
You stand frozen, staring down at the pieces scattered across the floor like little stars. Blinking a few times, you wait for the enormity of it to stop spinning inside your head.
His most prized possession, gifted from his favourite grandmother. He insisted it take pride of place on a pedestal table in the living room, the day you moved in together. You knew it was going to be a struggle, matching your minimalist aesthetic to his pack-ratting ways. He knew it too; sometimes he said your apartment felt bare to him, while you could hardly breathe in his parents’ house, loaded to the rafters with knick knacks and dust. Somehow you found a way. He brought more than you wanted, and less than he wanted, and it worked for you both - to a point. But he would not compromise about that vase, now smashed on the parquet floor of the living room.
There must be something that can be done.
You scan through listings for crystal and glass repairs and feel a jolt of hope when you recognise the brand you need in an advertisement. You call the number, and they ask you to send through some photographs so they can assess the damage. You snap a few pictures on your phone and email them with your fingers crossed. Carefully you edge around the shards, trying not to move anything, treating it like a crime scene. Every piece could be important.
While you wait, you remember the time you moved the vase to the top of the bookshelf, where it would be safer and not assault your eyeballs every time you walked into the room. It was tall, shaped like an inverse bell balanced on a Corinthian pillar base; already top heavy and prone to dangerous wobbles whenever someone knocked the pedestal table. You knew his love was equal to your loathing; and as much as you would be happy to see that frosted, swirl-etched monster shown the door it would break his heart. He didn't appreciate your sentiment when he came home and found his other great love tucked up out of sight and mind. The vase came back down again, and you learned to move slowly and warn people.
The phone rings and the glass repairer tells you there's no way he can rescue you. He gives you the numbers of several antiques dealers who might help you source a replacement. You spend the next hour working through the list and discovering just how irreplaceable the vase is. Your heart sinks. Even if you can find another one somewhere, you can't afford it. You put the phone down. The room is shrinking. You remember how he told you it stood in his Granny’s house when he was a young boy, how he loved to run his fingers over the sandblasted swirls, feeling the texture. How Granny loved it, the last thing Grandpa had given her before he died. How it coloured his memory of his grandmother, how she would always smile and let him keep touching it after she’d shooed his older brother away. How it had gone with her into the retirement village; always there, like a beacon, making any space Granny’s space. And how one day, close to the end, she told him to take it. It needed a good home, she said, with someone who'd love it. She thought his home would be the right one, and he could keep filling the vase with memories just as she had.
You bend down and pick up two of the pieces, fitting them back together. They slide and lock like a jigsaw puzzle, with only the shadow of a line where they join. You purse your lips and inhale slowly. Perhaps you can fix it.
You dig through the third drawer of the kitchen for a tube of super glue, then perch on the floor amongst the shattered crystal. A fine bead of glue along one edge and the two pieces pressed together again. You look across the floor, trying to find the pattern the pieces flew off in when the vase hit the floor. They fit together beautifully and you start to hope this could work. The next piece fits on but there’s a tiny gap, where a chip has come away. Frustrated, you stand up to stretch your legs. A sickening crunch underneath your heel. You look down, seeing a piece of crystal crushed to dust. Tears well in your eyes and you clench your fists.
Defeated, you collect the dustpan and brush, and gather the fragments into a neat pile. You place it on the table and sit, keeping vigil, until you hear the key in the door. He rushes in like sunlight, chattering about something he saw on the train and taking off his coat and scarf to toss them on the hook. When he sees your face he half asks the question, falling silent when he sees the dustpan sitting on the table. The air between you crackles as all the unsaid words of the last few months zing back and forth silently between you. The meaning and your future hang on who speaks first, and what they say. You don't want to be the one to pull the trigger, so you stay silent, waiting.
He smiles a smile that doesn't reach his eyes and holds out his hands to you, telling you not to worry, it's only a vase. He pulls you into a hug. You press your cheek against his shoulder so he can't see your expressionless face. The only two things in your apartment worth saving are irreparably damaged.
About the Author
Amanda McLeod writes fiction and poetry, and is the Managing Editor of Animal Heart Press. You can find her words in Ellipsis Zine, Not Very Quiet, Ghost City Review, and many other places. When she's not playing with words, she's finding other ways to calm her busy mind. Find her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites and on her website amandamcleodwrites.com