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A Table Set for Tea
The light of the day was brilliant and oppressive. People were convinced easily to take refuge in their buildings to be supported by handheld fans and air conditioning systems rather than fall victim to the heavy summer heat upon their shoulders. As a result the street of this small and unimpressive neighborhood was populated by the sounds of frantic cars and lazily buzzing insects instead of the ideal sizzle of barbecue and warm crackle of laughter. In fact, it seemed the only smudge of life was contained within the rusted metal fence and overgrown garden of a rundown house that crouched to the side of the cul-de-sac.
Here bushes and weeds were making their slow siege of the house, which made its displeasure known in the visible frown of the roof. A war was raging inside as well, but shouting and crashes went easily unnoticed by all but one soul.
Even with this ongoing battle and terrifying heat the unseen yard of this hovel was sheltered as a happy place. Scarred edges of weeds and reaching bushes gave way to tended wildflowers and a quaintly dusty brick patio. An apple tree stood sentinel to one side of this patio, and to the other was the lone sparse patch of grass. In the heart of it all was a tiny picnic table blanketed by a stained white sheet and meticulously arranged to resemble a tea table. Three china cups were set on saucers a perfect distance from three little plates and three pairs of fork and spoon couples. Exactly in the center of each plate sat a polished red apple, and there was not a drop of water spilled from any cup.
The person responsible for this perched neatly on the side of the table that faced away from the house and that had only one setting. She was wearing a dirty but perfectly ironed white dress that hid her skinny and bruised (but strait!) shoulders. Plain brown hair was tied back with a wilted blue bow, and both scuffed shoes were crossed. On her face she wore a cheerful smile and sad chocolate eyes, which she directed to the occupant on the other side of the table.
“Mr. Abearham, would you care for a cup of tea? I do know how you love this fine jasmine and herb blend.” The voice was faint and sweet and obviously drowned by every other sound in the summer air, but she kept a crisp and proper tone, for “it was not proper to raise your voice!” as she often told herself. Even as muffled screams continued behind her.
“But I see our other guest hasn’t arrived yet! How unfortunate” She indicated the other tea placement beside her scruffy bear, who was leaning back with a dopey smile above his badly sewn little suit. “That’s okay. You don’t mind, do you, Mr. Abearham? Besides, I’m sure they will be here soon.” With that the child excused herself graciously to set a stately vase of dandelions in the center of the table. They immediately began to droop under the securitization of the sun directly above.
The girl considered them happily for a moment, then looked up and smiled brilliantly at the empty seat.
“Oh good! You’re here! We were beginning to get worried! Please, take a seat.”
The air obliged.
“I’m so glad you could come. Well? You can speak up, don’t be shy!”
I’m so glad The air answered her. You’re here!
“Look, we all look so nice for the occasion. What is it you‘re wearing, Miss…Oh! What was your name?”
What was your name? It echoed her.
“Of course! I’m Miss Marie, and this is Mr. Abraham.”
Of course I’m Miss Marie. It replied.
The girl was not startled. Instead, she laughed politely.
“We can’t have the same name, can we? How about we help you out in finding a name. Let’s see,” she said as she moved to pour water in the third cup, “You look like you could be a Melody. No, no wait. Angela. Angel. Angel! How about that! Its unique and pretty, don’t you think?”
Angel. The air was pleased.
“Good. Are you enjoying your tea?” she took a sip of her own. “You know, Angel, that’s the other thing. I don’t believe I know what you look like. I’m having trouble seeing you. And I believe dear Mr. Abearham feels the same: he has one bad eye, you know.” the girl said, referring to the absence of one scratched black eye on her bear.
I. look like. you. seeing you.
The girl watched the air gain substance and light until she was looking at what seemed a reflection of herself sitting in the chair opposite her. She gave it a smile.
“There we go. But you look just like me! We can’t have that either. You should have pale hair, long waves of it. And blue eyes. A clear blue. And your dress, it should be white like that, only embroidered with gold. No ribbon.”
As she said this her image of the guest changed, easily altering colors and clothes as a person would shift their position. Then she was beholding a blonde, blue-eyed, well dressed version of herself that was placidly drinking “tea” and grinning warmly at her.
Angel. The air said simply.
“You’re right!” By then the girl was so excited her tea and apple were becoming neglected. She bounced in her seat and clapped her hands together, as pleased as ever that she could design the attributes of her guest.
“What if you could really be an angel?”
“Yes. You should have big, puffy, feathered wings. White and glinted with gold, and coming from your back through folds in your dress.” Her eyes widened and she let out a peal of delighted laughter when this became so and the guest stretched back on her chair, opening huge and beautiful eagle wings. Apparently satisfied, the air folded them in slightly so they could be seen on either side of her small form. Her apple crackled and juice dripped down her lips as she bit into it.
“Wonderful!” Marie exclaimed, overwhelmed by the magic before her.
Could really be an angel? Suggested the air.
And then the door opened and the magic shattered. Angel watched as a woman stepped out, and like a dragon exiting her cave, she stomped over to the well-set little picnic table and the pretty little garden and the happy little girl.
“Angel” sipped more “tea” and the woman shook the shoulder of Marie hard. “God, its hot out. Marie, what the hell are you doing?! You better clean this up later! Come on, get your ass in the house! We gotta go!” she continued growling as she lead Marie back into the rundown hovel. When she opened the door the roars of a man met hers, leaving Marie looking small and deflated. And then they were all gone, swallowed up by the slam of the door.
Through her rant the guest had finished its apple. It had gone unnoticed by the woman, even as it flapped its wings and readjusted the ugly brown bear beside it so he was sitting upright. Soon it was alone in the overgrown garden behind the ramshackle house. The summer heat was still much too unpleasant for any person to be outside, but the guest sat at the dirty children’s picnic table and sipped water from a chipped china cup. They stayed in that position long after the day had grown old and the sun had retreated to a cool and vibrant night. They remained unnoticed by passerby and cars that came with greater frequency with the moon. They watched the unimpressive and insignificant house from their position across from it, and they gave no expression to its sagging frown.
Miss Marie. The air whispered. Miss Marie.