Tea Time

AUTHOR: Cathy Roberts
EMAIL: huntersglenn@yahoo.com
SUMMARY: John Carter's neighbor has a crush on him.

She edged the curtain aside and peered out into the street. It was empty now, not even the children were out playing. Had she missed it when he came home? She thought not. He was fairly punctual.

Just in case though, she went to the kitchen and gazed out over the fence that separated the houses. He had been doing work in the backyard these past few evenings, but there was no sign of him. He must not be home, she affirmed, feeling slightly disappointed at not seeing him. It was hot outside and most days he ended up taking his shirt off. She had quite enjoyed watching him pull the T-shirt over his head and then use a dry part of the shirt to wipe the sweat from his brow. There was nothing quite like the sight of a man working hard enough to break a good sweat.

She quietly made her way back to the front of the house and sat in the chair by the window. Through the sheers she could see if someone was on her sidewalk. She didn't like being surprised whenever her doorbell rang, even if it was himself brining gifts.

She smiled then as she glanced fondly on the vase full of flowers. He had brought those flowers two days ago. Yesterday, he had brought her a "National Geographic" magazine. So far, she had read it from cover to cover three times. It had put a strain on her eyes, but she didn't mind. The articles took her home to Ireland. She shook her head and admonished herself, Margaret Kathleen, remember, this is your home now. Had been her home for so very long. Too long to remember. But, he did so enjoy hearing her stories. And, the truth be told, she did so love telling them to him.

He looked like her Sean. That made it so much easier to talk with him. To laugh with him. Except her Sean had eyes so blue that they could rival the sky. His eyes were brown, but such a deep brown they were and would have been difficult to read in a person other than himself.

She picked up her hand mirror and gazed upon her face. In her mind, she could see sparkling eyes the color of a new shiny leaf. They were set in a face with wide eyes, high cheekbones and a pert mouth. The lips were maybe a tad too thin, but Sean had loved them anyway. Her crowning glory was her hair. The curly red tresses hung well past her waist and it was a pleasant chore to brush it out every morning and night. She kept it braided now, but it was still brushed out morning and night.

She put the mirror down, then reached up and removed the pins that held the braids on her head. They fell, a heavy weight still. Her hands made quick work of undoing the plaits and as she was reaching for her brush, the doorbell rang.

Guiltily, she glanced up at her clock, knowing it was him. She had forgotten about him. If she didn't answer the door, he would worry. He knew she would be home. Where else would she be, after all? If she did answer the door, he would see her hair.

She felt a slight tremor go up her spine at that thought. Sean had been the only man to see her crowning glory down and loose. But, Sean was long gone now and she was still alive. She grasped the arms of the chair and pulled herself to her feet, then answered the door.

His smile was bright for her, but she could see the circles under his eyes. He wasn't getting enough sleep, that much was plain. Probably not eating right either. Men had such problems when it came to taking care of themselves and he was no exception.

"I saw this in a thrift store and it made me think of you," he stretched out his arm, his palm facing up and cradling a lovely pin. She had once admired one similar to it back in 1929 when she had first set foot in America. What horrible timing she and Sean had for their migration here. Only Sean could manage to land in New York on the same day that the stock market crashed.

"It's lovely," she said, reaching out to touch the worn silver and the still vibrant garnet.

"Shall I put it on you?" he asked.

She nodded, then stepped back to let him into the house. He dropped his bag to the floor and closed the door, then deftly secured the pin on her blouse. He took her by the hand and lead her over to her chair, then held up her mirror. His eyes were smiling at her.

"It looks nice on you," he said.

She quite agreed with him there. The pin was made for her, she decided. "Thank you. Would you care for some tea?"

He shook his head. "No thank you. I've had way too much caffeine today."

"Ah, but a cup of hot tea will help you relax. It will only take a moment or two. The water is already hot."

"I must have perfect timing. Every time I stop by, the water is already hot."

"You are certainly one of the lucky ones," she responded. She would have to make sure that the water wasn't hot tomorrow. It wouldn't do any good for him to start thinking that she waited around for him before she took her tea, even if she did.

"Can I help you with anything?" he called from the front room. She couldn't quite call it a parlor. Those weren't designed into houses any more. And she refused to call it a living room.

"Would you mind carrying the tray for me?" She asked, knowing the answer before she ever asked. Every day he carried the tea tray from the kitchen to the front room and back again once they were done.

