Open 2022 Vasant Stories - Melissa Jerry-Stoute


The Cup
By Melissa Jerry-Stoute


“It’s just a cup mom!” I glared at my son Joshua as he expressed his confusion to me. I looked at my cup. To Joshua it was nothing, just another cup, an old, stained, faded relic. He did not understand and I doubted if he could.

My day always began and ended with tea in that familiar piece. I looked forward every evening to curling up with my tea in my comfortable chair. My many thoughts and ideas were clearer in these moments. I could carefully plan the next day. Now, it was broken and something snapped inside me. I looked at my fifteen-year-old son as he quizzically looked at me.

He was at a loss because the meltdown was sudden and to him very trivial. But, it wasn’t just the cup; it was so many other things. Motherhood is a beautiful experience filled with tears and smiles but why did I feel heavily burdened and stressed lately? He couldn’t know; I dared not say. How could I tell the three children that things were tough? That it was really, really, difficult; that the bills kept on coming, and financially I was a mess? No, it wasn’t really about the cup. It was what the cup meant to me.


I bought that cup in happy pre-covid times, work was plenty and things were cheaper. It reminded me of the escapades I took with my husband. Our little mid-week runaways and adventures all across the island. He bought me the cup on one such beautiful getaway. “This one will hold enough tea for you?” he joked. I drank lots of tea.

It was the largest cup he could find, it was simply constructed to hold more. It was brown on the outside and blue on the inside. It reminded me of myself. The outside always concealing the reality of what was happening within. The cup held more – just as I held more and more and more of my family’s burdens. Just as I was filled to my brim everyday with solving their problems, fixing their issues. Indeed, sometimes my cup was running over, spilling over with the heaviness of carrying them.

It never occurred to me to complain – to whom could I complain? I could not bear the thought of being thought of an incompetent wife and mother. Never! I would keep it all inside. It was after all expected of women – we are expected to be the cornerstone – the pillar of strength, we could not falter. This is why I never complained, in fact I felt able and willing to be mother, counsellor, financial juggler – all things to all of them. That is until the evening came and I curled up, took off the masks and had tea, drinking from my special cup.

I looked at the broken handle and smashed pieces, and I exploded, “Go! Just go to your room, I don’t want to see you right now!” Why? I can’t say why I reacted – me the woman who could never be dishevelled or riled up. It was as if I was looking at a different person. She was possessed by something strange and fearsome.

An unfamiliar, overwhelming feeling of not being in control. Maybe it was me, hating being in this lockdown with no escapes and no little getaways. We were struggling to survive this and for a while, I thought I had it down. I thought – yes, I got it! However, I was just living a really good farce. Things were definitely not right but the children had no clue. I held it together until now.

Shattered pieces of the cup flew across the kitchen floor as I swept them up amidst a flood of tears. It was like an unexpected thunderstorm, large, long, sloppy, sobs that heaved my heavy bosom and hurt my chest. My husband came in, took the broom and led me to a chair. He started to sweep the rest of the pieces off the floor.

He spoke gently, soothing the ire, banishing the sobs. “There is no need to worry.”

I looked at his quiet strength, he was suffering too but who knew? I was ashamed of myself. He discarded the pieces and put the kettle on. He reached into the cupboard and took out another cup – a new, unfamiliar cup. He poured the hot water into it and slowly stirred as the tealeaves released the calming aroma of chamomile and lemon.

He sat next to me, handing me the strange cup. I looked into his eyes as I accepted the replacement. In his large, brown eyes, I saw comfort, reassurance and love. I took the cup from him and took a small sip. Then, I felt myself breathe deeply. I inhaled the healing vapours and exhaled the pent up pressure. It was what I needed and he knew.

He stroked my hair and sat with me until I could no longer feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks.


Melissa Jerry-Stoute from Trinidad & Tobago graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature with Education from the University of the West Indies. Her passion for writing began as a teen. Her stories, ‘The Jumbie Bud’ and ‘When the Cock Crows’ were published in Active Muse in 2020 and early 2021. Another one of her stories, ‘Come Back Home’ was published in Ariel Chart online journal in October 2021. Her latest publication, ‘Forged From Struggle’ formed part of an Anthology, ‘Narratives on Women’s Issues Volume 2 – Women Power’ by editor of Active Muse, Shashi Kadapa and Tom Block. This was published in December 2021. Melissa is currently working on her first book of short stories.


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