The little glass bell that tinkled pleasantly for patrons jangled almost to shattering as she threw open the door and rushed inside. “Hi L, hi B, sorry I’m late, has JC noticed, gosh I hope not I just lost track of…” her voice trailed off as she disappeared into the labyrinth of shelves. The door closed with the rattle and clatter of unsteadied glass. L, B, and R–whom she hadn’t even noticed–looked at each other hopelessly.
“Third morning this week”–from L.
R: “Yah, and it’s only Wednesday.”
“I don’t know why JC even keeps her on.” B examined a gleaming bowl for wayward smudgemarks. Finding none, she carefully reshelved it. “She only has one cup left.”
“How is that possible?”
“Are you sure?”
B surveyed her vast array of polished crystal. “Saw it myself.” B shook her cloth and climbed gingerly down from the ladder. “Remember how many she had to start? Why, I was almost jealous. JC gave her some of the most beautiful pieces in the whole shop. Sometimes I just don’t understand that man.”
L clucked in sympathy.
“Oh, everything seemed fine at first.” B folded her rag precisely. “She fit right in, seemed to be handling everything, even got the window display a few times.” She stopped, shuddered. “Then we heard the crash.”
L gasped; R looked away.
“It was only the first. Day after day, crash after crash, piece after piece on her shelves came tumbling down. It was like she couldn’t help it: everything she touched cracked and everything she held she dropped.” B shook her head.
“Oh, how awful.” L had to sit down, just thinking about it. “All those pieces of shattered glass…”
“I know.” B grimaced. “I walked by on my way out last night, and just felt so bad for that one last little cup. Any day now, she’ll…” B couldn’t finish.
“Whose is it?” R’s voice was almost a whisper. L was close to tears.
“It’s her husband.”
She was late because of the nightmares. They were coming every night now, the dream worse and worse, the waking up harder and harder. She was surrounded by glass. Clear glass floors, clear glass ceilings, clear glass shelves. Colored on clear: beautiful yellow vases, expensive red bowls, old green bottles, delicate blue goblets. They were all looking at her, needing her, trusting her. And she had oil on her hands. Suddenly, she was surrounded by motion–a swaying that made her sick in her stomach. Waves of color leaned toward her like dancers awakened by music. Her hands felt heavy, and she looked down in horror to see her own arms full of glass dancers. Too many, she wanted to scream. You are too heavy, too slippery. My hands are too weak. But she was silent. Color was dancing around her now, and it was beautiful until she realized it was from falling. They were all falling, sliding through her hands. A loud crash. Another. Another. Dancers exploded in one last burst of color, and then fell silent, broken on the floor, thousands of them, in pieces. That was not the worst. Worse was that the dancers were not glass at all, but people. People with colors and faces and fragile hearts. Even worse than that: these were people that she knew.
No! she wanted to cry. Please, no! as she watched her sister fall and shatter. She was on her knees, gathering pieces, trying to glue them back together. The cracks still showed. There was her mother, dropped and glued and dropped and glued again. A half reassembled college friend sat next to a pile of broken co-worker, waiting. And at her feet, a shamble of shattered shards, past repair: her father. No! Oh, please, no! She turned frantically, desperate for hope. There on the shelf to her left sat one last lone unbroken cup. As soon as her eyes touched on it, it began to sway, it was in her slippery hands. No, no, no, oh please, please no. Not her last one. Not this one. Not her own true love…Her eyes found a sign. She read through tears: If you break it, you buy it. Oh, stop, stop, please stop, please no. Another sign: Please see manager for assistance. Oh, please, please, please. The cup was slipping. She couldn’t hold on. Please help. Please help me. “Jesus!” she screamed. “Jesus Christ!”
B’s head snapped up. L gasped. R started running. They found her, crumpled on the floor, broken. JC held the cup firmly in one hand; with the other He was gently picking up pieces.