It was an orange kind of day in the old shop, the kind that burst with fizzing energy and enthusiasm. Tucked away in a quaint corner of Paris, it was not every day that Maria’s Antique Shop buzzed with so many visitors. The cramped aisles bordered with tall shelves were filled with people, little children and smiling adults showing each other trinkets. Maria herself was busy greeting guests, trying her best to answer their questions in her halting English. A fluent French, Italian and Spanish speaker, she still found it difficult to grasp this universal language.
“I beg your pardon?” she asked a blonde woman standing across from the counter.
“I just wanted to know which era these china cups came from,” the woman replied, pointing over at a box of teacups with her blood-red nail.
“Ah, those. They are from the English Royal family, from the... ah, I cannot remember her name... the old queen?”
“Victorian era?” prompted the blonde woman, and smiled as Maria nodded, “Wonderful. I think I will take them. Would you be able to wrap them securely? We’ve got a long way to go.”
“Of course, ma’am,” she replied, hoisting the box down from its shelf.
There were six cups, each as delicate and as beautiful as a rose in early bloom. The painted china was as thin as paper, translucent when brought up in sun light. She took out a roll of bubble-wrap and carefully covered each cup, securing it in place with a whole lot of sticky tape. Her fingers lingered on each handle and each rim as she packed them away, betraying her sadness at having to say farewell to one of her many precious. She had grown up loving each of the countless trinkets in her store, and it tugged at her heart to separate from her tea set.
“Maria, ma cherie, don’t be sad,” said a little voice from her left, “They are going to a good place, I can tell from that lady’s nice manners.”
“Oh Alix, I can’t help it,” she said in French, turning her face towards the little display cabinet beside her, “My Grandmam used to let me arrange them and sketched them when I was younger.”
“Now darling, be brave. Set that little cup down on the counter and look at me.”
She obeyed, releasing the half-wrapped cup and looking straight at the source of the voice. The painted black eyes of a china cat met her gaze, and its drawn whiskers twitched. She held out her hands and touched its smooth fur, running her fingers along the patterns of yellow flowers on its body like she used to as a child. The china cat let out a tinkling purr, a joyful noise not unlike the clinking of cups.
“Maria, my dear, your grandmother would’ve told you to let them go,” said the little cat in a wise voice, a voice that very much reminded Maria of her Grandmam, “I know they are memories, but there are other ways to remember her than through those.”
Memories, she was bursting with memories. That was what her shop was really selling, little snippets of memories and love rather than what some called useless junk. From the chessboard to the silver spoons, from those teacups to her beloved Alix, she was surrounded with reminders of who she was. And even when everything’s gone, when the last item’s no longer around, she would still be rich with reminiscences. Putting the last cup in its place, she closed the lid and pushed her box across the counter.