Welcome to the January 2018 installment of First Sunday Short Fiction. Please enjoy the story, and remember; if you want to submit a story of your own, you can find instructions on our submissions page.
Tea and Confession by Michelle Simkins
2 years ago you sat at my table while I made you tea. You didn’t see, but I slipped a love potion in your cup. Imagine my surprise when it worked.
Tonight there’s a small velvet box in your pocket. It’s supposed to be a surprise, but your room mate let the secret slip when I called for you yesterday, and now I guess I should tell you the truth.
You walk in with flowers. You bring flowers every Friday, always something sweet smelling. Freesia, Roses, sweet little Stephanotis that fades to brown by morning. Tonight the heady scent of Casablanca Lilies envelopes me when I open the door, and I find a vase while you slip off your heavy wool coat and step out of your muddy shoes.
“It’s very January out there,” you tell me, “and traffic was terrible.”
I love you more every day. I love your laugh and the way you smell and the way you sing Bruce Springsteen tunes off key in the shower. I love the way you examine the innards of your sandwich before you eat it and the way you check the locks three times before you leave for work. And today I have to tell you the truth, and I have to tell you before that box comes out of your pocket. Because I want to marry you, and I know if I don’t tell you now I’ll never be able to tell you after you put a ring on my finger.
So you sit down and I make you a cup of tea, the same kind I made for you that night, the tea you said was the best cup of tea you ever drank right before you pinned me against the wall in the hallway and kissed me.
You toy with your cup, looking guilty. I stare at my hands, feeling guilty. Finally we both blurt at the same moment: “I have something I have to tell you.”
We laugh, but my heart is pounding.
“You first,” you say, and for the first time I wish you weren’t so considerate.
I take a deep breath.
“Okay,” I say. “I know you think you love me. But you don’t.”
“But I do,” you say.
I wave at your steaming mug.
“It’s not real. That night--the first time you kissed me--I put a love potion in your tea.”
You stare at me for a few minutes, and I expect you to be angry, but you laugh. You get up and hug me.
“Maybe I should have made my confession first,” you say, and my fear returns, stronger than before. Now that my secret is out and you haven’t left me yet, I wonder what you could possibly have to reveal.
“Go ahead,” I say.
“I hate tea. All tea. Every kind of tea I’ve ever had.”
“But you said . . .”
You laugh again, apologetically.
“I lied to you because I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I never drank that tea. I fed it to your ficus when you excused yourself to answer the phone.”
Now I remember walking away from the table that night, coming back to find your cup empty. I offered more, and you said no, you were watching your caffeine.
And the ficus tree grew more lush and enormous over that severe winter, in spite of frequent power failures and even more frequent watering failures. Until you and I went away together for a week, to Vermont to visit your parents, and when I came back the tree was dead, though I’d hired someone to water and all the other plants were thriving. They replaced my ficus; who would believe my tree died of a broken heart?
And you loved me for two years while I swam in guilt. I blink at you, and you are smiling but you also look a little nervous, like I might be mad at you.
“So how many cups of tea have you wasted these past two years?” I ask, torn between relief and embarrassment.
You shake your head and kiss me.
“I say we’re even,” you say, and I laugh.
“Right,” I answer. “Even.”
And I hold my breath as you reach for the box in your pocket.
story ©Michelle Simkins, 2011
artwork ©Claudia Olivos, 2011. Used with permission. Find more of Claudia's visionary work at Olivos Art Studio or at her Etsy store, and don't forget to follow her on Instagram.
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About the Author:
Michelle Simkins runs Hagstone Publishing from her home office in Portland, Oregon, where she writes obsessively about herbs, trees, and encounters with the numinous, creates quirky knitting patterns, gardens haphazardly, reads voraciously, clumsily attempts to learn the Irish language, and watches too many reruns on Hulu with her wife.
Learn more about her work and her various obsessions at her website or follow her on Instagram.