THE DAY CECILIA MET MR VOKE
from Illuminate, Autumn 2021
Cecilia stepped through the doorway of the tearoom that her mum had just beckoned her into. Outside the shop hung a crooked sign which read ‘Mr Voke’s Tea Room’, the paint curling languidly over the wood. She entered timidly, staying a foot behind her father at all times. She was greeted with a strangely anachronistic sort of scene with prim white tablecloths draping over the customers’ tables and crockery made out of painted china. It was a scene out of a film that was set at least 100 years ago – a scene that could possibly have been salvaged from a time capsule. Her father had just spotted a family tree in the corner dating back to the 1560s. It had faded writing and the paper reminded her of the coffee-stained paper she had used for history assignments when she was little to give them a ‘vintage feel’. It was a marvel, she thought, that some people are able to trace their family back that far. It was an unimaginable amount of time for a girl the mere age of 18. It was definitely…something else.
There was a man wearing a tweed jacket sitting in the corner of the room across from three others. She gathered from his air of ownership and affability that he was Mr Voke. She couldn’t see him clearly but from what she could see he fitted the scene. He held an old-fashioned smoke between his teeth and there were certainly some abnormal shaped spectacles sitting on his nose. Above the hum of quiet conversation, the smell of freshly baked scones wafted into the air. It reminded her of her grandma, who would always have something cooking when she was visiting. Scones were her specialty. In the background a distant tick could be heard. Cecilia quickly located the source. It was a beautiful, mahogany, late-Victorian grandfather clock. Well… it would be to a well-educated antique dealer. But to Cecilia, who had yet to delve into the world of antiques, it was just a clock with an irritating tick.
Cecilia was certainly open to acquiring more knowledge even if it did concern clocks. It had always been a main goal of hers to discover. As she had justified taking a gap year to her parents, ‘I want to travel! In fact, every single day I am overwhelmed with a need to travel. Everywhere and anywhere, always! I just want to be sure I see something.’ However, she was always torn between the idea of capturing a moment versus experiencing it. Which is why when she found her hand reaching for her phone she hesitated, unsure if this peculiar tearoom was something the world should see or something a person should stumble across, perhaps by accident or when looking for something else. Something that one should experience without the use of photography or video and might then months or years later begin to question; did this really happen, or did I just make it up?
Cecilia stood there gazing curiously at Mr Voke and his three customers. It was like a revival of the past. There was a man and two women, all with white or greying hair or both. To her they were like little kittens that were not to be disturbed. It turned out that her mum had snapped a shot of Mr Voke with his tweed jacket anyway. The click of the shutter echoed, and her mum turned as if to go. She began to feel as if she were intruding on something and mutely followed her out. Before leaving the building, a guitar caught her eye. She loved guitars and this one was especially captivating with its odd colour and shape. The idea that there was some link between the odd tearoom and herself seemed to bring a strange sense of comfort.
Written by Natasha