Things I'd rather be doing right now:
- Jumping out of a plane without a parachute.
- Playing "The Floor is Lava" with actual lava.
- Climbing Mt. Everest in a bathing suit.
- Liking the gravel off the pavement.
- Getting thrown off a moving train
- Anything absolutely anything other than having tea with the Marple Sisters.
You might think I'm being dramatic, but you have never met the Marple sisters. All the grown-ups called Patricia and Jennie Marple eccentric, but I knew that was polite talk for psychopaths. Everything they did was weird. They would walk outside with long, crescent framed sunglasses. Their hair looked like it was cut with a cheese grater, and their clothes were straight out of a Picasso painting. They had strange accents too. My parents could never agree if they were German, French, or Swiss. I could go on, but I feel like you get the picture. I wished that I wasn't associated with them in any way. Only if my mom didn't force me to work in her flower shop.
Her shop, Aurora of Floras, is smack dab in the corner of Main Street. It's not so big you could get lost in, but it's not too small that you have to suck in your gut to walk in between the aisles. She usually has me restocking the shelves or working the counter.
The two sisters came in every Monday and Friday afternoon. One of their strange habits was that they would go from shop to shop buying stuff for their “art projects." It was a riot to watch them float around the flower shop looking at flowers as if they were wine enthusiasts. They would daintily pull the flower by the stem, hold the petals inches from their nose, and if they didn’t like the smell they placed it back, but if they did like it they would take a whole bouquet. I had no idea why they needed an arm full of flowers every week. Maybe they weren't watering them properly, or maybe they couldn't stand anything that was more than a week old. I would always try my best to avoid them, but they always seemed to bump into me when I least expected it.
"Hello, Madalin!" They would say. For months, I had told them it was Madeline, but I got so tired of correcting them that I had completely given up. One of the two sisters would ask me if I would want to have tea with them, to which I always politely declined.
"You should have tea with them, dear," my mom always said encouragingly. "Who knows, you might learn something, or even brighten their day!"
"From a tea party?" I would ask, rolling my eyes. "Yeah, right!"
So, how did I wind up sitting on a Victorian-style couch,sipping tea from a China cup at the Marple sisters' house? Well, let me tell you.
It all began in my Social Studies class when my teacher, Mrs. Winston, gave us an assignment over the weekend. She handed all of us a piece of paper filled with questions, and underneath each one was space to write our answers.
"I want you to find the most interesting person you know and interview them," Mrs. Winston explained. "This person can be a friend, a neighbor, a relative, or just anyone you know."
I groaned quietly to myself. There was no one I knew that I would call interesting except for… the Marple Sisters. For a few seconds, I wondered if I could just make up a person. But what if Mrs. Winston found out? I'd fail for sure!
So, when the Marple Sisters asked me if I wanted to have tea with them on Saturday, I reluctantly said yes.
The whole shop went quiet. I could see my mom in the corner of my eye, giving me a proud smile. Meanwhile, the Marple sisters's jaws nearly hit the floor.
"Well, well," Patricia said, snapping out of her silence. "Be there around...let's say 3:30 in the afternoon?"
"And don't be late!" Added Janice. "It is very rude to be late!"
"Oh, hush Jancie," Patricia said playfully hitting her sister in the chest. She then looked at me and whispered. "Don't pay her any attention, she's just teasing!"
I looked up only to see Jancie's cold and unblinking gaze. If that was her teasing face, I'd hate to see her angry or enraged.
Saturday came within a blink of an eye. I made sure to arrive at their apartment fifteen minutes early. I knocked on their door, and while I waited, I glanced at my worksheet to see what questions I'd be asking.
- What's your favorite hobby?
- What's your favorite childhood memory?
- Where did you go to school?
- How did you meet your best friend?
Their answer for question four would have been obvious, so I scratched it in the night before. One question down, three to go.
When the door opened, I was hit by an overwhelming sweet sound, like the fragrance of cotton candy mixed with gingerbread. I almost barfed on the WELCOME matt because it was so sweet. Patricia stood in the doorway. She was dressed in a green kimono with a dark green sash.
"Oh, good! You made it!" She cried, "Please come in! Janice! The Madalin girl is here!"
