Laura told herself not to get her hopes up.
She had wanted one of those lovely old-fashioned tablecloths for years. She had never learned to crochet as both of her sisters had, so instead she prowled flea markets, yard sales, and eBay looking for pretty old linens since she didn’t know how to make them herself.
A few years ago, she was searching eBay when she’d come across the prettiest tablecloth ever. Pristine white and made of fine linen, the cloth was an elegant square trimmed in a filet crochet edging that depicted a teapot, teacups, and sugar and creamer. In mint condition, it was the prettiest teatime tablecloth Laura had ever seen. Unfortunately, the eBay buyers thought so too and got into a bidding war over it. The price ultimately shot up to more than a hundred dollars, so Laura didn’t win it. Ever since, she’d watched eBay looking for a similar tablecloth.
A week ago, Laura got an alert from eBay in her morning e-mail noting that another of those beautiful tablecloths had just been listed. She was thrilled. This time, she was not going to let the tablecloth get away. Still, she knew she needed to exercise caution.
“Just because that pretty tablecloth showed up on eBay doesn’t mean it’s mine,” she told herself. “Every tea lover out there seems to want one of these. Sure, it’s got the filet crochet edging of teapots and teawares that I’ve been trying to find for years, but that still doesn’t mean it’s mine. I won’t get too attached to it until I win the bid.”
Laura had often wondered why she was so attracted to old linens. Maybe it was because they were vintage. Maybe it was because of the delicate needlework. Maybe it was because she liked to imagine the woman who once made the piece. And maybe it was a bit of all of that.
Laura had been watching the tablecloth auction on eBay for a solid week, and no one had even placed an opening bid of $19.99. In her mind, it was already “her” tablecloth, and she had a hunch the bidding would turn out differently this time.
The auction went off at 3:16 p.m. on Friday, and by 2:16 that afternoon she was in the living room staring at the laptop screen in front of her. Watching. Waiting. She couldn’t wait to win “her” tablecloth.
At a quarter till three there were still no bids. Then, at 3:01, they started to appear. First came the $19.99 bid. Then the price of the tablecloth quickly shot up to $25.99, then $27.99, and $29.99. Soon, the bid was $44.99, and then $57.99. Laura did not like the turn the bidding had taken.
The bidding was already at $86.99, and there were 13 minutes left in the auction. When the bid got up to $101.99 with 10 minutes left, Laura closed her laptop, sighed, and went into the kitchen where she made herself a cup of plum-flavored tea. Clearly, she wasn’t meant to have this tablecloth.
It had been two years since she last saw one of these gorgeous cloths listed on eBay. At this rate, it could be another two years before one even came up for auction again. Maybe she just needed to learn how to crochet and make her own tablecloth with the fancy crocheted edging.
But no, that would never work. She didn't like to stay indoors very long, and once gardening season arrived, she would be outside separating the irises and pruning the rose bushes. It was time to forget the tablecloth and move on.
The next morning, Laura decided to stop by her Aunt Carolyn’s house before going grocery shopping.
“Hey, hon,” Carolyn said. “Come on in and have a cup of tea.” Her aunt could always be counted on to offer a cup of tea.
Laura headed into her aunt’s kitchen to turn on the stovetop tea kettle, and her aunt walked up behind her and handed her a wadded-up Walmart bag.
“Just something I found at a yard sale yesterday. Looked like the kind of old linens you like,” she said, heading back to the living room.
While Laura waited for the water to boil, she looked in the bag and couldn’t believe what she saw.
“Aunt Carolyn!” she called in the direction of the living room. “Where did you find this?”
“Got it at that yard sale off First Street yesterday,” she said. “Why? Don’t you like it?”
Laura unfolded the pristine white square of fine linen and studied the immaculately crocheted edging of a teapot, teacups, and sugar and creamer.
“Oh no, I absolutely love it,” Laura said. “Truly, I love it.”
“Good,” Carolyn said. “I paid three dollars for it. You don’t think that’s too much, do you?”
“Oh no,” Laura called back. “I don’t think that’s too much at all.”
“Glad to hear it,” Carolyn said. “I figured if nothing else, you could sell it on eBay and get a few dollars for it. I hear people pay outrageous prices for some of that junk on there.”
“So I hear, Aunt Carolyn,” Laura said, still fingering the beautiful, lacy edging. “So I hear.”