That was a more pleasant smell.
Dirt didn't smell dirty. It smelled like life and it smelled like growth and it smelled like comfort.
It was more pleasant than this.
This was old and it smelled like old.
Like oil mixed with dust mixed with rags mixed with closed doors and no airflow and dark. Like the smell of an old barn. Like the smell of someone's grandmother's house forgotten on a lot with too many trees grown up around it.
The smell of neglect.
The china was cold.
It shouldn't have been. It should have been warm, it should have been hot–too hot to hold and filled with tea too hot to drink.
He wiped a finger around the flowers. The paint was fine, thin, almost flat, but he'd always been able to feel the designs on the cup, just a little bit.
He couldn't feel them now.
The flowers were covered in dust, and the dust was all he felt.
She wasn't like this.
He bent down to the shelf. He shouldn't, he knew he shouldn't. His back seemed to know it, it stiffened as his head tried to bend down to the little china cup. He shouldn't. Not here. Not in the place of closed doors and no airflow and dark. Not here. But his head bent down anyway and his nose brushed the dust at the bottom of the teacup and he sniffed.
The dust went in his nose.
The dust and the oily smell of the dark and airless antique shop.
He turned away.
His eyes shut and he straightened up and turned away from the shelf. He turned away even though his eyes were shut, because he didn't want to face the cup.
It should smell like the ground.
It always had.
The tea in the cup had always smelled like the earth after a warm rain. He never tasted it, but he would smell it. As a child, he hated the smell of his grandmother's tea.
Now, the memories were sweet.
It shouldn't be here.
The dust and the smell of the dust and the dark and the forgotten air of the antique shop was no place for this cup. But there was no place for it now.
It shouldn't be here.
He opened his eyes and looked back at the cup. It looked sad. It looked like it missed the heat of the water and the steam and the smell of earth just like he did.
A sticker on the handle said $25. He'd only gotten $5 for it.
But he did not have $25.
One hand brushed out and swept the cup to the ground.
Out of it's misery.
"Oops," he said, because he felt like he should.
An old man hobbled out of the back room, but he was too slow. The teacup lay shattered on the ground a bell jangled and then the door banged shut.