Clara and the Teapot

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

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Contemporary Fiction

Clara and the Teapot

Clara checked her phone, the text from Janine, the journalist, said she was running late: “Terribly sorry, have been delayed, more like 4.30 pm and looking forward to a cup of tea!”. It wasn’t great, this was when clients started coming back in, but they would have to manage.

Guy, the trainee chef, appeared from the kitchen; wearing a messy blue and white striped apron, a tea towel draped over his arm.

“Do I look the part?” he grinned, blonde fringe falling over one eye. Then he pivoted round, taking an exaggerated pose.

Clara glanced over at the two remaining lunch clients, huddled over their coffee, talking animatedly in the corner.

“You’d look better with a clean apron. C’mon everyone, let’s move, Janine Lelong will be here soon, and you know how important this interview is for us all, the place must be perfect.”

The corner café had been revamped for their opening 3 weeks ago: now it had cream and pale grey walls, the heavy wooden tables repainted, and the floorboards varnished. She wondered if the journalist would ask to see the kitchen, certainly the least presentable area of the restaurant. It was a pity the management had refused to modernize that part, Clara thought, but of course the public never saw it. Thank goodness the rest rooms looked good, all chrome taps and sparkling white porcelain, with freshly painted walls

A delicious smell of cakes baking wafted from the kitchen where she went to join Guy. He was a delight to work with, always in a good spirit and with loads of innovative ideas.

“Look, I’ve put wings on the angel cakes,” he showed her proudly now.

“That’s great, really inventive.”

“It’s a shame this kitchen is such a dump, the door on the oven doesn’t even close properly,” Guy said now. “I saw another mouse running around when I arrived this morning, I tried to catch him, but he disappeared under the sink. That’s the third time this week. We should get a cat.”

“Hey, not that again” Clara protested. Guy had been trying to persuade her to adopt a kitten, belonging to a friend, since his arrival. He argued that the cat could live between the courtyard and the kitchen.

 “I’ll go and buy some traps at closing time,” Clara promised, shuddering inwardly. She hated mice.

She went back to help Alice, the other waitress, clear the last of the tables, then headed to the staff cupboard for a change of clothes and to redo her hair. By the time the journalist finally arrived the café was beginning to fill up again.

“It’s rare for a 19-year-old to be promoted to Manageress, and to be given the responsibility especially in such a prestigious area. I’m impressed. Were you surprised when Tea and Tailor made you the offer?” Janine enquired.

“Actually, yes. I worked as a waitress in their smaller café at La Mouette. And I was all geared to attend the three-year Escoffier Culinary Course, I’d been accepted after a rather grueling interview. My parents didn’t really understand why I’d accept a job when I could be taking the prestigious diploma, but I reckoned the opportunity of running a well-known café might not occur again so rapidly. And I so love the challenge” Clara answered with a smile.

“Were you allowed much leeway?”

“Tea and Tailor have their own style, as you can see. The décor is always grey and cream, with wooden floorboards. The crockery is white and very modern, but I insisted on some of the decoration, especially the tea pot collection.

Clara gestured towards the counter where a row of various styled teapots stood on a high shelf above the big chrome coffee maker.

“That silver one in the middle looks really valuable”

“Yes, it belonged to my grandmother, real Victorian silver. I always admired it when I was little, and she gave it to me as a good luck charm now for the Café.”

“Aren’t you scared it will get stolen?”

“I lock it away at night, but I can’t really imagine someone breaking in just to steal a teapot. Most of the others come from our family, we’ve always been tea connoisseurs. I learned a lot of the cake recipes from my grandmother. She’s English.”

Clara presented Janine with the menu:

“Perhaps you would like to choose from our list of teas, then I’ll show you our selection of cakes?

“Angel cakes, Raspberry or Lemon tea cakes, Tarte Tatin, Teabrack, Scones and Crumpets. What an unusual selection” Janine remarked.

“The teabrack is an old Irish recipe, it’s made with no fat, the dry fruit soaks in warm tea before baking. We do lunches too, quiches, soups and salads. But our customers mainly come for the teas, or morning coffee.”

“Let’s get the photos done, before the place fills up, then we can sit back and chat”, Janine suggested. “How about one of you outside, then the three of you in front of the counter, and you sitting here with a tray of pastries at a table. Such young staff, this should really make a great article,” she added enthusiastically.

Clara made to move towards the kitchen, at the same time the door opened, and Guy emerged with an elaborate array of pastries. To her horror Clara noticed a grey mouse slip between his legs.  Seeing her expression, he glanced down, and with a quick flick of the tea towel shoved it back towards the kitchen, quickly closing the door.

Janine was busy fiddling with her camera and had seen nothing. Trembling slightly but putting on a bright smile Clara moved to take her pose by the entrance.

The photo shoot complete Clara sat opposite Janine on one of the club chairs. Guy reappeared with the tray of pastries, he helped Janine choose, then bending towards Clara he handed her a plate with a Lemon tea cake.

“Your favorite, Madam” he said with a wink. On the icing he’d drawn the picture of a smiling cat.

January 13, 2022 12:44

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1 comment

Jenny K
04:58 Jan 19, 2022

I thought this was going to end too soon and then BOOM, you got me. The perfect round off for an ending. I could see that cat on the cake perfectly, smiling up at her to state the obvious need for one. Why worry about stolen teapots when you've got furry critters running around? Ha ha.


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