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Short Story: The Vase

January 13, 2011

It was a blue and white vase. One of those patterned affairs you somehow knew was a knock off, but of what exactly was anyone’s guess.


She certainly didn’t know. All she knew was that she had always hated it and now it was broken. It was a gift, a begrudging wedding present from her husband’s mother. Her husband’s mother had never liked the idea of them marrying and now as she picked up the shattered remains of an unwanted gift, she pondered why that might have been.


Her husband’s father had left them, to set up life with some other woman, so perhaps his mother’s experience had tainted her view of marriage in general. Of course, it might have been as simple as her mother-in-law disliking her character.


But she found it difficult to imagine the woman welcoming anyone into the family. And her husband was his mother’s only child, so perhaps a fear of losing him as a son could be blamed. One often heard of such mothers, who wanted to be the only woman in their son’s life.


Sometimes she wondered whether her mother-in-law was just the sort of person who liked disapproving of things. It was of no importance anyway, she would never know why she was so disliked. It didn’t matter why.


She ceased this line of thought as she stood to fetch the dustpan. But once she had retrieved it, she was struck by another possible motive for her mother-in-law’s chosen role of malcontent.


She was not a very good housekeeper. In truth, she was not a very motivated housekeeper. It bored her even to think of housework. And she had made it very clear from the start that she would not give up work when they had their children.


As it turned out, she needn’t have bothered, they couldn’t have children anyway. Her husband’s fertility was not the issue, it was hers. Barren, was how her mother-in-law had phrased it. And it seemed to be just another reason to disapprove of their life together.


She told herself again, it didn’t matter why and stooped to sweep up the smaller fragments.


The vase had stood prominent and proud in their entrance hall, ever since she had placed it there twelve years ago, in an attempt to appease her mother-in-law.


They had just moved into their ‘marital home’ and she thought that displaying the vase so conspicuously would please her new husband’s mother and maybe even spark some feeling of friendship or familial love.


Of course, it didn’t. And the vase just stood there and mocked, in quiet disapproval of her every action and utterance.


She had tried to move it to the kitchen once, but her husband had objected. He said it would only antagonise his mother more if she suspected her gift was not being given pride of place in their home. Not his words exactly, but certainly their meaning.


And now she’d gone and broken the damned, ugly thing. She thought about something her husband had once said in jest, when she had accidentally dropped a kitchen knife a mere inch from his big toe, “You know, Freud said there was no such thing as an accident,” he laughed.


If Freud had been right, although from what she knew of him, it seemed unlikely, it would mean that not only had she tried to decapitate her husband’s big toe but that she had also broken the vase intentionally.


As she tipped the noisy fragments of the shattered vase into the bin, she searched for a small part of herself that might know this was true. She found no such confession but remained open-minded to the possibility.


For twelve years the vase had stood atop the hall table. It had endured innumerable dustings and held countless bunches of flowers. And never once had it come close to being damaged. Until now. Now, in what doctors had said would most likely be the final week of her mother-in-law’s life, she had broken that unwanted gift.


It therefore seemed plausible that she had unconsciously intended to break the vase. But she knew it could just as well be coincidence. She told herself it didn’t matter why, a phrase she was hearing herself say a lot lately.


As she placed the dustpan back into the appropriate cupboard, she heard the front door open and then close. Her husband was home. She would have to tell him about his mother’s vase of course, but it could wait until he had changed out his work clothes.


She knew that, given the current circumstances, he wouldn’t be too bothered about the loss of a vase. Even if he did get upset about it, it wouldn’t really be the vase he was upset about.


“You’re home early,” she said with a smile and then seeing his expression, she added, “What’s the matter?”


In an instant, she already knew what was wrong; his mother had passed. As she led him by the hand into the kitchen and filled the kettle for a cup of tea, he told her that the hospital had called him, on his way home from work, to notify him of his mother’s death.


As he spoke, she realised her husband’s mother had died only minutes ago. And her eyes drifted to the place where the vase had stood and then to the bin where its shattered remains now lay.


Suddenly she was struck by another thought. Had she believed in ghosts or an afterlife, she might be inclined to believe that the broken vase was some sort of communication from the dead woman. That her mother-in-law had just wanted to let her know, that those old issues, whatever they were, no longer stood.


Or perhaps it was to let her know that those same issues, were still of importance. That she could still do nothing right in her mother-in-law’s eyes, that she was still a terrible housekeeper.


But after reminding herself that she didn’t believe in such things, she told herself again, “It doesn’t matter why,” and went to comfort her husband.






9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2011 2:44 am

    This is a very touching story.

  2. January 13, 2011 9:58 am

    Author’s bonus rant:

    This story is in no way intended to lend credence to any happenings of the so-called supernatural, as I don’t credit such things. It is merely a work of fiction. Thank you!

  3. 'Na' permalink
    January 13, 2011 2:03 pm


  4. Diva permalink
    January 14, 2011 5:19 pm

    Wow, this was so good. I didnt expect the ending at all. Very thought-provoking.

  5. sharononeill permalink
    January 27, 2011 8:20 pm

    nice and simple. we’ve all had some kind of vase. I like this story

  6. February 11, 2011 10:52 pm

    How did I not know about this blog before, Darcy? Enjoyed reading this.

    • February 12, 2011 12:08 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Mariga, and thanks for commenting 🙂

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