The Organised Author

Mrs Lucy's Tea Set

Mrs Lucy’s Tea Set

A woman didn’t celebrate her 70th birthday every day. Thank goodness. Lucy wouldn’t be able to endure more than one night of party, food, and loud music like tonight. In her bed, she tossed and turned. Anxiety sent the sheep she was counting flying over the fence so fast she lost count twice. But her age or the double slice of chocolate cake wasn’t what kept her awake. People grew old. End of story. She’d come to terms with her mortality after her husband Armand, bless him, passed away ten years ago.  A fishbone, some bad luck, and good Armand had gone faster than she said, “What’s wrong?”
That was life. Not sad or unfair. One minute here, the next in the great beyond. At least, the death had been fast. No, the reason she couldn’t sleep was that thing in her dining room.
Lucy sank her face against her pillow and inhaled the sweet scent of the lavender fabric conditioner. The smell usually calmed her. Not tonight.
Tonight not even the three feet, phosphorescent green rosary hanging on the wall made her feel safe. Her granddaughter Roxane found it horrible, but Lucy liked it. The rosary protected her like a guardian watching her sleep. But then again, Lucy and Roxane had very different tastes. Very different.
Lucy slammed a hand against the mattress. She had to check. She had to be sure.
With a deep breath, she pushed the duvet aside, slid her red shawl around her shoulders, and padded to the dining room. She entered on her tiptoes, as if worried that thing would attack her.
Her stomach flipped. The box containing Roxane’s gift stood on the middle of the table. She’d locked it in the cabinet, twice. She was sure of it. Yet, the evil thing had come out again. Still in its silver box with a flashy golden ribbon. Roxane didn’t have good taste even in gift wrapping.
Lucy pressed her lips. This meant war.
She grabbed the awful box and stuffed it in the other cabinet, the one with a stainless steel lock where she kept her jewels. The few she had. With a snap, she closed the door and smirked. Let’s see how Mr Evil-Box-Houdini would escape.
Lucy went back to bed, plopped down on the duvet, and winked at the rosary. Nothing ever got out of her—
A soft click echoed from the dining room. Lucy froze.
Not possible.  
She sprang out of the bed and darted to the dining room. The evil parcel lay on the table. The cabinet was still locked.
Darn gift. She’d need an exorcist to get rid of it.
Twitching her mouth, Lucy opened the box. The china set rested on the bottom just as ugly as the last time Lucy had seen it. The smoky light of the restaurant and her tired eyes hadn’t been the reason why the set had looked hideous. The thing was hopeless. How had Roxane thought her seventy-year-old granny would like it?
She picked up a cup. The red triangles that decorated the hem seemed sharp, bloody teeth. The handle was a crooked talon, and the red flower printed on the cup with its rounded petal and that cleft in the middle resembled a… well, it was like… yeah, it reminded her of a girl’s bit. There. Obscene.
Lucy put the cup down. She couldn’t imagine serving tea to Father O’Brien in those awful cups. Rumours would spread, and she’d become the laughingstock of the community. And let’s face it. No one would believe her if she said the thing disappeared from a locked cabinet and reappeared on the table.
Throwing it was such a waste, and Lucy hated waste. Heck, she re-used the same tea bag three times before tossing it into the trash bin. Roxane didn’t drink tea. She preferred coffee, so she wouldn’t even notice that the tea set was missing. Still—what to do with it?
Lucy paced on the thick rug. She didn’t have many options. Recycling the set and giving it as a present to one of her friends wasn’t an option. Her friends would look at the girl’s bit and think she was pulling a stupid joke. She’d die of embarrassment. 
Then, only one thing remained.
She took the box and held her breath. The crash would sound like thunder in the silent house. Then she dropped the set on the floor. The porcelain smashed, the teapot cracked, and the handles split. An accident, she would say to Roxane. She chuckled. What she needed now was a broom to wipe the garbage away. She trotted to the laundry and grasped the broom with a smile. A small lie to defeat an evil set from Hell. Father O’Brien would understand.
She entered the dining room and her smile vanished. The box was standing again on the table. Intact. Like new. Not a scratch.
Lucy tossed the broom on the marble floor. What the heck! Breaking it didn’t work, locking it didn’t either. Then what?
In a corner sat a bag with the Oxfam logo with the caption ‘second-hand goods to lend a good hand ’. Lucy arched her brows. Of course. A charity shop. No waste and a noble deed. Great.
She tilted her chin and shuffled to her bed, ready for a good night sleep.
Lucy put the silver box on the counter of the Oxfam shop. Just to stay on the safe side, she’d driven for two hours, reached the most remote location of the Coromandel Peninsula, and found the least crowded town with an Oxfam shop. There were zero chances that anyone she knew might see her here. A young woman, probably in her late twenties, smiled from behind the counter. A badge on her chest displayed her name, “Annie, volunteer.”
“May I help you?” Annie eyed the box.
“Yes.” Lucy pushed the box farther. “I’d like to make a donation. A brand new china tea set.”
“Fantastic.” Annie pulled the box towards her and lifted the lid. “We’re always looking for a—” She picked up a cup and blinked. “For a… oh my gosh.”
Lucy inched towards the door. If Annie told her to take the tea set back, she’d flee. Besides, if even a young woman considered the teeth and the flower outrageous, the thing had to be really awful.
Annie swallowed. “It’s, er, unusual.”
“But it’s brand new. Never used actually.” Please, take it.
