Alfred Warren Smith: A KISS WITHIN THE CUP

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By Alfred Warren Smith

Drink to me only with thine eyes,

and I will pledge with mine.

Leave but a kiss within the cup

and I’ll not ask for wine.

The song was one of the smaller, basic, note-learning lessons as she began her piano lessons long ago, before the real beginning of her career taking root when the concert halls grew larger, and the itineraries more exotic.

But it was the words, not the music, that stuck with her.

Between concerts she’d find herself humming the melody, and at home, in her loneliness, she sang the words.


Resigning herself to maiden solitude, she was surprised when love kicked in the door and a man who surrounded her with a whirlwind of love and solace entered into her life. She gladly, gratefully, let him sweep her off her feet until she found herself at the altar in a flowing white gown.

She couldn’t see the well-wishers, the priest, or even the veil for all the tears she couldn’t stop crying.

Her groom only smiled, lifted the veil, wiped them away, and sealed his vows to her lips with his own.


As the day-to-day of marriage glazed over the passion of the wedding, she was sipping her tea one day when he said to her, “You always leave lipstick on the rim of your cups.”

“Do I?”

“Yes. You don’t need the lipstick, you know.”

“I suppose. I guess I’m just used to wearing it for the shows.”

“You’ve always done it, though. Champagne glasses, water bottles, everything bears the imprint of your lips.”

“Does it bother you that much?”

“It doesn’t bother me at all.”

“Then why bring it up?”

“I just find it odd, but endearing.”

She twirled the cup slowly with her fingers. “I suppose it goes back to my childhood. There was a song I used to play when I was just learning…”

She told him the lyrics.

“A kiss within the cup?” he said, teasing.

She smiled and blushed.

He took the cup from her hand and took her in his arms.

“Make me your cup tonight,” he said.


As the concert halls got smaller, so did the money, and so did his ability to supplement them.

“No one needs me,” he said.

“I do.”

He shook his head, and she kissed him and held him as the weight of the world began its inexorable press.


In the polar opposite of his courting, his fading away was slow and torturous. As she cared for him she fought through her own pains as the phone stopped ringing, and time exacted its large toll in small change.


There were cracks in the walls that let the drafts in now.

The view of the wooded fields was dimmed by the clouds in the sky and the cataracts in her eyes.

She heard, more than saw, the rain as it hit and streaked the filmy windows. Aware of the warm water on her own cheeks, rolling over the flaked red lipstick she’d applied to dry lips, she took a sip of her tepid tea and pressed them to the rim to leave the common mark he found so oddly endearing.

Turning her back on the dismal day to spend it with bright memories at the piano, now in dire need of tuning that would never be, she left the cup on the windowsill for him to see, pulled her robe tighter, and shuffled on slippered feet back to her loneliness. The atonal pitches of her quavering voice filled the silence.

“….Leave but a kiss within the cup,

and I’ll not ask for wine.

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