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Drama Friendship Sad

“Tea.”

She stared out the window at the fog rolling in, washing over the hillock, down the ravine and across her garden. She could smell the damp air, almost thick enough to break into a drizzle. She scanned the yard, remembering the chores she had meant to complete.

“Tea,” she nodded, turning around to face the kitchen and her friend who was busy looking through cupboards. She pulled her shawl tight around her shoulders. “Please.”

Damp and eerie mornings such as this were best met by a warm cup of tea. Coffee was too sharp, too energetic, and hot cocoa or apple cider too sweet to begin the day. Tea was the only beverage that could stave off the chill, encourage that combination of reflection and preparation this morning required.

Her friend had come to help. The shock of her situation had worn off, and the necessity of addressing it, of dismantling the life she had known, confronted her.

The women didn’t talk as they waited for the kettle to boil. She moved around the room, looking at the things left behind by the people she had loved—games and puzzles forgotten by grown children; building blocks abandoned by a grandchild; figurines bestowed by her father; the unfinished cabinet holding them all, discarded by her husband. She stroked the hand-made quilt from her grandmother on her father’s side tossed across the sofa. There was comfort in these things, but the connections were fading, like the view of her yard.

“Maybe we should have an estate sale first, then box up the rest for donation,” she said in a moment of strength.

The kettle whistled. Her friend poured two cups. “Would you rather chamomile or mint? You have a lot of choices up here.” She looked through the cabinet.

“Hmm, mint, I think. Thank you.” She came over and sat at the kitchen table and took the offered cup. “This was one of my grandmother’s,” she murmured, tracing the lip of the cup with her thumb. “Thank you for coming to help me. For everything, really.”

Her friend smiled and brushed off the gratitude. “You know I’d be here. It’s what we do.” She sipped her own cup of earl grey.

The fog now hid the little hill behind her house, obliterating the view of anything beyond the pine tree at the edge of her yard. It came in visible waves, like ghostly white silk blowing in slow-motion around the pine, slowly removing from view everything that was no longer hers. Like skeletal fingers, the fog clutched at the pine’s green boughs, engulfing them along with her memories.

The erosion of her life had begun years before, decades even. She had tried to maintain her family, her marriage, her life, but there had always been a little tug, a small whispered threat that she could never quell. And now the fog had come to finish her off.

The mint tea held the obscuration at bay. She grasped her cup with both hands, the warmth radiating to her fingers as the subtle mint aroma chased away the damp and illuminated her thoughts, if just for a moment.

The women moved methodically through the rooms, tackling the easy things. Her friend redirected her energy when she became too absorbed in an object. “Is that one important? Should we box it for the movers?” Her friend would ask, before gently reminding her, “they’re just things. Just the detritus of a life well-lived.”

The fog pressed in at the windows like impermeable white curtains hung from the eaves, suffocating her thoughts, making it difficult to decide what to keep, and what to let go. At times the weight of it was unbearable. Even the sun was no match for its density; the fog diffused the light into a thousand million particles, disallowing any reflection except of itself. Just as each particle of her life seemed a reflection of someone else.

The cold air settled into the corners, but it was not crisp; this cold felt more of finality than of winter’s sleep. There was no promise of spring in the cold that invaded her home. She became methodical in appraising the stuff they found. It was easier to relinquish what was hidden by the fog, things she could no longer see.

Her mind, like the air, seemed to clear when they moved on to the books. Here the decisions were easy. She remembered each one, and they were hers. The fog relented, and she sipped her mint tea and shared thoughts about the titles and the authors with her friend as the piles of ‘keep’ and ‘donate’ grew around them.

There was a knock at the door, breaking the happy moment of normalcy, like a Russian messenger from a Chekov play.

“Sorry we’re late. This fog has taken over everything in the valley. There’s accidents on every freeway.” The moving van driver was honestly apologetic, but she appreciated the extra time. Quick and efficient, his team loaded up the last of her household that she would keep. The fog didn’t slow them down as it did her. To them it was a mild nuisance, but for her, it was an insurmountable obstacle.

Her friend stood beside her and gently patted her shoulder. “You OK?”

She didn’t respond. She struggled to take a breath and looked out at the yard. The fog had begun to lift; it no longer shrouded the fence line. The neighbor’s dog barked.

The trees would be trimmed by another’s hand. The yard would be filled with another’s pets and children. Maybe they will plant an avocado tree. I always wanted an avocado tree. They’ll have to learn to feed the citrus.

Though the sun peeked in through the window, the fog still held her thoughts. The last sip of mint tea was cold, its restorative powers gone. She dumped it in the sink and tossed the tea bag in the trash. The compost pile would dry out, unattended. There would be no mulch for next year’s flowers.

When did this cup get that crack?

January 14, 2022 06:28

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4 comments

Graham Kinross
21:34 Jun 16, 2022

Wow, this was quite grim. You captured the end of an era feeling with all of the memories you have to leave behind. I like the last line because it’s odd the little things that get to you even in bigger moments. Great story. What are you working on next?

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EJ Lagerberg
18:26 Aug 01, 2022

Thanks, Graham. Lots of stuff swimming in my head - time to get focused :)

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Amelia Yang
00:29 Jan 22, 2022

Thanks for sharing, Ej. Loads of vivid and dramatic detail. I could feel the sadness coming for me! By the end I was wondering if the woman had found some relief from the sadness (signaled by the fog lifting), if she was still seeing everything through her loss (fog still held her thought), or if she was able to see her life more objectively (identifying the crack in the cup she hadn't noticed before). I was expecting some sort of big reveal but in a way because there wasn't it kept me guessing and engaged the whole time.

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Eisley Kang
15:05 Jan 21, 2022

Hello, I really liked your story. I thought that the details and descriptions really added to it, and thought it was well written.

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