Gillian Hagenus (University of Adelaide, Australia)
This morning – like most mornings before it – she doesn’t remember about the glass vase. Not right away. Like most mornings before, it isn’t until she’s taken her time down the stairs, eyes still half-closed with sleep and stepped into the kitchen, that she remembers.
Of course. That’s right. How could I forget?
The shards of the vase are scattered about the pristine white tiles of the kitchen floor, sparkling in the weak morning sun.
It used to hold sunflowers. A weekly expedition with her daughter to the nursery down the road for a fresh bouquet. Now, she can make out the tapered top, mostly intact, in the centre of the wreckage, right where the vase was first dropped. Large fractures radiate out and away from the centre into ever-smaller, infinitesimally smaller pieces in nooks and corners.
She starts to hum a tune, a random tune, picking melodies out of the air and letting them float haphazardly through her closed lips. Very carefully, as with most mornings before, she tiptoes between the shards, making her way slowly to the coffeemaker on the counter in the corner. The melody morphs into Für Elise as she moves about the kitchen, bare feet well-practiced by now in picking up and setting down in glass-less spaces.
The first morning, after the drop, she’d put on shoes to protect her feet. But the crunch of the first glass shard that her sole ground down near knocked her over, the sound of it. So that was the end of that.
Humhumhumhumhumhum hum hum hum
The melody fills the kitchen as she prepares a bowl of cereal and the sun peeks further above the horizon, the wavering light catching on crystal and reflecting tiny rainbows onto every surface. She pauses in her humming to sigh contentedly, watching the rainbows dance.
Good morning, my love.
She carries her coffee and cereal to the table, begins the Für Elise again. Before she sits, she bends to pluck one thin shard from the floor, the shape of her thumb, and the melody echoes, a second voice filling the air. She sits like this, over breakfast, humming through mouthfuls, turning the shard over and over in her hand, the second voice making accidental harmonies with hers. When she is finished, she moves in a ballet through the glass, back to the sink. Before running the tap and washing up, she crouches down by the cabinet and presses three small crumbs of glass to her fingertip where they stay glittering like teardrops. A single strand of curly blond hair appears on the countertop by the sink, a sunflower petal on the window ledge. She lets them be. Breath smelling of large quantities of mint toothpaste comes and goes by her ear.
Soon, there is no more to do in the kitchen. She knows the time has come to go upstairs and get ready for work. Most mornings she does. But this morning the sun sits bright and full in the sky and there are so many rainbows. Against her better judgement, she lingers.
She has tried most of the shards of glass, each one bringing something different, though the humming is her favourite. She has been careful, though, to never touch the largest piece, the tapered top of the vase. Still, she yearns to know what it holds inside of it. There is nothing all that different about this morning compared to most other mornings before, but it is almost as if she is outside of herself, dreaming, merely a witness to her body that crouches by the centre and her arm that reaches out towards the lip of the vase.
Just a peek.
A tiny peek.
A great rustle and thump comes from outside and she jumps up from the floor and runs to the window above the sink. Her daughter stands there in the snow in nothing but her pink cow pyjamas and dressing gown, fluffy bear slippers soaking up frost. Daisy has her arms outstretched all bewildered and she’s covered in snow that appears to have been dumped on her from the tree branch above her head. Her mother’s heart skips a beat, worried that her little one has been hurt, but then Daisy begins a manic giggle and shakes the snow off like a dog coming out of a puddle and she lets out a held breath. She goes to the door, opens a crack for her head, and calls out.
“Daisy! What are doing out there without your coat? Come in before you catch cold, please.”
“Mama!” Daisy yells delightedly. “Look at all the snow!”
Daisy’s cheeks are rosy with chill and excitement as she tracks frosty puddles of water into the kitchen. Her mother watches her with a smile and an overwhelming feeling of contentment settles over her like a blanket, a feeling that this is exactly where she needs to be.
“Isn’t it pretty, Mama?” Daisy says, patting out sparkles of frost clinging to her blond ringlets. “I think there’s definitely enough snow for a snow day!”
“Oh, do you now, you little rascal. Anything to get out of school, huh?”
Daisy is a ball of energy, pogo-ing up and down on each foot.
“Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow!” She yells.
And before long, her mother is joining in, holding her daughter’s small, baby soft hands in hers and bouncing around the kitchen, giggling and yelling
Snow Snow Snow Snow
She stops jumping and her laughter putters. She peels a strand of hair off her forehead, now lightly sweating, and turns to look at her husband in the doorway.
“Honey!” She laughs again. “I’m sorry, did we wake you?”
He is standing frozen in the doorway and his eyes are wide, his hair sticking up in all directions. But something is wrong. He won’t move and his mouth struggles to make words.
Finally, desperately, he whispers, “We?”
Confused, she follows his eyes down to her hands, which are empty but for the broken neck of the vase clutched in one fist, and down to her feet, which are bleeding, she realises, though she can’t feel the pain yet.
Daisy is gone.
Of course. That’s right. How could I forget?
The day outside is once again the tentative dawn of early spring. It is too quiet outside of the memory.
“Laurel, I think this has gone too far,” Her husband says, still standing in the doorway. He has avoided the kitchen since the vase shattered and Laurel discovered what the shards could give her.
“I’ve indulged you for too long, but…this isn’t healthy, Laurel. You need to move on. We need to start moving on.”
He doesn’t understand, she thinks. She wishes he would just come in, just pick up a shard and try it. If he could only hear her voice again, he would understand.
She turns from the doorway to search for Daisy’s melody among the wreckage. Her knees buckle. All around the kitchen, the shards of the glass vase are spotted with red, and a ballet of rust red streaks and footprints plays itself out all along the white kitchen tiles.
Gillian Hagenus is an Honours student in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide. She works part time as an underwhelmingly adequate barista and is never not craving blueberry muffins.