She liked to buy vintage things.
A collection of collectors, over a collection of years, had managed to pick and choose among things that were simply old and fill a few floors with the most eclectic collection of things that were unmistakably vintage. The smell of something vintage isn’t musty, but fragrant. The look of something vintage isn’t worn but aged. The touch of something vintage isn’t frayed or broken or rough, but ethereal and delicate and weathered.
“Come try me on,” crooned a gaudy piece of costume jewelry from the century before. The lights in the glass case shone on it especially, glittering off whatever stones were attempting to mimic diamonds and had in their antique nature become substantial in their own way. “You’ll look like the woman from that movie, the black-and-white one, in the scene where her dress slinks but in a refined way.”
The girl paused to stare and ponder. She reached out to the glass for a moment, then shook her head bashfully and turned away. The thought lingered.
“Come pick me up” laughed a small beaded coin purse with a clasp. The pearly pieces shone as if polished. “There’s nothing like me in the world, and you know it! Everyone will be asking where you got me from, and your answer will drive them mad with jealousy.”
The girl picked it up and slung it over her arm, glancing sideways in a long mirror. Her eyes seemed to glaze over but she eventually regained composure and placed it back down. She touched her shoulder where it had sat upon walking away.
“I am very nearly the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, you must agree” sang out a teacup atop a matching saucer. An entire garden of roses and butterflies hand painted in perfect porcelain, they must have at one point belonged to a set but were now just the two. Its gold brim glinted, and a little blue bird near the handle seemed to chirp upward at it as if guided by the sun.
She felt the familiar tug on her heart and let out an audible gasp. This was, in fact, the thing she was looking for. It felt lithe in her palm in the way that small things are, and substantive in the way that old things are. Her gait elongated, buoyed, as she waltzed down two regal staircases and into the register line.
After a few seconds of thoughtless bliss, the cup piped up again.
“So. What is the plan exactly?” The girl snapped from her daze.
“What is your plan for me?” She frowned thoughtfully.
“Well…I mean, I was going to take you home and put you in the cabinet.” The cup smacked, posh and doubtful.
“The cabinet of mugs? I’ll be crushed.” Her brows began to knit.
“You won’t, I’ll save a corner for you.”
“You already stack them up higher than you can reach. There isn’t even a corner left.”
“As it so happens,” the girl injected impatiently, “there are a few cabinets I can put you in, one of which will have a corner open.” The cup rolled its eyes.
“Oh yes, the whatsits in the corners of cabinets. The most life-changing objects people own, some say.”
“Oh knock it off.” The girl felt annoyed, but also gained a bit of nervous tension with every step she took forward in line. “I remember where my nice things are, even the ones in corners.”
A few seconds of silence.
“You’re not even meant to stack mugs, they don’t sit properly.”
“What are you going to use me for?” asked the cup.
“For tea, obviously” the girl snapped. “Or other drinks.”
“Do you really drink this much tea?” inquired the cup. It drew out the word really longer than the girl cared for. “I can hold two, maybe three sips. You’ll just have to keep refilling from the pot.”
It did have a point there. She couldn’t even recall where her teapot was, if she still had it. She was so used to throwing a bag into her thermos on her way out the door. Maybe in the garage somewhere?
She bit her lip. The person in front of her stepped forward to ring up.
“The next person who looks upstairs” continued the cup, “is going to see just a little twenty dollar saucer of nothing noteworthy. You’ve sort of ruined it for them.”
“Twenty dollars!” the girl exclaimed under her breath, checking again the tag on the cup. It read thirty. She could’ve sworn it was cheaper when she looked upstairs.
“I’m probably part of a collectible set that someone will come looking for.”
The person in front started for the door.
“When the saucer doesn’t get sold, they’ll probably toss it.”
The cashier – young, bored, tired – locked eyes on the girl, who gulped and stepped forward.
“Is it just this?”
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