An extract from The Vintage Teacup Club
Gold-edged, delicate, almost translucent – four perfect teacups sit on four perfect saucers and a small and shapely teapot gleams in between them. The tea service seems to light up the open boot of the bottle-green Morris Minor, and as I reach out a tentative hand to touch the china I'm pretty sure I can hear a gospel choir singing out. Yes. Here, in the hum and bustle of Charlesworth’s car boot sale, the Saturday bargain hunt that brings the residents of our old market town together, we've found each other at last.
‘Anything in particular you’re after, love?’ comes a gentle, welcome voice over my shoulder. My lord, is that a matching milk jug and sugar bowl I can see nestled among the yellowing newspaper? I peel a corner back to check. I'm right, and they all have the same pretty forget-me-not pattern below the gold rim. I'm transfixed. I wrestle my gaze away from the teacups and turn towards the voice, warm smile already in place – less a charm offensive to kick off the negotiations, more that I simply can’t stop grinning like a fool. I meet the stallholder’s world-weary eyes, grey-blue under unruly brows. I expect my hazel ones look a bit manic – because in my head I'm desperately trying to decide on a maximum price for something I've fallen budget-defyingly in love with. Then, before we've even exchanged a word, I see the old man’s gaze drift over my shoulder. Hang on . . .
‘Well now, not a customer all morning and then along come three lovely ladies at once.’
I swivel round and see that two pairs of elegant hands have crept onto my teaset – touching the precious cups that, once I’d bought them, would make everything in my life just right. The women look up in surprise, drawing back from the open boot in unison, still clasping a teacup each. One cup is held protectively by a willowy redhead in a cream silk vest and khaki slacks, the other by a curvy brunette in a gingham dress and red lipstick, her hair pinned back in 1940s victory rolls with just a few curls escaping.
‘But . . . ’ I start. I was here first, I long to protest. But then I see the expressions on their faces and I can’t bring myself to say the words. They both look every bit as forlorn to see me as I am to see them.
‘Listen,’ the redhead says, composing herself and fixing the stallholder with an assertive glare. He’s clearly about eighty, and I worry he might faint if a conflict escalates. ‘It looks like you’ll be going home with less stock and fuller pockets when you leave this car park today.’ Her green eyes sparkle, and I flinch – how on earth can I compete with this cream-silk-clad professional? She’s a crockery tiger. Retro brunette seems to be losing her nerve, she’s fiddling with her chunky red necklace and glancing around – though something tells me that she might have the cold hard cash to come up on the inside. And me . . . I look down at my worn jeans and Converse, suddenly aware of the girlishness of my blonde ponytail and petite figure, complete with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cleavage. I feel twenty-six going on sixteen. Jenny Davis the amateur; my art deco engagement ring the only sign I’ve even dipped a toe in the antiques market before. But I do have passion – and that’s supposed to count for something, isn’t it? Even so, I can’t help fearing that neither my purchasing prowess nor the contents of my purse are going to be hefty enough to land me this teaset of dreams. I hope, at least, that the others can’t see that my heart is breaking a little bit.
‘But ladies,’ says the redhead, her auburn waves catching the light as she turns to face us, ‘something tells me that taking this set home would mean really quite a lot to each one of us. Am I right?’
I’m so shocked by this curveball from the tiger, I just nod dumbly – tears prickling at my eyes. Instinctively I look back at the set. Yes, the sugar tongs need a good polish, but that some how makes the whole thing even more perfect.
‘Yes, it looks like we’re all keen,’ I finally pipe up, turning towards the bemused pensioner. ‘Could you put a hold on the tea service for an hour?’
That was how our summer started.
The Vintage Teacup Club is available in paperback and eBook from October 11 2012. You can find out more about The Vintage Teacup Club here.