Authors: Vanessa Greene
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Short Stories (Single Author)
Vanessa Greene grew up in north London, and has a passion for car boot sales, chocolate muffins and travelling. She’s an aspiring
dog-owner, so when she’s not writing, she might well be following golden retrievers round her local park trying to make friends
Vanessa’s first novel,
The Vintage Teacup Club
, published to rave reader reviews and won an instant place in their hearts. She lives in Crouch End with her fiancé and is
currently working on her next novel. If you would like to get in touch with Vanessa you can contact her on Twitter (
) and Facebook (
The Vintage Teacup Club
Published by Sphere
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain,
are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © Vanessa Greene 2013
The Vintage Teacup Club
copyright © Vanessa Greene 2013
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in
writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
For Lisa and Katharine
Tuesday, 27th August
It was Tuesday afternoon, our sacred time. Maggie, Alison and I were sitting around a table at the front of Alison’s café,
Blitz Spirit. At the centre of proceedings – as always – was a delicate china teapot, and three of our favourite vintage cups,
on saucers. In the year since we first met one another, at a car boot sale in Charlesworth village, a lot had changed – but
our love of tea and fine crockery hadn’t.
‘Thank God for Tuesdays,’ I said, taking a bite of one of the cinnamon biscuits Alison had laid out for us. ‘It’s great to
see you guys. I’m not sure where the time’s gone this week.’
‘Still caught up in newlywed bliss?’ Alison said, a glint in her kohl-lined eyes.
‘Hardly,’ I laughed. ‘I think that lasted all of about two weeks for me and Dan, then it was business as usual. I’ve been
busy with work – the publicity tour is coming up and been finishing off the illustrations for my next book.’
My days had been spent in our back garden, out in the writing shed that Dan had constructed for me when we moved in. I was
working on a new children’s book, fitting in as much as I could before I set off on a national tour to promote my first one.
‘How exciting,’ Alison said. ‘I can’t wait to see your picture in the papers – Jenny Davis, children’s scribe extraordinaire.’
‘I don’t know about that,’ I smiled. It was enough to take in that my story, once just a few doodles and notes, had made it
into print. ‘I’ll be happy if I get a few kids along to the signings. It’s lovely to have an excuse to travel round the country,
though. I think Dan’s a bit envious, he’s going to be at home on dog-sitting duties.’
‘You will tell us how it’s going, won’t you?’ Maggie said, brushing a strand of auburn hair out of her eyes. ‘But don’t stay
away too long. I’m not sure what I’d do without our Tuesday meet-ups, they can never come round soon enough,’ she said. ‘I
know you two refuse to believe me … but this little angel’ – she bent to touch her baby son Stan’s cheek as he slept in his
buggy – ‘isn’t always quite like this.’
‘I can’t believe that,’ Alison said. ‘I swear my two never used to sleep as much as he does. But yes – I treasure these afternoons
too. After all, it’s the one time I get to be a customer in my own café.’
She glanced back at the counter, where her business partner and old friend Jamie was serving someone. He winked over at us
and gave a little wave. ‘Being one of the bosses does have its perks.’
At the start of last summer, Blitz Spirit had just been a twinkle in Jamie and Alison’s eye, a disused shop that had once
been an estate agency, and now it was the hub of Charlesworth High Street: a café with mid-century furniture, assorted vintage
gems, canvases on the walls from local artists – and cake to die for. Alison’s craft evenings – Stitch ’n’ Blitz knitting
night, and her rebel cross-stitch sessions – had seen me through the winter, a chance to meet up and chat with friends.
‘I found something in the charity shop this morning that I wanted to show you,’ I said, reaching into my bag. I pulled out
a DVD of
Some Like it Hot
, with Marilyn on the cover. ‘Fifty pence! Can you believe it? Such a great film.’
‘Oh, I love this one,’ Maggie said, taking the film from me. ‘“Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs!”’ she quoted,
in an American accent. ‘She was sewn into that dress, you know.’
A thought seemed to come to her. ‘You know what, Ali. You could do screenings in here, in the evenings. Have you ever thought
‘No, I haven’t,’ Alison said, mulling it over. ‘But I think it’s a great idea. Pete and I have got a projector at home somewhere,
actually. I’ll have a look in the attic.’
I heard a knock at the window next to us, and turned to see a familiar face peering in, framed by chestnut ringlets. ‘Room
for one more?!’ Chloe called out with a smile. A close friend from my old office, she was now better known as the woman who
stole my brother Chris’s heart. I’d never seen him so smitten before, and she’d seemed calmer and happier in the year that
they’d been together too.
