“No, not that tea, that’s still her favourite and I’m low on it.” The look Reid gave me was not unexpected. We both knew she passed away four years ago, almost to the day.
“I know, I’m crazy but please, just save it.” Thankfully he put it back on the shelf and searched for another.
“Try this one. I think you’ll love it.” I took the Lemon Meringue tea from the back corner, hiding it to have on hand just for this moment.
“Lemon meringue tea? Have you tried it?”
“Tastes just like the pie!” The distraction worked as Reid brewed his cup and sniffed the steam in pure bliss and eager anticipation.
“You’re right. It’s delicious. I have to run though.” Reid tightened the lid on his travel mug, put on his shoes and was out the door after his traditional kiss and hug. While we always seemed to be in a rush we never parted without them, even after 20 years of being together.
With him out the door and down the driveway my day could finally begin. I hated keeping such a special gift from him and yet, I didn’t think he would ever understand. He was practical and this well, it just wasn’t.
“Hey Google, play the Mackeel’s.”
The machine replied “All right, playing a station with the Mackeel’s”. Creepy, but efficient. Fiddle music started filling the room as I prepared the tea. Touching the tiny ceramic fish she gifted, promising so long ago to add to the collection each year, a tear formed in the corner of my eye as I flicked the switch on the Scentsy burner. This, too, came from her and the smell would always bring me back to that day. She brought more than warmth into our lives with her friendship.
With my daughter at school and husband at work, the day was my own and I wanted to spend this day with her. I was selfish, looking back on the past and trying to hold onto something I couldn’t but the power I had was to be used for good. The secrets I held were my own to cherish.
As the tea kettle whistled her signature voice filled the room. Rose had arrived.
I never knew if I should turn off the music or let it play, it really didn’t matter to me as she was all I heard. Some days she would bring her fiddle, other days just her voice – both were magic.
I sat down, placing my own tea cup in front of me and a special cup of tea at the place across from me. I never asked questions, never started the conversation or said too much at all. Her presence gave me a sense of peace I longed for and just having her sit there, rambling on or singing her songs, was more than enough.
I worried that Reid would think I was driving myself crazy. With too much time on my hands and never seeming to get a lot done each day, he questioned my actions. I just told him I spent more time reading or on the treadmill than I expected. Some days I would say it was busier at the grocery store, that it took me forever. Sometimes it was true.
Most times I spent my time praying for things to be different. For Rose to still be flourishing and the world to be right again. I was old enough and cynical enough to know life wasn’t fair but this was too much.
I was startled to hear the door close without first hearing someone drive in. It was a quiet street, normally I knew when someone pulled in. My face warmed, not from the hot tea but from seeing Reid before more, looking down at the table set for two.
“I can explain. It will sound like I’m crazy but just give me a chance.” I rambled, he stood silent. “The Maple Chai is her favourite, I save it for her. I know, it’s nuts, I don’t waste it, I promise. And I don’t do this every day. I just, sometimes I need a friend. I get so lonely each day and she comforts me. Makes me feel more sane despite it all looking insane.
I’m rambling. Why are you here? Are you ok?”
I took a breath and the music stopped. It started again, slowly, softly. Reid’s eyes were duller than before. He seemed to be not all there and yet I could reach out and…
My hand seemed to not quite get to his arm. He didn’t move but my reach didn’t get there. I then noticed a dark liquid on the back of his head. A bump growing before my eyes while the liquid, I realized then it was blood, crusted and congealed. “Good God! What happened to you?” I reached for the phone to call 911 and quickly glanced out the window. There was no car in the driveway.
“How did you get here? Where’s the car?” I was frantic now, screaming. “Why aren’t you speaking?! REID!”
His mouth was moving, so was Rose’s. I called 911 like I was on auto-pilot though I never called them before. “Yes, there was an accident. My husband… I don’t know… just get here… he’s bleeding and not talking, not really…”
I kept the line open like I was asked to knowing it wouldn’t make a difference. I was the odd one out this time, the one who couldn’t communicate. I sunk to the seat Paige usually sat in and watched the two beings talk with each other. They both drank the tea, even the one set for me, and laughed, sang and caught up on life. Or death. Their words were silent so I couldn’t be sure but I did know they both understood.
I wasn’t good with bad news. I couldn’t deliver it but Paige had to be told. There was a knock on the door, an ambulance in the driveway, a police car on the road.
“That’s me. Reid is right in here.” They looked surprised, confused and I did, too when I took them to the kitchen to find it empty. The tea cups were in the sink, the music stopped playing. “Mrs Fraser, there has been an accident.”