#BlogBattle 67: Tea – My Cup of Tea

🙂 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

Genre: Drama/Romance

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.”

 © 2016

#BlogBattle 65: Bathtub – The Life of Vivian Buchanan

🙂 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.

This week’s word:  Bathtub

Genre:  Drama/Romance

The Life of Vivian Buchanan

The realtor is waiting for Mark and Jennifer on the front stairs as they approach the house. They are looking to purchase a house to renovate. Over the years, Jennifer knew which house was right for them, she could feel it and Mark always deferred to her. But this time it’s different. They are purchasing a house that they will renovate together. Mark is the professional when it comes to renovating, so Jennifer needs to defer to his knowledge this time, and not what makes her feel good.

The realtor introduces himself as Steve Ramsey and begins to rattle off facts about the house non-stop. He’s not an unlikable guy, but does have the aura of a used car salesman. The first thing that comes out of his mouth as they enter the home is, “I’ve got to tell you folks up front, the house could be haunted. Several people have bought it, and started renovating it, but just stop for some reason, and turn around and sell it.”

It’s amazing Jennifer gets a word in edgewise, but she insists, “Maybe it’s not haunted, maybe the right people just haven’t bought it.” As they continue to look around each room.

“You might be right. Story goes that something tragic happened in this house, there are all kinds of urban legends floating around, ranging from a jealous husband, to jewels being stolen, to just about anything you can imagine. If you Google it, you’ll be swamped with results. But one of the previous owners has compiled some factual documents that you’ll get if you happen to purchase the house.”

Mark walks up to Jennifer and rests his hand on the back of her neck, leans in and says quietly in her ear, “Sounds like the makings of a good story.” With that he kisses her on the temple, takes her hand and gives it a squeeze as they go into the next room.

Steve does get quiet at some point as they move from room to room. Just pointing out all the things that sell a house. Most of the rooms are not done, and the ones that are renovated are not complete. It’s like in the middle of the workday, the workers just dropped everything and ran out.

They make it up to the top floor, half the area is taken up by this lavish bathroom, or at least it was at one time. The old claw foot bathtub sits under a huge stained glass window. Steve chimes in, “Pretty extravagant huh? Story goes the husband built this bathroom just for his wife, Vivian, to have a place to pamper herself so that she would stay young and beautiful just for him. He supplied her with the finest of soaps, lotions and perfumes, and allowed her the time every night without interruption to pamper herself.”

As Steve tells the story, Jennifer walks over and runs her fingers over the porcelain of the tub. The energy coming off of it is very strong, and it fluctuates from positive to negative. She doesn’t let on to her husband what she has felt. Just then he looks at her and says, “This would make a nice space for you to write, what do you think? Or…we can restore it and keep it as a lavish bathroom just for you, so you can pamper yourself and keep yourself young and beautiful just for me.” Waggling his eyebrows.

She gives him a playful push, laughing at the very thought of pampering herself, and knowing he is teasing her, she replies, “Oh yeah, right.”

“Well if you folks do buy it, you can restore it any way you want, and it will be beautiful, it’s a real gem.”

“I know it is.” Mark replies, knowing that they will be buying it. His wife has spent the last half-hour, touching and looking at every detail. Now she is standing in the middle of this bathroom, with her arms folded across her midsection like she’s giving herself a hug. Yeah, she’s home.

“And yes, we will be buying it.”  He adds.  When she hears that, she looks at him, and gives him the smile that is just reserved for him. As she walks towards the window she gives her hips an little extra sway just for him to show her appreciation, knowing that neither one of them are listening to the realtor as he goes on and on about how happy he is.

~ * ~

One day during demolition, Mark calls Jennifer upstairs. The walls have been demoed down to the studs, with the removal of the plaster and lath, half the floor is removed. She walks in and he is standing over a hole in the floor, right in front of the tub. He points down, and says, “Thought you might like to see this.”

“Mark, it better not be anything creepy.” She walks over, hesitantly peeking into the hole. But what she sees, she gasps, and falls to her knees and begins pulling out several old dusty journals. She opens one and skims over the first few pages. “Mark, oh my gosh, this is incredible. These are hers!! These belonged to Vivian.”

As she proceeds to get up, she cradles the journals in one arm, and rests her other hand on the edge of the tub to help herself up, but the energy is so strong that she has to pull it away. Mark asks, “Are you alright honey?”

“Yes. Uh Sweetheart, I need this tub to stay in one piece when you remove it, can you do that?”

He knows the look, rubs the back of his neck, and hesitantly says, “yes…and what would you like us to do with it?”

“Put it on the back screened in porch, please.” The two other guys working with him give him a look, and he just says, “You heard the lady.”

Before she leaves, she walks up to him, and kisses him on the lips. Not just a peck, but a passionate kiss filled with so much love and gratitude, it makes one of the guys let out a slow whistle. When she steps back she looks him in the eye, caresses his cheek and whispers, “Thank you.”

She spends her days poring over the journals while she sits in the bathtub. The energy that flows around her from the tub allows her to absorb every detail, she feels every emotion pulling at her heart, as she reads the life of this woman. Sometimes it is so overwhelming, the sadness, that she doesn’t know if she could give this woman’s story justice. But the nudge on her conscience makes her realize this story must be told.

As the renovation continues, they encounter some trouble as the inspector threatens to shut them down, on an unmerited violation, even though they have completed more work than most.  It doesn’t make any sense to Mark, but he sees what he can do to comply.

Jennifer has read some of the documents that were provided by the previous owner, which confirms that the inspector is one of those treasure hunters. This turn of events leads her to believe that there is, in fact, treasure here, and that they must be getting close.

While reading the journals one day, she falls asleep but is awakened with a start as one of the journals falls from the table, next to where she is sitting, and opens to a page. She begins reading, and everything is explained.

What she finds is that Vivian was in love with someone else, and planned to leave her husband. The other journal entries alluded to a narcissistic man, but he was pure evil. He lead everyone to believe that he inherited a handful of 2-carat blood red rubies, 6 of them to be exact. One night Vivian got him drunk and somewhat seduced him into telling her the truth. As his great-grandmother was nearing her end, he coerced her into changing her will, appointing him the sole heir of the jewels. Then he killed her. When any one of the rightful heirs tried to disprove his theory, he made their lives miserable.

Vivian planned her escape by taking the jewels and hiding them in the library, She wrote the whole plan in her journal. On the night of the escape, she secured the journals under the floorboards in her bathroom, in the event something happened to her the truth would be known.

Jennifer closes the journal and grabs the folder with the documents in it. She sifts through them until she finds a newspaper clipping folded in half. When she unfolds it the headline reads Tragic Accident at the Buchanan Home. She scans over the article to where it says Vivian Buchanan was found dead in her bathtub. With a hand to her mouth, she gasps, and whispers, “then that means….” She drops the paper, and rushes into the house calling for her husband, “Mark!!”

© 2016 Carrie Ann