This is a short story I wrote a little over a year ago. I was taking a writing class and it was one of my assignments. Rachel and her Grandma are characters from my book, Harmless that I’m currently working on.
Hope you like it. Katherine
Conversations Over Hot Tea
I walk into the kitchen and see it right away. Two cups of steaming hot tea set out on the kitchen table. Crap – she wants to talk. Maybe – if I back up real slow she won’t even notice I’m out of bed yet. I slide my worn cotton socks over the yellowing linoleum but the creak near the fridge gives me away. Busted.
“Hey, you’re awake.” My Grandma’s voice floats over the newspaper she’s reading. She’s sitting in her ratty old lazy boy in the living room. I’m not sure why she won’t just get rid of that thing, it’s at least circa 1970’s. the chair groans when she shifts her weight. “Were you planning on sleeping the whole day? Or are you going to do something with what left of it?”
“Well…” I blink my eyes wide a few times and fish the last bit of sleep from the corner my right eye. Ugh, how many hours of sleep did I get? My head is pounding from a well-deserved hangover. I’m not fooling anybody about my level of alertness, not sure why I’m even trying. “I thought maybe I’d spend some time with mom today. Maybe go for breakfast or something.”
“It’s twenty after twelve Rachel.” She finally peers over the top of her Saturday Post; slowly taking the time to fold it back into its original tight bundle. “Your mom’s ran out to the office for a while to catch up on a few things. Said she’d be back around supper. So, I’m thinking breakfast is out.”
She’s not really staring, just giving me that look only a grandmother can give. She’s mad? no confused? no… I don’t know. My head hurts. She’s never been very hard to read. Although, I can’t say I’ve stopped to wonder on too many occasions. She’s always one to be out with it, no guessing involved. ‘To old to be anybody else but me.’ She would always say. ‘Don’t like me, that’s your troubles.’
She’s crossing the threshold of living room shag to kitchen lino when she says it. “I made some tea. Come at the table with me.”
Tea. Whatever she has to say must be pretty heavy if it involves hot beverages. My mom, my grandma, and just about everyone in this strange little town, insist that important conversations take place over hot tea. It’s definitely something I’m still getting used to. Hot tea that is. I’ve never really been a big fan.
The kitchen chair’s old bones groan in protest as I sit at the table. I find a comfortable groove and wrap both hands around the welcome warmth of my mug. Everyone has their own mug in this house. Mine’s the one with the kitten on it that looks just like my grandma’s cat. My mom has the one with the running horses, and my grandma’s is the one with the soaring eagle. Pretty sure they all came from that touristy place in town, along with the dream catcher that hangs in the window above the kitchen sink. Strange place to catch dreams if you ask me.
She takes a long sip from her tea, breathing in the hot vapours. “You’re not the only one who’s lost someone they love, you know.”
What? We’re talking about this now? I pick another kernel of sleep from my eye. Everyone knows I don’t talk about Eric’s death. What is this? Some sort of one woman, hot tea intervention? Man – one night of drinking and I’m branded clinically depressed. Is that it? He died six years ago. I’ve dealt with it, or I am dealing with it. Whatever – I’m fine. I’m fine. Just breathe Rachel. You don’t have to say anything, just sit here and drink your tea.
“Your Grandpa Harold, he died three years and twenty-two days after your brother Eric did.” She’s looks down at her mug of tea, like she sees something other than her own reflection swirling back at her. “I know that because I counted the days. I also know it was four days after Harold died that we had him cremated, and two more days after that when we held his funeral. It’s been one-thousand seventy-four days I’ve been without your grandpa Harold. On bad days, I still find myself keeping track.”
She gives her tea a stir even though she’s put nothing in it. “Keeping track of things was one of the ways I coped with him not being around anymore. Another thing I did after he died was – bake. I baked, and I baked, and I baked. Most times, when someone passes away your friends bring you things they’ve baked. So you don’t have to cook for the inevitable crowd of people that’s going to show up around that time. For me it was the opposite. I’d bake things and take it to them.” She looked up gazing off into nothing, from what I could tell. “I didn’t like being alone for any stretch. I baked as an excuse to see someone so I wouldn’t be alone. I baked everything; pies, cookies, casseroles. Oh, the casseroles; baked-sadness, oven-roasted-pity, bad-luck-pot-luck. Baked so much, our tiny grocery store ran out of cream of what-ever soup, so I couldn’t bake anymore – or so they said.”
“Are we still talking about Grandpa?” I had to jump in and say something. This conversation is getting weird and rambling, even for Grandma.
“Yeah, we’re still talking about Grandpa.” She loosened her grip on her soaring eagle mug. “What I’m trying to say is, we all have our ways of dealing with things when people die. I know how much it hurts to have people go before you, but at some point, it’s okay to start living again and enjoy things like you used to. Not just going through the motions. Whether you like it to or not, life keeps on moving. And if you spend forever baking sadness, you won’t notice – life is leaving you behind.”
Well – what do I say to that? I get it. I do. Maybe it’s time I check back in. Maybe.