Friday Fiction – The Apology Swan
Hands on hips, Valerie surveyed her kingdom below.
Gold-dipped teacups, shining silver candlesticks, speckled glass paperweights and complicated little ornaments sprawled across the table and onto the carpeted floor. She selected perhaps the daintiest of the items, a bone china trinket box, and held it between her forefinger and thumb.
The base of the box was flat and smooth, but the top had been pinched and pulled upwards, winding delicately to reveal the neck of a swan. Two pinpricks of black created the bird’s face, with a blob of honey-yellow serving as the beak. Little gold and cream brushstrokes had been applied to create a plume of feathers across the swan’s sides and chest. A small golden clasp sat at the nape of its neck and could be prised open to reveal a thimble-sized indent, lined with plush red velvet, supposedly designed to house items even more breath-taking than the chalice itself.
It really was a beautiful little thing.
Valerie couldn’t quite remember how she acquired it. Was this a birthday present? A sorry-I’m-secretly-cheating-on-you gift disguised as a token of his love? She must have been so pleased when he presented it to her, confusing the expensiveness and striking smallness of the thing as an indication of his feelings. ‘Something pretty for my pretty’, he may have declared, in complete seriousness.
She placed the Apology Swan back in the pile, next to the other treasures.
What did she need with a ridiculously tiny swan-shaped trinket box? Or the solid silver candlesticks? Had she ever really believed she would use the heavy, carved ruby tea set she insisted upon all those years ago?
The embarrassing truth was yes. Valerie had once wholeheartedly believed that there would be a time and place where such outlandish items were required. Situations occurred in Valerie’s mind where everyday crockery just wasn’t up to the task, and a set of gaudy lotus-shaped teacups were the only solution.
And yet the set lay guilty untouched, covered neatly in the ruffles of tissue-paper from when she bought them. Or rather, from when he bought them. They were his animal-shaped trinket boxes and his platinum photo frames, after all. His Villeroy & Boch sugar bowls and his ivory-handled butter knives. He bought them for her, but she had kept them squirreled away, too scared to spoil their beauty.
It was as if the greediest and most decadent parts of his personality had been spilled across the table, manifesting itself in ludicrous displays of perceived affection.
As she looked down, Valerie realised with grim delight that she was really looking down at her husband. Glossed and gilded, charming, and void of any emotion. When it came down to it, she couldn’t think of a single sensible purpose for the lot.