He came to the kitchen and carried the tray back to the living room, carefully setting it down on the solid oak table that she and Sean had transported from Ireland so long ago. He poured out their tea then, giving her two lumps of sugar and taking three in his own.

"Please, help yourself to the sandwiches," she offered.

He thanked her and chose a cucumber sandwich. She was glad it was summer now and she could get the cucumber's at such a good price. The cost was worth it though, if it kept him in her front room.

"So, yesterday you mentioned that you and your husband brought this table from Ireland. I'd like to hear how you managed that, if you don't mind talking about it."

She smiled. "No. I don't mind at all. Would it bother you if I brushed my hair while we talk? I was just about to begin when you rang the bell."

He shook his head. "No, I don't mind."

She picked up her brush and began her story. His eyes never left her face as she told how she and Sean had carefully wrapped the table in quilts to keep it from being damaged on the ship. Then, when they arrived in New York, the stock market had crashed that very day and the little bit of money they had wasn't enough to tide them over. They had counted on Sean being able to get work within weeks of their arrival, but with the Depression, it didn't happen. Sean had thought about selling the table, but it had belonged to her recently departed grandmother and there was no way she would part with it. It was the only thing she had to remember her Nana by.

She paused in her narration to pull at a tangle in her hair. He set his teacup down and stepped around behind her.

"Let me get that for you." He took the brush from her hand and began to work at the tangle. "What did you and Sean end up doing?"

She closed her eyes as she remembered how difficult it had been. "We took what work we could and ended up living in a one room flat with another couple, Maire and Aidan Sullivan. They were a Catholic couple from County Mayo, and even though we were steadfast Protestants out of Belfast, we got along anyway. We ad to. Sean was working two jobs, one down on the docks and the other driving a car for an Italian businessman. I was working scrubbing floors in the local hospital. That came to an end though when I lost our baby. I didn't know I was with child. It shook Sean up to come to pick me up from work only to find that I was a patient. The next day he quit his job on the docks and took a higher paying job with the Italian businessman. It wasn't until we ended up moving here that I found out Sean was involved in criminal activities. But, bless his heart, he didn't want me to risk losing our next babe by scrubbing floors."

It felt good to have him brushing her hair. All the tangles were out now and he was giving it a gentle, yet thorough brushing. The same way Sean had. It had brought Sean much pleasure to brush her hair every night. Was it a sin to enjoy this pleasure with him? She thought not.

"Shall I braid it for you?" His voice caught her attention. It was tempting to say yes. Well, why not?

"That would be nice," she replied. She sighed as she felt him run his fingers through her hair to separate it into sections.

"You wear two braids, right?"

"You noticed that?"

His laugh was rich and deep. "I'm a doctor, Maggie, I'm supposed to notice the little things like that."

His hands were nice, she thought. Long fingers made for doing the work of a doctor. She suddenly wished she was seventy years younger. That she was twenty-five once again. Oh, what she would love to feel those hands doing to her. She felt herself blush at that thought, but she refused to feel guilty. Hell, she was ninety-five, but, she wasn't dead yet. And he was a handsome man. Just like her Sean.

"There. All done." He stepped back in front of her and handed her the brush.

"Thank you. I'll pin it up later."

"Would you like more tea or should I take the tray back to the kitchen now?"

"I'm done. Thank you." She watched him return the tray to the kitchen, then he carefully washed out her china cups and the teapot. She knew that when he was done, her kitchen would be spotless. He even made sure the remaining sandwiches were wrapped and placed in the refrigerator. They would be her supper tonight, she decided. It wouldn't do to let them go to waste.

He was smiling when he returned to her. "I promised to meet some of my co-workers later and I want to shower and change first. I'll see you tomorrow?"

"I'll be here." She got up to escort him to the door and she felt a thrill to her toes when he bent down to kiss her cheek.

"I'll see you tomorrow then, Maggie."

"Take care, John."

As he left, she saw his landlady parking in front of their house. She stepped outside long enough to wave a hello at Kerry Weaver then she went back inside. She carefully locked her door then put her hand to her cheek, touching the spot he had kissed. It was the same spot where Sean would kiss her, that is, when he couldn't kiss her lips. Her other hand touched the brooch and she smiled. Then she headed back to her chair. If she were lucky, she would be able to see John when he left to meet his friends.

She eased herself down into her chair, chuckling to herself. If there was one sure thing, it was that Margaret Kathleen Fitzpatrick was a lucky woman.

The End

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