Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cup and Saucer (08/28/14)
- TITLE: Pride of Place
By Pauline Carruthers
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An icy blast took her breath away as Lydia pushed through the half open door into the kitchen. Icicles hanging in elegant spikes above the window shattered, as she irritably slammed it shut. The black rocking chair creaked and tapped on the cream marble tiles, but Irene continued rocking, gently backwards and forwards, her worn pink snuggle blanket wrapped comfortably around her thin frame.
“It’s like living in a sterile greenhouse. Hot, stifling, comfortless. And a waste of electricity.”
Ignoring the contradiction of open window and snuggle blanket, Lydia reached for the black kettle and held it under the gleaming arched tap, careful not to create water marks on the polished steel sink. The daily intrusion of her mother’s voice droned on in the background, as she dropped bread into the matching black toaster and reached for the cream china butter dish. Inhaling the sensual aroma of fresh coffee she waited for the inevitable daily reminder, that her mother preferred tea with her toast.
Lydia’s gaze automatically alighted on the beautiful glass cabinet that housed her delicate matching china. And there it was, sitting prominently at the front as it did every morning. It was so out of sync with her matching cream crockery, with the clutter of spiky black daisies swaying elegantly around fluted edges. It was almost obscene. An intrusive, stark white pottery cup and saucer; tiny brown cracks its only decoration. With her usual deliberately audible sigh, Lydia removed it from the cabinet.
“It’s precious memories. You can hide it during the day, but I like to know it has a place in the night. It comforts me.”
During the last year, since her mother had moved in with her, they had gone through this pointless morning ritual. The daily relegation of Irene’s offensive cup and saucer to the cupboard. The rocking chair ceased tapping and groaning. Irene pulled her shabby pink snuggle blanket closer around her frail shoulders and shuffled into the conservatory. Picking up her old Bible she turned to Psalms, resisting the temptation to look for suitable responses in the book of Proverbs.
Lydia wandered in and out of shops all morning, unusually oblivious to her genuine designer bag. Her mother’s reference to thankful memories seemed trapped in her consciousness and she couldn’t let go. In a tiny upmarket boutique she discovered a soft cashmere snuggle blanket and bought it for her mother, ignoring the exorbitant price tag.
“Oh thank you so much Lydia. How wonderful to have a nicely co-ordinating mother. I’ll wear it in the mornings when I’m in the black and cream kitchen.”
The relevance of the cashmere blanket being black and cream hadn’t occurred to Lydia. A rare splatter of tears on her cheeks brought an answering sob, as her mother held out thin arms in a gesture of reconciliation.
“It was during the war Liddy. Years before you were born. Ted had just tuned the radio in to the news. I’ve never told you about Ted and little Harry. It was a long time before I met your dad. The war had barely touched us, apart from the rationing. But our hearts ached for those poor souls living in the thick of the nightly bombing. The whining sound came completely out of the blue. It was unfamiliar but we recognised that dreaded, monotonous drone. Then without warning, there was deathly quiet and we knew the bomb was coming down. Ted snatched up little Harry and ran towards the door, shouting for me to follow, but sheer terror rooted me to the spot. In the deafening blast someone was screaming and I realised it was me. After that I only remember the nothingness and confusion. The sound of shifting rubble. The eerie shroud of thick stifling dust, settling in slow motion all around. They pulled us out hours later. But Ted and little Harry were gone. Just weeks old Liddy.”
Irene clasped Lydia’s hand that seemed jammed against her mouth.
“It was all that was left. Whole families gone. Just me and the cup and saucer, surviving in the rubble of a dozen terraced homes.
Tears flooded Irene’s faded eyes as her daughter wrapped the pink snuggle blanket around her mother’s drooping shoulders and led her back to the old rocking chair. When she looked up again her precious memories had pride of place in the beautiful china cabinet. Tiny brown cracks in the thick white pottery, starkly prominent against the insignificance of exquisitely delicate china.
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