The ceiling lamp flickered like a cliché horror film, casting an eerie light of uncertainty across the small kitchen. The walls were lined with shelves of pots and containers with suctioned lids, overflowing with lavender, mint, and ground tea leaves. Above is where my teacups neatly hung on hooks, on display like tiny trophies. Having collected them since I was about ten years old, the cups had earned a certain sentimental value that caused my heart to ache at the thought of losing them.
Of all the cups, I had one favourite. One cup that had earned its own title of excellence, for it was a gift from Alex on our third date. My eyes locked onto it with such focus, I briefly thought I might shatter the cup with my stare. It was pastel pink with purple roses bordering the edge, and a silver handle that matched the tiny metallic flecks decorating the tiny flowers. It resembled something out of a doll set, but to me, it always symbolized our blooming young love.
After careful consideration, I lifted it from its hook and placed it on the counter by the steaming kettle. Then I returned to my seat in front of him, where my frail limbs shook under the table, and my dry hands rubbed together like chalk as I anxiously awaited. Finally, the kettle clicked, like a tongue off the roof of a mouth, and I leapt up to fetch it with movements just as sharp.
“Honey,” Alex snapped. It took me a moment to realize it was a request for the sweet syrup in his tea, and not an adoring pet name for me. No, I reminded myself, those decorative titles were saved for her.
“I know about your secretary,” I said, simply. I spoke in monotone as if presenting common knowledge or trite facts.
“What?” Alex asked, lowering the newspaper below his eye line so that I could see the glare of his beady rat-like eyes. There was this rodent quality to him, I realized now. I didn’t see it when we met in junior year of high school. I didn’t notice when he proposed in our senior year of college. Or when we married in Hawaii, surrounded by family members who saw our destination wedding as a financial burden. But we didn’t care about their anger because we were in love.
However, I saw it now. The way his hair stuck up as if he had two ears, the hunch in his shoulders so that he never did sit up quite straight, or his tiny dark eyes which blinked at me like I’d just set a mousetrap on him. And then there’s the fact that he’s a squirmy, filthy animal.
“Oh, I know that you’ve been sleeping with Merissa, your secretary.
My hands shook as I poured the tea into the pink cup. Little droplets spilt on the white countertops, polka-dotting it with pale yellow. Then I carried the cup over to him and placed it on his saucer.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I fought the urge to pipe down, to make myself small enough to fit inside one of my teacups.
“I do. I saw you two. I came to visit you when you were working late at the office last month. Then a few days later I found lipstick on your collar. And every night since you’ve come home smelling like another woman’s perfume.”
I sipped my own tea; from a pot that I had made earlier; it was cold and bitter now but it tasted better than the sourness of the empty air between us.
“Leane, you don’t understand…”
I could feel tears beginning to well, threatening the surface of my eye line like an infinity pool.
“Why?” I croaked, beginning to cry.
“Oh, Leane,” he began. He reached across the small table and wrapped his arms around me and stroked my hair with his steady fingers. I breathed into his chest, absorbing the fresh pine scent of his cologne, and nuzzled my face into his shoulder as if burying myself would bury my problems. But then, between his arms, I saw the pink cup, steaming like a warm breath in the winter air. I pushed him back across the table.
“No, not this time,” I said. “I can’t forgive you for this.”
His brow furrowed and he shook his head. “What?”
I shut my lips firmly and planted my bottom in the chair.
“Leane, you’re being ridiculous. It's not even my fault!”
My eyes widened. “Pardon?”
He sipped his tea, taking time to gather his thoughts and excuses. “You don’t give me attention. You’re always busy with your stupid hobbies like knitting or gardening or tea making. I mean, look at these goddamn shelves, Leane! You used to be fun and sexy and exciting! Now I come home to a different herb on my shelf every night and I’m supposed to act excited about it?”
I feel the words creep into my throat; I’m sorry. The same words I used when he accused me of not spending enough time with him in the eleventh grade. And when we fought about wedding locations because I thought a destination wedding was cruel. Or when I didn’t like the house he had picked for us because it reminded me of a cold museum. But then I think about the crimson stain I washed out of his shirt, and all the tea-light candles I lit to cover up the scent of her perfume like it was my duty to hide his mistakes.
“I’m leaving you,” I said as confidently as humanly possible.
He scoffed. “And where would you go?”
“Anywhere,” I said. “Everywhere. That’s for me to decide.”
He rolled his eyes and licked his lips, sticky with the honey from the tea. “Stop being dramatic Leane.”
“Don’t call me dramatic!” I snapped. He jumped slightly, taken aback. My insides warmed at the notion of causing him fear.
“What will you do? Sit around on the streets, making tea?”
“If I must. Anything would be better than staying here with you.” The confidence was radiating now like a nuclear explosion. I couldn’t stop it, and boy did it make me feel powerful.
“I won’t let you go,” he said, grabbing my wrist. But as he did, he began to move his tongue in a strange fashion. He licked his lips aggressively and scrunched up his forehead.
“It's too late, I already have a train ticket and my things packed.” I motioned towards my plastic suitcase of pastel florals waiting for me by the side door.
“You won’t get far. I’ll stop you. I’ll stop you if it’s the last thing I do.”
“You won’t,” I said, rising. I wrangled my arm from his grip, freeing my wrist, then made my way to the door. But he leapt up from his seat and flung himself in front of me.
“You’ll change your mind. You’re not capable of surviving alone. You’re not capable of doing anything alone. All you’re capable of is being my wife. All you know how to do is wash dishes and make me tea. You’re no match for the real world.”
Just then, he gripped his stomach and fell to the floor. He writhed in pain, squirming like a worm after a rainfall.
“I am capable of more than you think,” I whispered before stepping over him.
Maybe if he’d paid more attention to me he’d have seen the signs. Maybe if he cared more he’d have changed his ways. Maybe if he listened to me at all, he’d know what Oleander leaves looked like, and he’d had identified them at the bottom of his teacup.
“You poisoned me,” he choked and grabbed at his stomach, then at his throat. The plant was undoubtedly burning like a stovetop flame, scorching his chest like boiling water.
“No, dear…” I smiled and grabbed my bag. I took one last look at my collection of teacups and the small kitchen where I spent most of my time, for it was the only room I could really call mine. Then I slipped on my shoes and whispered softly, “…I just made you some tea.”
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I liked your story. It would be interesting to see what Leane does next! -Coffee
Story sucks but Leane’s kind of a badass
Such a sweet comment Dyl 🙄