a short story by amgm04
Steam curled from the tea. Bits of herbs stirred at its bottom, and golden-green color swirled around the cup.
My hands were cold against its warm china surface. Wrinkly to its smoothness.
I inhaled the sweet aroma.
Golden honey slowly drizzled from my spoon. Drip. It snaked into the tea and disappeared.
I sat back into an armchair. Dull golden, adorned with soft patterns. It creaked under my weight, and I leaned my thin old neck against it.
The smell of the tea on my breathe left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.
I exhaled.
Closed my eyes.
The tea sighed too.
My phone came alive.
I opened my eyes. They were weary. I brought a bony hand up to rub them.
My hands were now warm.
I craned forward my neck. Flora. Flora was calling. During my time.
My warm hand massaged my temples. I sighed again, but it was short and tight. With stress. Not like a tea sigh.
My hand flashed forward. To answer. I didn’t want to. Not during my tea time.
“Daralee! So glad you decided to pick up. Listen, you won’t like this, but you have to come in tomorrow.”
“My grandchildren are coming tomorrow.”
There was a silence. Maybe she was considering. I took another sip of the tea. It sent a tingling feeling through my old bones.
“Look, I’m sorry, but this is imperative.”
“I haven’t seen them for six months, Flora.”
My voice was tight. I needed more tea. To relax. Me. My throat. My words.
“Again, Daralee. We need you to come in tomorrow. I’m sorry about your grandkids, but you’ll have to tell them to wait a bit. We may need you Sunday, too.”
“This is the only week they can come-“
“I’m sorry. But.”
Her voice sounded monotone through the phone. ‘Sorry’, to get me to forgive her. ‘Sorry’, not because she was sorry I had to come in- no, it was ‘sorry’ because she was sorry I was wasting her time. I clenched my delicate cup. Long fingers white with pressure.. Time. If anybody’s time was being wasted, it was mine. My precious time.
“This is important. I’m not giving you a choice in this. You’ll come in when I ask, or you’ll be out of a job. I expect to see you tomorrow. Goodbye.”
The phone fell silent again. I was silent, too. I felt a tear burn at my eyes. Roll down my cheekbone. Cling to my chin and then-
Fall into my tea.
I stood.
Words, protests raced through my head and flashed across my dulled eyes. I moved swiftly across the room, carrying my tea with me, trying to allow its aroma to soothe me. My chin was high..
But my spirits low.
I stopped at a windowsill, flecked with age. Late afternoon sun, dappled by a browning oak tree, filtered through the glass and danced on the dusty sill. I swept my gaze around the room.
Golden armchair.
Mahogany carpet.
Dull painting.
Cracked tea kettle.
The stillness of the room was only broken by a bird’s chirp and my weary sigh.
I couldn’t. Couldn’t do this. Not anymore. I let out a cry of anxiety and fell to my knees on the ground. Both my hands reached up to grab my throbbing forehead, and
It fell to the ground with me.
The tea, herbal scents wafting gently from it, spilled out, golden as honey, fast as water, thick as blood.
I rocked. Gently. Back and forth. Hands tangled into my graying, wispy hair. Creaky back bent and squeaky knees aching on the cold hard floor.
Couldn’t. Do it. Not anymore.
I let my eyes wander again, peering out from under my arms. Khaki walls. Robin’s egg vase. Purple.
Purple . . what?
I stood. Slowly. My back creaked in protest. I muttered back at it. Shuffling over, faster to the purple. Then there was green, and white, and letters, big and bold.
Retirement, it said.
Retirement. Retirement. Rest for my old bones, my worn mind, my weary heart. Rest. Rest for my eyes and mouth and sanity. I fumbled for the brochure, its sleek cover reflecting the speckled sunlight, stumbling over to my cell phone.
Dialed Flora.
“What is it, Daralee, I told you, I’m not giving you a choice in this matter, you’ll come tomorrow or you’re fi-“
“No need. I quit.”
A silence, long enough for a smile to pull up my thin lips.
“Quit? Daralee, this is ridiculous. You need to come in tomorrow. Grow up and just do it. No need to act irrationally.”
“I’m acting quite rationally.”
“Daralee, I didn’t say you need to quit.” A nervous laugh. She cleared her throat.
“I did.”
I hung up this time.
My smile grew. Grew and grew until it felt like it reached the tip of my cheekbones.
And then I laughed.
Laughed and fell onto the armchair like a little girl again and leaned my head back and laughed.
A text message.
I picked up my phone again, my hand shaking with laughter.
From my granddaughter.
hey gramma, wanted 2 know if we were still good to come this wknd:)
My smile felt like it would burst my whole self.
I typed back with trembling fingers.
Yes, can’t wait to see you.

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