The first week, they break and snip and glue.
‘The magic of mosaics is. . .’ the tutor says, her arms out wide like a preacher, ‘regenerative art.’
Laura snatches a tissue out of her pocket, camouflaging a snort. She gazes around at the other women sitting in a horseshoe at the plastic trestle tables, searching for an echo of her reaction. They are nodding, serious, all eyes on the tutor.
‘Take this plate,’ the tutor says. She plucks a cracked and chipped china plate from a box and holds it up, waving it like a fan. Laura sees a blur of pink and gold.
‘It’s an ugly, unwanted thing, but we are going to transform it into a thing of beauty when we make our house numbers.’
Laura sighs. She had grander plans in mind than a decorative 12 when she signed up for the course. After Italy, she wanted to mosaic the concrete floor of her front porch. She’d envisioned girls in flowing dresses and garlands of flowers pirouetting across her hall floor in a perpetual dance of welcome.
The tutor’s box is a graveyard of broken china. Laura picks a blue mug with no handle, and a cracked orange plate. The colours remind her of Italy. They break into pieces with one sharp tap of a hammer. In the end, that’s all it had taken with her and Marco, to shatter their relationship into angry shards. She snips the china into smaller pieces, and glues them to a board. Two orange islands grow in a sea of blue.
‘See,’ the tutor says when they stop to pack up. ‘See how beautiful your work is looking already.’
Laura shrugs. It’s not dancing girls.
The second week, they grout. Laura chooses black. It reminds her of Marco’s eyelashes.
The third week, they seal the grout, and start a new piece. The tutor has brought a box of tiles.
‘The tile shop throws away any they can’t sell.’ She shows them how to add depth with tonal changes. Laura picks two greys and starts a tree. A slender silver birch, stretching up to the sky like a dancing girl. She doesn’t think of Marco.
At home, she hangs the blue and orange 12 on her gatepost. She doesn’t have a hammer, has to bang the nail hard, twenty, thirty times, with a block of wood she finds in the garage. She thinks of Marco as she hits the nail.
A box arrives in the mail from Italy. Everything she couldn’t carry. A blue porcelain vase Marco gave her, the coffee set with the green vines curling around delicate white china. They’d bought it together that weekend in Florence, before he told her. She rips open the flaps, peels back the top layer of bubble wrap.
All her precious things lie in a shattered, kaleidoscope mess of china shards.
Three weeks ago, Laura would have cried.
Today, she smiles. Regenerated. She knows how to make beautiful things out of broken pieces.
This story won first place in a local short story competition, with the theme ‘crisis’.
I ‘found’ the idea when I was making a mosaic for an old piece of furniture –
no dancing girls or orange number twelves in my mosaic either!