I held on tightly to the piece of paper, ready to shield my eyes from anything I was too young to see. Nothing in my wildest dream could have prepared me for what I saw next. All the walls were covered with flowers! I don't mean the wallpaper had floral patterns, I mean it looked like the sisters had shoved the stems of a million flowers and drove them into the wall itself. The flowers were either, yellow, red, or orange. They made the already warm room feel like a furnace. The only things that had a chance to outnumber the flowers were the prayer candles. Oh my gosh, there were so many prayer candles! The whole room was practically a fire hazard. Each one had a portrait of the Virgin Mary, her arms were stretches out like the Jesus statue in Rio.
"Ah, good, Madalin, you made it. And just on time too." said Janice, her voice neither sounding impressed nor disappointed. Unloke her sister, she wore a blue bathrobe with tight turquoise yoga pants. She was sitting on a white and gold Victorian-style couch while posing as if she belonged in a risqué painting.
"Please, have a seat," said Patricia. "I'll go get the tea."
As I sat down, I made sure to give myself some space away from Jancie without being too obvious. The couch squeaked every time I moved, and I could feel my body sinking in as if it were made out of quicksand.
"Is it alright if I ask you two some questions?" The piece of paper shook in my hands.
"You just did," Jancie answered. She gave me a look as if I were stupid.
"What was that, deary?" I heard Patricia ask from the kitchen.
"She wants to ask us a question!" Janice yelled back.
"Well, go ahead, deary," Patricia came in with a golden dolly with a teapot, cups, and plates on the top shelf, and everything else in the middle. "Ask as many questions as you desire."
I cleared my throat as she poured the tea into the first cup.
"What's on that piece of paper you're holding?" Janice asked.
"I believe Madalin is the one asking the questions, darling."
"That’s fine," I said. "It's a school project. I'm supposed to interview the most interesting people I know."
"And you chose us," Janice's face remained stiff and rigid.
"Oh, how sweet!" Patricia smiled before pouring tea into the cups. "Go on, interview away!"
I waited for Jancie to interrupt me again. When she didn't I recited the first question.
"That’s an easy one," Jancie slowly took the cup from her sister's hand. "We never went to school."
"What?" I gasped. "No school?"
"Let me explain," Patricia chuckled, handing me my tea. “We didn't go to school because we were always on the road.”
“Wanders in a strange land, as the Hebrews would say,” Janice added.
“Then how did you two learn stuff?” I asked.
“Our mother and father taught us of course!” Patrica giggled as if I had uttered a joke. “And the other carnies taught us other things well.”
“Carnies? You mean you guys were part of the carnival?” I couldn't believe it! Was my mother right all along?
“The one and the same,” Janice answered. “We were fortune-tellers, Patricia and I.”
“Mhmmm! Good ones two.” Janice took a sip from her tea.
“Would you like us to tell your future?”
I jumped. Patrica seemed to have appeared right in front of me.
“How? With a crystal ball?” I asked.
“Not that type of fortune-telling,” Patrica giggled. “Your tea leaves, dear. I’m an expert on reading tea-leaves.”
“I could bring out my crystal ball if you’d like,” Janice replied.
“No way!” I gasped.
“Janice and I read each other's fortunes whenever we get the chance!”
“Remember the businessman and his wife?”
“How could I forget? For as young as you were, that was pretty good fortune.”
“Well, I did have some help.”
“What? What was their fortune?” I asked excitedly.
“Now that’s none of your business!” Patrica said, tapping me on the nose. “Now let’s see what fortune your tea leaves hold, shall we?”
I could not believe it, I was having a great time with the weird Marple sisters! I could have left after Patrica read my tea leaves. I had more than enough information to complete the worksheet, but I stayed anyway. The Marple sisters didn’t seem as weird to me as before. Sure they might have had their strange habits and quirks. But deep down they were sweet and friendly.
Weeks passed, and I no longer hid from the two ladies when they came into the store. Now, whenever they ask if I want to have tea with them on Saturday, I always say yes. I can’t imagine doing anything else than spending my Saturday afternoon sipping tea with the Marple sisters!