“I’m not sure.” Annie closed the box and twitched her nose. “It’s not really the style we have here.”
Lucy opened her purse and fished out a bunch of banknotes. “I’ll donate two hundred dollars if you accept the evi…  the set.”
Lucy sat on a chair at the long wooden table in the community hall of the church. She’d gotten rid of the hideous tea set from Hell, tonight was bingo night with her friends, and lots of interesting prizes waited for the winner. But above all, her dining table was pristine and empty. No nasty box had appeared.
Sheila sat next to her, a tall stack of tickets in her bony hands. “Five for you and five for me.” She gave Lucy five glossy tickets. “One of them will be a winner, mark my word.”
“What are the prizes?” Lucy peered at the heap of boxes in the middle of the table.
Sheila shrugged. “Mary didn’t say anything. She bought a few things from the charity shops.”
Charity shops? Lucy stiffened and searched the pile again. But c’mon, she’d left the tea set miles from here. Mary couldn’t have driven to that charity shop the in Coromandel Peninsula to buy the prizes, right?
Lucy loosened the collar of her shirt. This was paranoia. No need to worry. She arranged her tickets and took a dabber to mark the numbers. Everything would be all right.
“Eyes down, ladies and gentlemen.” Father O’Brien waved the bag with numbers. “I’m the caller tonight, so let’s start.”
Two hours and five games later, the heap of prizes was reduced to a flatland, and Lucy hadn’t won anything. Not even a single line. She adjusted five new tickets and huffed. She’d have loved to win that beautiful silk handkerchief Sheila had snatched with a full house.
Father O’Brien shuffled the numbers. “For this round, we have an excellent prize.” He shoved a box towards the centre. “Something special.”
Lucy froze. Silver box, flashy golden ribbon. Oh gosh. The bloody china tea set, come to torment her. If she played, she’d win it. She just knew it.
“Eyes down.” Father O’Brien cleared his throat.
“Wait.” Lucy stood up. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to play this round. I need a break.” There. Someone else would get the thing.
“But,” Father O’Brien blinked, “if you want your money back—”
“No need for that.” Lucy waved dismissively. “It’s all for charity so you can keep the money.”
“All right.” Father O’Brien dug his hand in the bag and called the first number. “One little duck, number 2.”
With a smirk, Lucy sat in her chair. She’d beaten the tea set. She was too smart.
Sheila elbowed her. “Why don’t you want to play?”
“The Lord is my shepherd,” Father O’Brien chanted for number 23.
“I’ve got it.” Sheila shrieked. “I guess I’m lucky tonight.”
Lucy winced. Sheila was filling her tickets at each call. The poor thing would be disappointed when she’d open the silver box from Hell.
“Stairway to Heaven.” Father O’Brien showed number 67.
“Full house!” Sheila clapped her hands. “Full house, again!” She lifted her winning ticket for everyone to see.
A round of applause followed. Mary scoffed. A man scowled.
“Great.” Father O’Brien pushed his glasses up his nose and grabbed the silver box. “This is for you, lucky lady.”
Lucy fiddled with the hem of her shirt. Poor Sheila. She’d have a fit when she saw the thing. Not to mention that the set would drive her crazy with its disappearing-appearing trick.
Shelia took the box, beaming. “I won so much tonight that I want to gift my friend Lucy with this prize.” She turned to Lucy and stretched out her arms. “For you, my friend.”
“What?” Lucy recoiled. That evil tea set was fighting back. “It’s not necessary. I’m here for the game, not for the prizes.”
“Don’t be silly.” Sheila huffed. “Winning is part of the fun. C’mon. That’s for you.”
Blasted, darned, bloody tea set. Every pair of eyes settled on Lucy. Expectant faces smiled at her. Fine. She’d fight back too. She’d pretend to trip and smash the evil set against the floor, and if it fixed itself, at least she’d have witnesses.
“Thank you.” She rose from the chair, gripped the box, and stumbled backwards. The box arched towards the ceiling. Sheila gasped. Father O’Brien dropped the bag with the numbers. The box fell on the wooden floor with a thud and the sound of broken glass.
Yes! “Oh gosh.” Lucy put her hands on her cheeks. “So clumsy of me. I’m so sorry.”
“Perhaps it’s still salvageable.” Father O’Brien rushed to the package and opened it.
Lucy peeked from his shoulder. Her heart dipped to her stomach. Broken pieces of white porcelain decorated with budding roses and pastel green leaves lay scattered in the box. It wasn’t the evil set from Hell. She’d destroyed a perfectly fine and lovely tea set.
“Oh Lucy. I’m sorry.” Father O’Brien scratched his balding head. “You didn’t win anything and your only prize is broken.”
Lucy’s bottom lip trembled. What a waste.
Sheila patted her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I’ll win something else.”
In her dining room, Lucy grimaced at the broken china set. Why she’d asked to take it home she wasn’t sure. Maybe it’d been Sheila’s sad face or Father O’Brien’s apologetic tone. She’d hoped to fix the fine porcelain somehow.
No. A cup had been reduced to dust, and in two days she hadn’t found anyone able to help her. All her fault.
The front door bell rang, and she walked to the entryway. A look at the peephole showed Father O’Brien standing on the porch.
“Good morning, Father.” She opened the door and smiled.
“Hello.” Father O’Brien beamed and handed her a silver box.
Lucy’s smile dropped. It couldn’t be…
“I was in Coromandel yesterday and stumbled upon this tea set.” He tapped the box. “Hand painted, or so the shop assistant told me. I didn’t check the entire set, but I’m sure you’ll love it. I wanted to do something for you.”
Lucy shivered and lifted the lid. She was panicking again for nothing. Maybe it wasn’t… nope. It was the evil set from Hell, red flowers and all.  
“Father O’Brien, you really shouldn’t have,” she gritted out.