The Peacock Vase

She had been terrified of it as a kid.

She had no idea what the word was for the feeling it gave her then but even as a 5 year old the creepy sense of paranoia was there. The eyes always seemed to be watching. It was like having a terrifying Roald Dahl-style headmaster sitting in judgement of you. The recurring nightmares started just before she started primary school and made themselves at home. Her Nanny would always sit with her until she fell asleep again if it happened at her house – which it did 9 times out of 10.

The vase had sat pride of place on a plinth in her Nanny’s living-room for as long as she could remember. It was the one extravagance in the entire house. And it was always getting her in trouble. Even if there were no grown-ups anywhere around they would be informed by the gazing yellow eye by the time she realised she’d better run and hide. She became truly suspicious of it just after her 10th birthday. It was the kind of summer’s day you would have drawn with a big, smiley sun in the corner of the page. She was having a great time running here, there and everywhere while all the grown-ups were static, sunning themselves in the garden. She and Matt-Next-Door were playing the Bill and further investigation had bought her inside. She spotted him loitering with intent by the living-room door and gave chase shouting “come back here, you bastard! You’re nicked!” as she chased him up the stairs. Before she knew it, her Dad was in the hall bellowing her name. Matt was sent home and she wasn’t allowed to watch telly for a week. And that was only because her Nanny had intervened.

The childish terror and distrust followed her into her teens. Whenever they popped in during the week, her Nanny would show her parents how the roses were getting on and she would take the opportunity to give Nat’ a call. Part of the fun was that it was secret and scary and this lovesickness made her oblivious. She always stood right in front of the arrogant vase and peered round the door-frame to make sure the conversation was still private. Every time she felt like she could stay on the phone swapping hushed romantic mumblings forever but they always came back up the path eventually. One particular day, as she quickly hung-up and slouched on the sofa giving her usual master-class in nonchalance, she noticed that they were all looking at her.  Not only that but they specifically sat themselves round so they were facing her. She took her feet off the chair and sat up but that didn’t help. Finally her Mum spoke.

“You’ve been seeing a lot of Natalie lately, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, she’s my best-mate!” she lied easily. Bored of the adults she picked up a nearby TV magazine and started to read.

“…We think it might be more than that…Are we right?”

After staring at them in amazement for a moment, she couldn’t help but look over at the vase. She could have sworn it had winked back at her. The rest of the evening was spent talking. It all came out. Her parents were fine with it – but it was her Nanny that had kept the conversation flowing and said all the right things.

The years passed, the girlfriends changed and the nightmares stopped. Still weary of the vase she was careful of what she said and did around it but eventually it just faded into the background, a silent spectator in their lives. Happy family memories played out under her Nanny’s roof, usually with the old girl herself at the centre.

It wasn’t until after the funeral that she learned the vase had been left to her. She felt obligated. Almost everything else had been packed away when she let herself in. Boxes were neatly lined all over the living-room, and both the sofa and old-fashioned TV had been taken away. All that was left in its proper place was the peacock vase on its plinth. It didn’t look quite so smug now. Its sadness mirrored hers somehow. When she picked it up she half thought about smashing it to pieces but the swirling design was mesmerising. It stopped her anger in its tracks. As she turned the vase over in her hands, she realised that that was the first time in 27 years she’d ever held it. She inspected it carefully, finally seeing its beauty. The yellow eyes looked up at her, returning the gaze. They seemed mournful but knowing. The vase’s reassurance made her feel immediately better but she couldn’t help the fit of sobs.

The vase came to live with her from that day on. It didn’t matter where she lived or who she lived with, it sat proudly in the living-room wherever she went. She was glad that it was there to watch over her.

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