‘Come on, then,’ I said, beckoning her in.
The bell on the door rang as she stepped inside. ‘Hi guys,’ she said, pulling up a chair. ‘Sorry to gatecrash, but the boss
is away and I managed to sneak out for a few minutes. So, how are you all doing?’
Tuesday, 3rd September
Maggie juggled Stan on to her other hip, and scooped up what she could of the carrot puree that had trickled down his high
chair. A big lump landed on her stripped-pine floorboards, and Stan started to giggle.
She heard a key turn in the front door and felt a wave of relief.
‘Hi,’ Owen called out.
‘Right on time,’ Maggie called back. ‘Your son’s been asking after you.’
Owen put his head around the kitchen door. The moment that Maggie saw his smile, the stresses of her hectic day with Stan
‘He has, has he?’ Owen said, reaching out his arms and taking Stan, seemingly oblivious to the orange mush he was covered
in. Stan reached out a chubby hand for one of Owen’s dark curls.
‘It sort of sounded like “Da-da”,’ Maggie said, ‘and I’m dying for a wee.’ She gave Owen a gentle kiss on the lips and dashed
past him on her way to the bathroom. She stripped off her puree-spattered cardi and threw it into the laundry basket on the
way up the stairs. She closed the bathroom door behind her and sat down on the toilet, relieved.
Five months since Stan had arrived and it seemed as if every day of it she’d been a sleep-deprived mess. When was it supposed
to get easier? Sometimes it was only the thought of Owen coming home at the end of the day, or her regular meet with Alison
and Jenny, that kept her going.
She flushed the toilet and put down the lid, resting on it for a moment. She glanced around her bathroom – the place that
had once been a pristine oasis of scented candles and expensive bath oils. It was where she and Owen had shared romantic baths
after they first got together, the previous summer. It made her smile to think of it, because now the room was littered with
farm animal bath toys and wet towels. Things had changed so quickly. After just a few short weeks, she’d found out she was
pregnant and that carefree time in their relationship had ended.
In less than a year, Maggie’s wardrobe had switched from crisp silk blouses and tailored dresses to pyjamas and tracksuit
bottoms, often with dubious stains on them. Long baths made way for hurried showers – and that was on a good day. Owen hadn’t
batted an eyelid at the changes, but Maggie was all too aware of them.
In her house, on the outskirts of Charlesworth, the glass ornaments and vases had swiftly been boxed up and replaced with
activity mats and squeaky toys. A bouncy chair in primary colours sat next to her immaculate white sofa, and her Billie Holiday
CD lay upturned beside the stereo, with a nursery rhymes album in there on loop.
She bundled the towels up and gave herself a quick glance in the mirror. Her auburn hair was in a hastily fastened top-knot,
strands falling loose, and there were dark circles under her green eyes. Her skin looked tired and dry. Before leaving the
house for work for Bluebelle du Jour, her flower shop on the high street, she used to carefully blow-dry her hair, or style
it into a French pleat, ready to greet customers. Now, on the rare days she made it out of the house, she barely had time
to put on a slick of lip gloss before Stan needed changing again, sending them back to square one.
She swung the bathroom door open, and heard Stan gurgling as his dad played with him – a full, round and heartfelt laugh.
In spite of all the changes, this was what made it worthwhile. Stan’s smiles and laughter lifted her heart.
She’d be back at work soon, she told herself, and then things could get back to normal. Her assistant Anna was managing the
shop while she was on maternity leave, but that time was drawing to a close. Monday would be her first day back – while Owen
was minding Stan at home, she’d check over the accounts and have a catch-up with Anna. She was really looking forward to it.
She walked back down the stairs, dropping the towels in the laundry on the way.
‘How’s he doing?’ Maggie asked Owen, as she stepped back into the kitchen.
‘He’s good,’ Owen said.
He beckoned Maggie over for another kiss. As she closed her eyes and his lips met hers, she felt a glimmer of the woman she’d
been when they first started going out – single-minded and focused, sexy even. Last summer, after a fling with an ex left
her broken-hearted, she’d fallen for Owen and hadn’t looked back.
‘That was nice,’ she said, opening her eyes slowly.
Stan started to wail. Maggie took him in her arms and held him close, gently rocking him and cooing. After a few minutes of
pacing up and down, he started to settle again.
‘Maggie,’ Owen said, ‘I’m afraid we need to have a chat about next week.’
‘Sure,’ she said, sitting down in a chair with Stan on her lap. ‘What’s up?’
