🙂 Tuesday = #Blogbattle
#BlogBattle is a weekly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Hosted by the talented Rachael Ritchey. Feel free to join in, or click here to read the current week’s stories and vote for your favorites.
Recently a friend of mine was surprised when they found out I had begun writing. Since then, they have been encouraging me to continue participating in the blogbattles. Surprisingly, I found they have some writing skills of their own. This story is our collaboration.
This Week’s Word: Tea
My Cup of Tea
The whistle breaks the silence of the day. Patrick walks over to the stove, turns the gas off, and removes the kettle from the front burner. He walks over to the kitchen table, already having placed his last tea bag in his cup, he slowly pours the water filling the cup just below the brim. Returning the kettle and its remaining contents to the stove, Patrick finally sits down to begin his ritual of preparing his tea just right, when he pauses in mid-lift. He soaks in the quietness, as he recalls the bustling activities of the last few days.
His daughter, Jasmine, caught her flight back home this morning, making quite the fuss about wanting to stay longer, but having so much on her plate back at work. Just this morning alone, he assured her a dozen times that he would be fine. But would he. How could he be so sure, this was all new territory. The truth was, he had never buried a wife before. Never been forced to say goodbye to the love of his life. Never experienced this home without her lovely voice filling up the rooms. And he had never had his afternoon tea without her pleasant conversation as the main dish, but he was about to for the very first time. He lowers the tea bag back into his cup, as the first tear runs down the side of his cheek.
He had hidden this last tea bag, so that the guests in the house would not indulge in it. He knew he would need something special to get him through these first lonely hours. It was her favorite after all, Chocolate Chai Tea. Who was he kidding, he liked it just as much as she did; them both being chocolate lovers. Yet he always let her have the last tea bag. Every…single…time, until today.
He adds a splash of milk, and a little bit of sugar, finishing it just the way they both liked it. Raising the cup he allows the steam to dance around his nose, until the decadent smell of chocolate overtakes his senses. With the first sip of chocolate mingled with spice, he closes his eyes, and just like that, he is taken back to a few weeks before when they sat in this very spot planning their next trip. Actually, every trip they had ever taken had been planned at this very table over a cup of tea. She was the planner, the one who wanted to see the world. “So much good stuff to see Patrick,” she would tell him during the planning phase. He was the homebody type, he had seen more than he wanted at an early age. He became her designated driver, and went along with whatever she planned.
Taking another drink, the irony was not lost on him that he could now remain safely home, where he had always preferred. But now, she was on a long trip alone, without him.
Their next trip was to see their eldest daughter, and her kids. Angela was beaming with joy. She loved those grandkids, and loved spoiling them more. Now that they were teenagers, she knew they would be heading out on their own adventures soon, so this trip was going to be big!! She talked about the sights they would see, the things they would do. How she would take them shopping and what she would buy them. She understood the younger generation and what they liked, and she knew exactly where to look and how to find the bargains. That’s what he loved about her most, she didn’t have to worry about trying to stretch a dime, but she did it anyway. She once told him that was her contribution, he made the money, she made it stretch. With another drink, a smile crosses his lips, all he ever wanted to do was make her happy. After all, she was his angel.
That’s what he called her the first time he met her. The local Y hosted a Military Dance the night before a new group of young men, fresh from boot camp, were to be shipped out on their first tour in Vietnam. He recalls the moment he saw her, as she walked in, dressed in white, her reddish brown hair hanging down her back shimmering like silk. She was a vision, an object of desire by many of the boys in uniform who couldn’t take their eyes off of her. It didn’t faze her one bit, she was having too much fun with her group of friends. She politely turned down most of the requests for dances, and if she did dance with a soldier, it was always to an upbeat tune, never a slow dance. Patrick spent most of his time just watching her, talking and laughing, deciding which boy she would dance with next. He was smitten.
After a long set of more upbeat songs, the music slowed, the easy melody of “Something” by the Beatles filled the room. Without hesitation, yet with the grace of a dancer, she walked right up to him and said, “Hello Soldier, may I have this dance?”
With a smile on his face that he could not contain, she took him by the hand and led him to the dance floor. Yes, I am the luckiest guy in this room, he thought at the time. All eyes were on them as they found a clearing on the floor. She turned to him, took his hand, and placed it firmly on the small of her back. Together they began to sway to the music, their bodies brushing up against each other. He remembered how they had danced the entire song without a word spoken. When the next song began, they remained in each other’s grasp, but neither moved an inch. He introduced himself, gazing into her green eyes that sparkled with flecks of gold, “My name is Patrick, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you Patrick, I’m Angela.”
“Well Angela, that’s a perfect name. Dressed in all white, moving across the floor like you do, you look like an Angel.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any angel dressed in a mini skirt and go-go boots,” she tilted her head and laughed so sweet it filled his soul.
“Well, God does work in mysterious ways,” matching her laugh with one of his own.
That one song brought them together, and they remained inseparable the rest of the night talking, and dancing. The night came to an end with a long hug and a slow kiss filled with promise of a future, because if he did survive, he knew she was the one. It was a night he would never forget. His last night in the states, yet it was made special by a beautiful girl, who promised to write. A girl he knew he would think about to get him through his upcoming days.
She did in fact become his angel, by keeping that promise and writing him beautiful letters. Her words reminded him of the beauty that still existed in this world despite the horror that he was seeing daily. While he wrote of those horrors and the difficulty others were having keeping their human spirit intact, her letters bought calm to him at night and allowed him to get a few hours of peace in the middle of his hell. With each and every new letter, she talked about home, about making a home for the two of them, and about seeing all the beautiful places that still existed. She would always end those letters with the knowledge, that even she could not explain, that he would survive, and would come home, back to her. Her love scrolled across paper made everything better, she made him believe that he would be fine and they would have a beautiful future together. Her words cleansed him each time he read them, making him able to fully devote his life to her. For she had saved the boy in the war, and allowed a man to come home.
Laughter from outside stirred him back to reality. He turns towards the window and takes in the laughter as it passes and fades. He realizes that there will be no happy trip now, or ever again; at least not together. He takes a shallow breath in and slowly exhales saying, “Oh Angel, how will I ever get through these days without you here with me?”
He lifts his cup, another taste, another memory. A long missing laugh escapes his mouth. He remembers those letters, not hers this time, but his letters. He had always asked her that very question each day he wrote to her. “How will I ever get through these days without you here with me?” Her response was always the same, “You will, because I am there with you, I will always be there with you, right in your heart. My love will protect you and bring you back home.” He hears those words in his head as clearly as if she were sitting right there. He closes his eyes, and he sees her, just as beautiful as the day he met her. He leans his head as if listening to music He begins to softly hum “Something.”
He looks into his almost empty cup, bringing it to his lips, he closes his eyes to savor these last drops in his mouth. He reaches his hand across the table. A wide smile overtakes his face, as his out stretched hand gives a squeeze. He speaks out softly, “Yes, Angel, you already know don’t you, just like you always have. I will be just fine.” He gets up and takes his cup to the kitchen sink. “That is good to know.” He places the cup in the sink, “It has always been good to know.”