Tea for who?

Submitted into Contest #30 in response to: Write a story about someone who loses their cat.... view prompt



The layers of her being had captured me, and I was afraid to look away, to miss a single word she said. She didn’t share the depths of her soul with just anyone; she had to trust said person. What her qualifications for trust were, I was unsure, but I knew that she trusted me. So, I smiled and nodded, encouraging her to continue. Those layers were slowly peeling back: intelligence stacked upon kindness stacked upon sheer lunacy-it was so intriguing.

           Her smile set me at ease, made me feel as if we’d been old friends from college. You know, back when floofy hair and bright blue eye shadow had painted the fashion world. But we were decades beyond that, both wearing ragged sweatpants and food-stained t-shirts sipping overpriced coffee. It was all for the privilege of sinking into those saggy coffee house chairs to enjoy the warmth of each other’s company. Her sweats were riddled with holes, possibly from moths or maybe just years of wear. Yes, it was her smile I decided that endeared her to me, for what else was there?

           Her eyes were wild. There was something buried in them that startled me. Something just below the surface of the cornea itched to get out, and it clawed and scratched until I thought her eyes would burst. The unnatural icy-blue color was chilling, but that wasn’t all. Her truth hid there, peeking out from behind years of fear and disillusionment. I didn’t think I wanted to know her truth yet, but I couldn’t stop listening, either. I was captive to the feral in her, the unpredictability.

           Her favorite cat had just passed. He had been missing for a few days, and she suspected the hateful neighbors had something to do with it. She ranted about a dry run of a murder plan they hoped to execute upon her. The house she inherited from her late mother had been under their noses for years and watching her inhabit it instead of having a chance to get it themselves was too much. At least according to her. Her poor beloved Meowington had gotten caught in the feud and suffered a miserable passing.

           She laughed as she told me how many times the cops had been to her house. Knock knocking on her door at the request of the “concerned” neighbors. Too many cats, they’d say. Couldn’t be healthy for them or her, they’d whine. Please help her, they’d whisper. So, the cops would come and ask how many cats lived with her. The creature danced in her eyes as she held up three fingers to me. Cackling, she leaned back and let it out, the stress of losing her furry family member releasing through fits of giggles. Tears lined her lower lids, but she held them in check as she continued. Those same three fingers were in the air, and she leaned forward to whisper to me.

           “Three I told them. Three. I repeated it over and over until they left.” A new round of laughter erupted, and I joined her, not sure if I was laughing with her or at myself for entertaining her. I held up three fingers in question to her, and she bobbled her head in happiness.

           “Yes, yes!” She wiped at her eyes, drying up the proof of her merriment. Then she got serious again. Another layer was about to be revealed. My skin prickled with goosebumps as I sat back, ready to listen once more.

           “He loved his Peter Rabbit tea set.” She looked past me, out the window into a memory. I wasn’t sure who she was talking about.

           “Who did?”

           “Mr. Meowington, of course. Who else?”

           I lifted my coffee to my lips trying to conceal the confusion and amusement that I felt there. She studied every movement I made, so I set the coffee down and relaxed my face, her cue that it was safe to speak. I sat silently, moving only my head to nod at the end of each statement, assuring her I was following. My mind, however, was spinning with the idea of a cat having an entire collection of teacups and saucers, some costing up to forty dollars. I didn’t have much time to ponder what a feline would do with teacup to begin with, for she had already moved onto the wreaths hanging on each of her outside doors in memory of him. Maybe a ribbon tied in his favorite tree in her yard? Something about marking it for him to visit as an angel cat. But back to the teacups my mind wandered…Did I even own a tea set for myself? This cat owned twelve! Twelve sets.

           She had paused, and it took me too long to notice. She was packing her empty paper coffee cup into her bag and standing up to leave. I didn’t know if reaching out and touching her arm would be appropriate, so I sat there, staring at her backpack as she fled from the shop. Would I see her again? I couldn’t be sure, but I knew I would come back the next day to look for her. Probably the day after that, too.

           Disappointedly, I gathered my things and slumped to the door. My own orange kitty was undoubtedly waiting at the door for me to return home and feed him. I dropped my purse and phone into the passenger seat of my van as I pulled the car door shut behind me. I needed some milk to go with the cereal that was sitting on top of my refrigerator. I rushed through the store to the dairy section in the back corner, snatched a gallon of one percent, and raced back up to the registers. I gasped as I noticed the display on the endcap of the register.

           “Is that all ma’am?” the cashier politely urged me to end the transaction.

           I grabbed one of the boxes on the display and set it on the conveyor belt.

           “Yes, this is all.” I paid the cashier and plunked myself in the car, confused at the impulsive purchase I made. Max met me at the door as I tripped my way in over him. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and topped it with milk. Opening the box from the grocery store, I unwrapped the teal saucer and cup, setting them on the floor in front of the sink. Max meowed in a questioning manner as he tilted his head and watched me. I dumped a few ounces of milk into the teacup and set the jug in the fridge.

           “Enjoy, little guy.”

February 28, 2020 23:32

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