1. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.

    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest #183 "A Cup of Tea"

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Nov 26, 2015.

    Short Story Contest # 183
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "A Cup of Tea" courtesy of @Tenderiser

    Submissions will be open for 2.5 weeks.


    To enter the contest, post the story here in this thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    The contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will link to this thread from the voting thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 13th of Dec, 2015 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time.

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere** on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.
    (**We tried one that had been posted for critique before entering but it defeated the anonymity so I've gone back to no stories perviously posted here in the forum.)

    PLEASE use this title format for all stories: Title bolded [word count in brackets]

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation).

    After the voting ends, posting in the thread will re-open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text.
    If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Watch those extra line spaces. PLEASE delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.

    The point of consistent titles and line spacing is to avoid having those things influence votes, sometimes for worse.

    Thanks, and good luck!
  2. BookLover

    BookLover Senior Member

    Mar 31, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Tea as a Form of Rebellion [1081]


    Another step forward.


    Another step forward.


    Molly stood in her place, everything around her dull and grey and white and black. Another step forward.


    Molly had no desires. No emotions. No cravings. No wants. Just a dull void and another step forward.


    With only two dozen girls ahead of her, she'd soon have her pills and be back to sleeping. Another step forward.


    The woman in black, handing out the pills, could be seen quite clearly now. The lines on her face set in a permanent frown, with angry eyes and a down turned mouth.

    Another step forward.


    Another step forward.

    “Get back in line!” yelled the woman.

    Molly froze and glanced over her shoulder. A small brunette directly behind her had broken the line. Standing in the center of the hall, the little girl looked back and forth and up and down the narrow passage. Both ends of the hall stood in darkness. The only light blinked above them.

    “Get back in line,” repeated the woman in black, her voice shrill.

    The small girl's white nightdress brushed the tops of her toes as she scuttled back to the wall, in her place, behind Molly. “But I want a cup of tea,” she whispered.

    “There is no tea here,” Molly whispered over her shoulder. “Only pills.”

    “Next,” said the woman. She was handing out paper cups from the grey cart in front of her. One by one the girls took their cups, swallowed, and disappeared into the darkness.


    Another step forward.


    Another step forward.

    “Next! I said get back in line!”

    Molly looked over her shoulder. The new girl was out of line again, hugging the wall across the aisle. The woman in black slammed down her clipboard. Her stiletto feet beat down the hall toward the unruly child.

    She grabbed the girl by her knotted brown hair forcing her little face up. “You do what you're told here. You take your pills and go to sleep. Do. You. Understand? Or are we going to have trouble?”

    “I would like a cup of tea, please,” said the small voice of the tousled haired girl.

    “Tea?” The woman released the girl's head. “And I suppose you'd like a feather pillow too? Maybe a tiara to crown your royal head while we're at it?”

    “No just tea.” Her skinny, pale face looked up, unblinking.

    The slap echoed throughout the hall, louder even than the sound of the thin body hitting the floor. When the girl looked up again, the left side of her face was no longer pale. The red mark gracing her cheek was the only color Molly'd seen in months. Molly felt almost sad at how quickly it faded.

    “Get. Back. In. Line,” hissed the woman before marching back to the cart. “Next!”

    Another step forward.


    Another step forward. Molly looked straight ahead, but she could feel a finger tracing the outline of her spine. Up and down. Up and down. It was odd, but at least it meant the little brown haired girl was in her place.


    Another step forward. Up and down. Up and down.


    Another step forward. Up and down. Up and down.


    Another step forward. Nothing.

    Molly's breath hitched in her throat as she peered back over her shoulder. The small brown haired girl was turned sideways, her hands suspended in the air in front of her like a frozen ice sculpture.

    “You,” whispered Molly. “Hey, you. Back in line.”

    The girl remained still, her fingers outstretching, poking at the air in slow motion. She took a quiet step out of line, toward the opposite wall.

    Molly looked forward, breathing fast. The woman in black hadn't noticed yet.


    With quick movements, Molly grabbed the little girl by her thin shoulders and yanked her forward, in line, in front of Molly.

    She whispered into the girl's ear, “Just stay in line.”

    “But why?” asked the girl much too loudly.

    “Are we having trouble?” The woman in black scanned the hall, narrowing her eyes at the little brunette.

    “I would like a cup of tea, please.”

    Several cups of pills fell to the ground, the individual capsules bouncing down the hall, being lost in the darkness at both ends. The veins in the woman's face were visible. Blue. Another color Molly hadn't seen in months. The sounds of the woman's teeth grinding was heard by every girl in line.

