She looked down at the shards of pottery on the ground at her feet. The small earthenware bowl had just slid off her tray by accident when it had tipped as she reached to open the scullery door. She could see how each broken part would have joined to the others, though little fragments had chipped off and the joins would never be perfect. Once its integrity had been shattered by the collision with the floor, the bowl had ceased to have a meaningful existence. It was simply a handful of clay fragments waiting to be swept up and discarded in the dust bin. It may once have been a treasured family heirloom, but now it was simply rubbish to be disposed of. How quickly and easily changes can come about from a single, brief, moment in time. It had taken less than the blink of an eye for the bowl to shatter and be destroyed.
She thought about that last night with her lover. They had been sitting on the back veranda and talking as the sun set on the horizon. It had been warm and pleasant as they sat side-by-side on the familiar wicker couch, their shoulders touching as they leaned softly upon each other holding hands. One casual sentence -- a single uttered expression of thought -- much like the tipping of the tray to open the door had been all that was needed to begin a cascading chain of events. She had opened a thousand doors in her life with each being simply a meaningless event in the story of her life. But on the thousand and first opening she had been careless. She had been lured into a false sense of security in thinking that nothing much could go wrong from simply opening a door. The shattered pieces of her Mistress' great-grandmother's sugar bowl were a tangible and visible indication of how careless she had been. One tiny tilt of her hand when opening a door had consequences and repercussions far exceeding the significance of opening the door.
She thought back to sitting on the couch, to the simple sentence her lover had spoken. A few words that had been said before, their order slightly re-arranged to imply a different meaning from one that had been meant before. Those words had shocked her, confused her, caused her to sit upright and their shoulders to stop touching. It had simply been a reaction of shock at hearing something unexpected. She wasn't pulling away from her lover, merely adopting a more alert stance as the conversation shifted from the casual to the serious. She had been confused, uncertain of how to react, not fully understanding of her lover's intent and meaning. And yet, that simple movement, like the tilt of her hand with her tray, had started a chain of events with a tragic conclusion.
As she became upright, the movement pulled on her diaphragm and caused her to inhale. The fact that she was shocked had probably contributed to increasing the depth of her breath and the audible sigh she emitted. Her lover, not expecting such a reaction had let go of her hand. Looking back now she knew that act was the same as the bowl leaving the tray. Once the bowl had slipped past the tray's rim and was no longer in contact with a firm surface, gravity took control and the fall to the floor was inevitable. When her lover released her hand, her heart had slipped from stability and had similarly started its own free-fall -- a fall that would inevitably end with it shattering in the soft light of that night's moon.
She had gasped, her partner had responded harshly, thinking she was expressing disapproval, and they began a disjointed, confused, and increasingly hostile series of accusations and justifications. They weren't communicating at all. Neither was really making sense to the other, and all their efforts were doing was to simply increase the emotionality of the situation. The lack of understanding between them lead to more and more irrelevant and pointless discussion for which there had been no real purpose. It had taken perhaps 20 minutes at most for her heart to plummet as the conversation had spiralled out of control. Finally, the conversation now a series of pointless accusations, inaccurate observations, and unfounded claims, her lover had risen and walked off. She had sat there alone, watching the moon rise and listening to the sounds of the night, trying to make sense of all that had been said. When she had calmed herself, settled her emotions, and was ready to see if the situation could be repaired, she rose and walked up to their sleeping chamber.
When she saw that their bedroom was empty, her heart ended its fall and shattered in that dreadful desolation. Her lover's possessions, clothing, and suitcase were gone. There was no note, no explanation, no message left with one of the other servants. Her lover had simply packed up and left as she had sat in the moonlight trying to make sense of what had been said. The night had been long and empty, and filled with self doubt, anger, frustration, and loneliness. The next day, as she was preparing an 11:00 tray for her Mistress and a caller, she had shattered the heirloom sugar bowl. How simple it was to see the chain of events in each situation. Her hand had tilted, the bowl had shattered. She had gasped, her heart had shattered. Two treasures were lost, the bowl and her lover, neither to be replaced.
She would be beaten for breaking the bowl. Perhaps she deserved it. Perhaps she deserved a more severe punishment for her crime. She decided she wasn't going to find out how Mistress would react. It was a warm fall day and she didn't need a cloak to go outside. As she walked down the lane and across the vale a sense of calmness filled her. When she got to the top of the cliff overlooking the sea far below, she felt a deep relief fill her and her face brightened into a smile. Launching herself, she experienced the joy of a bird in flight, floating for but a few moments, just as the bowl had done before it shattered. Her eyes closed as the ground grew close. Just like her heart, she shattered.