Submitted into Contest #128 in response to: Set your story in a tea house.... view prompt


Speculative Inspirational Urban Fantasy

If I were to start my own tea house, it’d be called TranquiliTea. I would sell orange pekoe and earl grey and dirty chai tea lattes, and maybe they'd go by names like 'Elixir of the Sun" or "Liquid Ecstasy" (warning: does not contain real ecstasy). I’d sit in as a barista alongside my carefully crafted coworkers, I’d pour each brew with a smile on my face and a warmth in my gut (probably from the three teas I’d have already downed by then), and I’d cap the environmentally-friendly, locally-sourced disposable cups with a wonderfully mundane beige lid. I’d welcome my regulars, discuss their affairs and wish them well on their morning commute, and I’d force a yearning on the customers that had just first stepped foot in my shop, as if their only wish in this world would be to become not only a regular, but a recurring friend. My tea house would host a token pet, preferably a bright young French bulldog with a calm demeanor and an affinity for children, the kind of personality that would drive people back to the house if not to become my friend, to become the dog’s. The house would sit on the corner of a semi-busy street, alongside a string of little boutiques and ice cream shops and perhaps a startup real estate office, and below what would seem like a perpetually vacant commercial space. Rush hour would signal our early closing, around 4pm on weekdays. On the curb, passersby would observe the little connected building, a personality of its own, dressed with dark brown textured wood and residential-looking double-hung windows, brought together with a solid yellow door. Along the top, right before the wood met the beginning of the boring grey commercial building, there would be a string of white text reading TEA, COFFEE, PASTRIES, SPECIALTY BR…, begging people to cross the street in order to read the rest. I’d park my novelty 1953 Chevrolet Belair on the adjacent street, baby blue paint shimmering in the blinding sunlight. I’d watch from the window, as people would stop to take pictures next to it and lean over the curb to stare into the interior, taking in the impossibly clean cream-coloured upholstery and the pristine dials, as if dust could settle everywhere but the dream that was the Belair. It would be these random acts of selflessness, this anonymous plantation of curiosity, that would keep my spirit alive. And after their encounter with the mesmerizing bundle of wheels and metal, they’d glance towards the shop and be drawn to the idea of simplicity in the form of a mere cup of tea. Simplicity just for a moment, as if the incidental appearance of a dinosaur from the '50s would engender a temporary pause from the rat race, a momentary attempt to get back to what so many deem the ‘golden age’. Intellectual marketing, possibly, or wishful thinking? And when they cross the street finally, reach the brass handle of the yellow door, and push themselves into the warmth of the shop, they’ll be transported. Not to a different time, but to a different frame of mind. A soft pink would cover the walls of the interior, making room for the range of colours brought in through specialty hats, custom shoes, striking nail polish worn by customers in a space where they could attempt to fulfill their mini domestic fantasies. For the girl who stays comfortably quiet, wears her hair in a tight clip with two strands hanging down to frame her face, a cotton sweater draping over her petite frame, she is the object of her own attention. She is the mysterious and unwaveringly studious character with secrets to hide and, God, does she always have a million things to do. And a few tables down, a middle-aged man with stark grey hair sets himself down with an apple fritter in one hand and a medium black coffee in the other. He has brought an autobiography with him, maybe a handful of car keys, and nothing else. He wears philosophical glasses with round frames and spectacles that invite speculation. He is the man who has unapologetically pursued education with a fervor and curiosity that remains unmatched, a man with endless wisdom and a patience paralleled only by the likes of a grandfather clock, a man who could return home to a million-dollar mansion with his very own chef or to a quaint little cottage with only enough money to spare for his daily coffee. Everyone carries their own story, they can be who they aspire to be, and they are surrounded by those who unconsciously do the same, perpetuate an image of themselves that can be soundly fostered by an atmosphere of fragrant herbs and lightly stained aprons and a pace of life that could only be characterized as steady and easygoing. And I’d be standing behind the counter, surveying those from all walks of life, internalizing their tea orders and arranging a rolodex in my mind to generalize similar individuals for the future. I would be constantly surprised, however, and kept on my feet by the unpredictability of my clientele and the incompetence of my inferences. Day in and day out, I would serve these customers. I’d watch them stumble through the door, out of the way of some tropical rainstorm, deciding to buy a warm tea only out of obligation. I’d watch them walk in, eyes scanning the black chalkboard with expectation, and I’d watch them walk themselves back out the door, sometimes muttering a “thank you” to excuse themselves from the awkwardness of their dissatisfaction. And when the sun would come through, like it would most days, I’d prepare the ice bucket and familiarize myself with the iced tea button on the POS system. The hours between 9am and 2pm would drag on, and I’d self-consciously rearrange the capsules of herbs and restock the cups and recenter the pastries in the fridge. I would check in on my clients, very few ever wanting to engage, and I’d be okay with it, because leisurely tea-drinkers seek solace, they don’t seek to converse, they don’t dare reveal the real person behind their carefully-crafted images. And so when the traffic would start to pick up, and the hours would converge to reveal the relief that would be 4pm, I’d let the stragglers stay as long as they’d like, some forgetting the hours of the shop, some never knowing in the first place. I’d drain the remaining drips of unpoured tea, I’d give the counters a once-over, I’d sweep and mop the floors, I’d wash the dirty dishes and drain the sinks, and I’d count the cash, only once everyone had finally vacated. And then I’d walk to the front of the shop and flick the light switches one by one, observing my little slice of paradise in the darkness, its raw and unadulterated charm still glowing against the fading sunlight. I’d push open the yellow door, breathe in the smell of the ocean brine, and ignore the mindless chugging of the cars on the street. I’d stand there, maybe let a tear roll down the side of my cheek, and I’d allow myself to believe in this dream. I would think of the many helpless moments of self-doubt I’d experienced along the way, I’d think of how sometimes, for the lucky ones, we truly do get to live in our wildest fantasies. And until then, I’ll write about it in excruciating detail until it comes true. I’ll gaze out across the frozen landscape in which I live, and I’ll envision an ever-stretching ocean. I’ll go to my minimum-wage job making smoothies, and I’ll close my eyes, and for just a moment, I’ll let myself drift into my future again. 

January 12, 2022 20:00

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S Last
01:12 Jan 21, 2022

This was great! You have a real knack for descriptive writing. If I could offer one suggestion, it would be to consider adding paragraphs to your story. Having everything in a block format makes it a little difficult to read. Otherwise, this was very enjoyable. Nice job!


Quinn Cavanagh
01:46 Jan 22, 2022

Thank you so much, I will definitely section my writing off in the future!


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