Afternoon Tea. Short Story.

She moved slowly, she was getting older now but it needed to be done. She had almost expected some kind of feeling of loss as her mobility was reduced, but really, she had nothing to worry about. There was a lift in the house that she could use and Patrick was still very helpful. He was out now, so she had to make the tea herself. Her friends were experiencing the same problems as she was, so they did not mind the extra few minutes wait.

She pottered around the kitchen as the kettle boiled, she was becoming more forgetful, Patrick was supposed to put labels up on the cupboards for her, label where the tea was, and the cups. She knew where the milk was though, most days anyway. Eventually she found a tray, then, laying it down began to get cups and saucers. He had done that much at least. Carefully, she poured the water into the cups, paused for a moment, then remembered the tea bags.

Adding the milk to the tray, she picked it up, proud to note that the tray barely shook, and together, they made their way into the tea room. She was most proud of this room, something which Patrick could attest too. He had been in the room a grand total of five times in his life. Only twice when she allowed it. The others times were when he was a child, twice when he was too young to understand the room was off limits and once, late at night when he took a wrong turn after going to get a drink during the night.

The room was still free of dust, she dusted though it took her longer than it had before, it was the only room she still took care of cleaning herself, Patrick took care of the other rooms.  The carpet was a tasteful white, deep and comfortable. The decorations were slightly old fashioned, but still stylish, at least, in her opinion. There was a large table with enough seating for six, but now, only four seats were filled. Angelica was unable to make it today, she had fallen and broken her arm, it was a terrible fall, but she would mend. Eventually.

Carefully, so carefully, she set the tray down and passed around the cups, offering tea and milk. She had even remembered the sugar and biscuits. She didn’t need any return trips today.  Each murmured their thanks for the tea and she sat down, gratefully.

Their visit did not last as long as she would have liked, but it was pleasant none the less. Once they were gone, she surveyed the cups left behind. She did not want to clean, but she knew Patrick would do a poor job. Slowly, she moved the cups back onto the tray, Patrick could clean them once they were in the kitchen.  She would just leave the tray out for him. He would take care of it.

Using a cloth she wiped down the table, then began her inspection, as she had done after every time she had tea in the tearoom. First, the table was checked for stains and crumbs, if any were found they would be removed, then, she circled the table and checked if there were any stains or crumbs on either the chairs or the floor. She vacuumed once a week, she used to shampoo the carpet monthly, but she hadn’t been able to do it for almost a year now. Her final checks took almost two hours, but once they were done she felt better.

It was getting late and Patrick had not returned yet. She knew he had his own life to live and she tolerated this, but she did not like him coming home late. She worried and he knew this. Still, she was tired, it would be time for her snack, then she would go for a nap, maybe she would sleep until morning. Before she would have been horrified by the idea, but there was nothing for her to do, she had no obligations to fulfil. A long sleep might just be what she needed.

In the kitchen, she reminded herself to tell Patrick to finish labelling the cupboards, she really needed them to be labelled now. She was getting forgetful. She made herself a sandwich, she took a bite out of it, enjoying the taste, then, turning she went to the fridge. A glass of ice tea would go well with her snack. She surveyed the fridge. It was getting emptier now. She would need Patrick to go shopping soon. The ice tea pitcher was empty. She had really wanted some.

Closing the fridge she yawned. She felt too tired to make her snack and decided that she would nap first. Leaving the barely touched sandwich behind, she began to make her way up stairs. One step at a time. Halfway up she remembered the lift, but it was too late now. She would get to the top of the stairs, then have her nap, just what she needed after such exertion.

Her bedroom was dark, she had forgotten to open the curtains and the light bulb in her lamp had gone out. She flicked the switch at the doorway and the chandelier sprung to life, revealing her room. She always felt a faint tremor of pride when she entered her room. The carpet was thick and comfortable. Her makeup table was clean and neat. She only used spare applications of it, she knew that trying to hide her wrinkles would only make them much worse. She had seen how her friends looked and she did not want to be the object of the pity she had seen in waiter’s eyes. A part of her believed her friends saw it too, that’s why they didn’t go out so often now, rather they came to her.

The mirror by her makeup table was large and had magnifying attachments so she could see better. The names on the makeup were small and sometimes she couldn’t see the colour properly through the glass. She had what seemed like hundreds of pots, all in a specific layout she knew and loved, each filled with arcane creams their purpose only known to her and perhaps Patrick.

She changed into her nightie, it was long, almost Victorian in style. Moving the heavy duvet back, she slide between the sheets, they were soft and comfortable. Patrick had washed them only the day before.  The pillows were piled high and, though she knew it was probably not good for her posture, she liked them that way. She considered reading one of her stories, books were piled high on the nightstand, but her eyes were tired and heavy, they began to droop. Soon she was fast asleep, lights still on. The noise of her whispery breathing filled the room.

He let himself in silently, it was hard to tell, but she usually took her nap around this time. He didn’t want to wake her. There was a thin coating of dust over everything. The cleaner must not have come when she was scheduled. He didn’t really blame her though. The house was large and creepy. Going into the kitchen he began to clean the cups she had left out. They were still full of tea. He never understood it really. Once the cups were clean and left to dry he went through the house, checking for any accidents. She had broken vases before and simply walked through the shards.

The tea room was dark, the sun would light it in the early afternoon but the night was pushing on. The carpet was ragged and stained, the table dirty. He could see where she had made attempts to clean it. Four dolls sat at the table, all stared at him creepily. He knew the fifth doll was sitting upstairs in the doll room with a broken arm. She had hundreds of dolls, each with their own name and apparent personality. She used to bring them out to her with restaurants, she would order food for them and spent her entire time talking to them. He would need to go to her room soon, he always hated it. There was a deep fetid stench that could never be removed no matter how hard he or the cleaner had tried. It had been absorbed by everything. They tried to clean the entire room but she had started screeching at them until everything was returned to normal.

He stood outside the door, preparing himself. She was already awake when he walked in, “Hello Patrick” “Hello, how are you feeling today?” he never felt comfortable being called Patrick, but it was easier than correcting her. She was more cooperative this way. “Mummy has a lovely treat for you today, a new toy, it’s in the chest beneath the window, have a look, I know you’ll just love it.” “What is it?” he hoped she would tell him, it would be easier for him to play along once he knew what he was supposed to be seeing. “Oh, you’ll see” sighing he made his way over to the chest. She had done this before, but never with the chest, it had always been drawers or something similar. He lifted the lid, then wretched before vomiting. Huddled in the chest lay the body of a teenager, the flesh dried and desiccated. As it dehydrated it had been pulled back from his mouth, making him look like he was screaming. His sightless sockets started up at nothing. Before the lid closed he saw the scratch marks on the lid. He didn’t hear her approach him, as he turned she swung a silver nail file towards his chest. Her eyes blazing. As the blade plunged into him, over and over again, sending splashes of blood misting outwards she screeched “You’ll never leave me for that whore. Never.”

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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