The old porcelain vase that stood on the worn mahogany table in the DeSaint household was not anything special to an outsider. Some visitors assumed that it was an expensive piece of art imported from China, some thought nothing of it and some were kind enough – or nosy enough - to ask Mrs Olivia DeSaint of its origins. The answers she gave were never satisfactory, she simply said it was an old family heirloom that made its way through several generations of the DeSaint. The visitors all though a bit underwhelmed by the answer often asked how old it was and where did it come from, to which the lady of the house answered: ‘Oh I won’t bore you with such nonsense, let’s get a drink’. That is how the story of the vase was portrayed to the public but the family who owned it had a quite complicated relationship with the inheritance.
You see no outsiders were allowed to stay at the house after 10:30 pm. The parties were cut short, the kid’s friends were ushered out the doors that were quickly and securely shut right after the last goodbyes were exchanged. A strange habit but nobody ever questioned it, the family was too rich and influential to be the object of questioning. Behind the closed door resided a family that consisted of six people. Lady Francesca DeSaint the oldest living descendant of the bloodline, a great grandmother to Lucas DeSaint the man of the house. Then there was Luca’s wife, Olivia and their three children Delphine, Fleur and Lucien. Just like the vase the family did not stand out of the crowd much not counting in their immense wealth but they had exactly one unusual tradition. Every night at exactly 11:11 all of the residents gathered in a neat queue in front of the vase in order from oldest to youngest and threw a torn piece of paper into the vase. Only after this peculiar task was completed they were allowed to go to sleep. All of the DeSantis had to participate, every child that could write and comprehend basic meanings was required to repeat and cultivate the tradition. Only the adults of the family and the oldest daughter Delphine knew the purpose of the bizarre occurrence. The twins Fleur and Lucien had to wait a couple more years until they found out why their sleep was cut short each night only to write down something bad that they did that day and throw it into the vase. They begged Delphine who recently turned 18 years old to tell them but with a stern facial expression, she refused every time. The twins were also not allowed to speak of the bizarre tradition to anyone outside the family. So, they had to wait, until they could make sense of it. However, that didn’t stop them from coming up with stories and possible reasons as to why they did what they did. Fleur thought that when they all went to sleep their parents came back down to read the bad things they did and then threw them away and that was why the vase was always empty the next morning. Lucien disagreed with his sister because of the simple fact that they never got punished for the things they did. The boy’s theory involved an evil ghost that would haunt them if they didn’t offer him those papers in a form of payment for their peace and quiet. Fleur always laughed it off saying that there is no such thing as ghosts. So, the speculations continued.
Delphine who turned 18 years old about a month ago still was not sure what to make of the explanation her parents gave her regarding the vase. As a child she did not really question the tradition, she saw it as a routine that in a way made her feel lighter, with her ‘sins’ neatly stored in the dish. She only started to ponder on it when at the age of 12 – out of curiosity – instead of a bad deed she wrote down that she helped an old lady cross the street on her way back from school. When it was her turn to throw in the paper a bony hand on her wrist stopped her. It was Lady Francesca, looking down at her with disapproval.
“What do you think this is child?” she asked, “A game?” letting go of Delphine’s arm she pushed her slightly towards the kitchen table and instructed “Get a new paper and write something different” The girl did as she was told and after she completed the task she quickly run to her room to take in what just happened. How did her great-great grandmother know what she was going to do? Why would she stop her and what would have happened if she threw the paper in? She waited six years for the answer but she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. On her birthday after the twins went to sleep she sat down with her parents in her father’s study. She did not really care for the gifts she received earlier that day, this moment and the next few sentences she was about to hear were the most important.
“It’s time for you to learn the family secret, my dear,” said her father and Delphine simply nodded. “Our family is cursed” While this wasn’t what she was expecting she listened as her father explained that centuries ago her ancestor Adele Marie DeSaint made a bet with a witch, nobody remembers what it was about but Adele lost and begged the witch not to punish her so instead they made a deal. Adele’s family would be healthy and abundant for all eternity if each of the DeSantis offered their sins to the witch in the vases that she crafted herself. Delphine wasn’t quite satisfied with the explanation, there were too many unknowns but she knew she had to choose her next question carefully.
“What happens if we refuse to do it? Or try to trick the vase?” Her parents looked at each other for a brief moment, their faces tight with some unrecognizable emotion. Olivia looked back at her daughter and asked if she remembered Uncle Jon and Aunt Cecilia that they once visited to collect a vase that was similar to theirs. She nodded and then remembered that uncle and aunt DeSaint died in a fire shortly after they visited.
“They disregarded the family warnings and after they got married they refused to continue leaving the offerings every night.” Something in Delphine’s stomach twisted but she understood what that meant. “And the vase we took from them will be passed onto you when you get married and start your own family.” They did not talk long after that but as she was falling asleep that night she promised herself to never disobey the family tradition.
So, the DeSaint family lived healthy and abundant lives, a lot of families have traditions and they were no different. That would be the truth if what Delphine’s parents told her was not in fact a lie. It wasn’t their fault; they believed the explanation to be true as well but they would know otherwise if they took the time to observe Lady Francesca as they released their sins into the ether. One could have sworn that her blue eyes turned red just for a moment with each piece of paper.