‘I’ve been offered a garden-landscaping job in Devon – a cottage, friend of a friend. I wouldn’t normally consider work that
far away, you know that, but this is a really good opportunity. They’ve offered me a place to stay for a week, while I get
the job done.’
Maggie furrowed her brow. This wasn’t what they’d planned.
‘What do you think?’ he continued. ‘I know we agreed I’d mind Stan while you started back at the shop, and obviously that’s
important too. I can turn it down if you want – it’s just … well, we need the money at the moment, don’t we?’
He was right, Maggie thought. When Stan was born, they’d splashed out on the best for him without hesitating, and their latest
credit card bill reflected that brutally, in black and white.
‘You should go,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll work something out.’
Thursday, 5th September
‘Be careful what you wish for, eh?’ Jamie said, leaning over Alison’s shoulder as she worked on the accounts.
She turned to face him. ‘Nothing can burst my bubble right now, Jamie, and you know it. I’ve waited too long for this. Not
even number-crunching could take the smile off my face.’
He pulled up a stool opposite her. It was six o’clock, dark outside, and they’d shut Blitz Spirit for the evening. The room,
filled with vintage furniture and dried flowers in jam jars, was lit by the fairy lights that bordered the fireplace, and
a desk lamp next to Alison. Her neat dark red nails flicked through the café paperwork.
‘Seeing as you’re being so industrious, can I tempt you to a raspberry and almond muffin?’ Jamie said, bringing out a plate
from the glass display case. ‘They’ll only go to waste if we don’t eat them. They got out-sold by the ginger flapjacks today.’
‘Don’t mind if I do,’ Alison said. She took one and peeled off the paper wrapper. ‘Don’t fancy sticking the kettle on too,
‘Six months and it feels as if you’ve always been here bossing me around,’ he said, shaking his head, the glints of grey in
his dark hair catching the light. He got out a teapot and two matching cups.
‘Well, in a way, I have been,’ Alison said, thinking back over the year she’d spent running evening craft classes at the shop.
‘But nothing beats being a partner.’
‘It’s brilliant having you on board,’ Jamie said, flicking on the kettle. ‘When the business took off in the spring I was
really struggling. Well, you saw that for yourself. On the one hand it was everything I’d hoped for, but on the other, there’s
only so much juggling you can do, isn’t there? Balancing cake baking, coffee-making, art-curating, managing and accounting
single-handed just wasn’t possible.’
‘You should try having two teenage daughters. This is a breeze.’
Jamie filled the teapot, and then passed her a steaming cup of Earl Grey. ‘Here you go.’
‘Ah, thanks,’ she said. As she took hold of the teacup – 1920s with illustrations of poppies – she recalled meeting Maggie
and Jenny last summer. It was impossible, now, to imagine her life without them.
‘I’m really enjoying it,’ Alison said. ‘I liked running the craft business from home, but there are only so many hours you
can sit at a sewing machine without going slightly cross-eyed. I love being here, meeting and chatting with the customers.’
‘Talking of customers,’ Jamie said, peering out of the window. ‘Have you seen what’s happening over the street? It looks like
that new coffee shop is about to open.’
Alison got up and joined him at the front of the shop. They looked out of Blitz Spirit’s wide windows on to Charlesworth’s
lamp-lit high street. Directly opposite, next to Maggie’s flower shop, was a plain cream shopfront, with a large note in the
window advertising that a branch of Love Latte was coming soon.
A group of teenagers, about her elder daughter Sophie’s age and dressed in the same school uniform, were clustered around
the door, pointing excitedly at the sign.
‘A little healthy competition, that’s all,’ Alison said. ‘It’s a totally different sort of café.’
‘I hope you’re right,’ Jamie said. ‘And that Charlesworth, tiny as it is, is big enough for both of us. I’d hate it if we
lost customers to them. There are branches on every street in Britain now, and I bet they don’t even know how to make a decent
cup of Darjeeling.’
‘Don’t worry, Jamie. Our customers are loyal,’ she said, putting a hand on his arm.
Jamie continued to stare out of the window.
‘Listen,’ she added. ‘This will cheer you up. I’ve come up with a new event idea for us, or rather Maggie has, and it’s going
to be fantastic.’
‘Oh yes?’ Jamie said, tearing his gaze away from the window.
‘A weekly evening event, with screenings of classic films –
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Casablanca, Some Like it Hot
. Pete and I have a projector that’s been languishing in a box for years
now, and I’m sure it’s still in working order. There’d be popcorn with the film and we could serve up cocktails in teacups
– I reckon with the right publicity we could easily draw in some new custom from outside the village.’