• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 01

A Teacup Can Exist Without Your Gaze

You wouldn’t know, to look at me, but I understand more than you realise. All those things you’re thinking about now, for example, as you wander around the room – picking up items and putting them back in places they don’t belong – such as the last time you saw her. I was here then, too. Though I doubt you remember.

It was one of those dull autumn mornings, when the mist that fell at night lingered well into afternoon, and left everyone feeling as if the day had never really got started. The grey simply fell back into night.

But that day, you had found yourself in the neighbourhood and thought, ‘Why not pay Alice a visit, surprise her?’ And it was a surprise. When she opened the door and saw you there, her heart gave a little jump.

‘You’ll be the death of me,’ is what she thought. Though she never said it. She didn’t need to. You both knew.

She made you tea. Too weak, too sweet, but that was her way, and you had sipped it politely, and held me in your hands, letting the amber liquid warm your fingers, and smiling as she asked you how life was.

She didn’t listen as you told her. Instead she watched you caress me, and allowed her mind to wander back to a day, long ago, when she had opened a gift-wrapped box, peeled back tissue paper, to find a set of porcelain. Cups and saucers, embellished with roses and gold. A gift from Thomas. Another one of life’s little surprises.

She had pointed it out to him one day as they walked along the King’s Road, the display in the window drawing her close, and teasing out a gasp of longing. Then they’d walked on, and after a few days, Alice had forgotten all about it.


A Teacup Can Exist Without Your Gaze

Ten weeks he saved for it. Ten weeks of anticipation and excitement as he waited to give it to her.

You could never know, of course, what a china cup could mean to someone. She knew that as she watched you drink and place the cup back in its saucer, casually, as if a cup was just a cup.

And now, here you are again. Alice is gone, and you can’t remember the last time you saw her, or why it is you are here. Why it is she insisted you be allowed to pick out any pieces you might want, ‘as a memento’.

Though you sense that something has happened to the room. It seems diminished in some way, stripped of meaning now that Alice isn’t here. Alice, who always knew a cup is never just a cup.

And it will follow you for the rest of the day, this unease, this sense that things are reduced when there is no-one there to need them. But do not worry. What’s left of Alice still remains, believe me.

A teacup can exist without your gaze.