    “You. Come forward. Now.”

    The tousled haired, barefoot girl walked unsteadily to the front.

    “Do you know what we do with little girls who don't stay in line?”


    “Do you!”

    “No, ma'am. May I have a cup -”

    “Little girls who don't stay in line suffer. You don't want to suffer, so take this pill.”

    “What does the pill do?” asked the girl.

    “What does it do?” The woman laughed. “It does everything, my dear. It will make you so you don't suffer. It will kill your bad feelings. It will also kill all your desires, your creativity, your will, and most of all, it'll keep you in line.”

    “I don't want it then. I would prefer tea.”

    “We'll soon have you under control.” The woman grabbed the girl's hair again, forcing her little face back, digging a finger between her teeth, into her mouth.

    Molly looked away.

    A clatter and a bang reverberated down the hall.

    Molly looked back.

    The cart was flipped, but all she could see behind the cart was the occasional blur of a thin, pale hand clenching a black stiletto. Up and down. Up and down. The heel of the black shoe growing redder, a darker shade of red than Molly had ever seen in her life.

    Finally the girl stood up from behind the flipped cart, her pale face splattered with blood and her white dress drenched crimson. Pale and bloody and small, she stared back at the line of girls.

    “There is no line,” her small voice rang. “Go in any direction you'd like and eat and drink whatever you'd like. Do and be whoever you'd like. You are your own.”

    With that, she turned on her bare toes, her wet nightdress brushing the tops of her feet, down the hall into the darkness until no one could make her out anymore.

    The girls turned and whispered at one another, wide-eyed and fumbling.

    Molly smiled and suddenly had a desire for tea.
  3. Morgan Stelbas

    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

    Oct 19, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Toronto area, Canada
    A Saturday Afternoon [2,540]

    The slam of the door roused me back to consciousness. When did I fall asleep? I lifted my head that had been cradled in my palm, supported by my elbow on the desk.

    "Hey detective!" The young rookie walked briskly over to my desk. "I was asked to bring you the DNA results from the coffee shop murder." His hands shook as he handed me the file.

    My eyes went from his sweaty brow to the file. "Thanks." I muttered and waved him away. I knew people considered me intimidating, but it was ridiculous how weak these new recruits were. They were supposed to stand up against hardened criminals, and they were scared of me? Ridiculous.

    His departure was marked by the door slamming once more which sent shocks vibrating through my already frayed nerves. I shook off the residual feelings of annoyance as I opened the file and scanned the lab results. There was no match to anyone in the system, but the suspect was definitely male. That would certainly match the psych profile.

    I put the file down and scanned through the various crime scene pictures on my desk. I still hadn't organized them into a file, something expected of me that I didn't care to do. I preferred the way they were scattered haphazardly, as if to tell a story that I wasn't able to understand yet.

    Four victims, all teenage girls, all brunettes. What was their connection? I still couldn't find one, and that question gnawed at my brain day and night, invading even the darkest corners of my dreams. I rubbed my hand through my hair, loosened my tie and my eye caught the time on the wall clock. It was just passed two-thirty.

    I pulled my phone from my pocket and saw the reminder:

    3:00 p.m.: Invitation to go to Vicky's home

    Vicky was a beautiful woman with whom I had a chance meeting with at the bar two nights ago. We had seemed to hit it off, so I wasn't surprised when she offered me her phone number.

    I did think it strange, however, that also on the business card was an invite for me to come to her home on Saturday, in the middle of the day. Who has first dates at their homes in the middle of the afternoon? Still, I found that her eyes pulled me out of reality, her full, supple lips drew me in, so how could I say no?

    When I had taken the business card from her silky fingers, she seemed to accept it as my agreement to her invitation, so she walked away before I could question her further.

    I looked again at the clock and realized that it was getting close to the time of our unusual appointment. I tightened my recently loosened tie, but then in a moment of indecision, I loosened it again. A second later, frustration forced me to remove it entirely, and I draped it across the back of my chair, along with my suit jacket. I should keep it casual, I thought to myself as I rolled up my sleeves and removed my holster. I'm supposed to be off-duty today anyway, and besides I haven't yet told her that I'm a cop. That would have to come up in a later conversation, much later.


    Before I knew it, I was standing on her front porch, ringing her doorbell. I nervously flattened out my shirt, and ran my fingers through my hair just as the door swung open.

    "Hello there." I was greeted by her pleasant smile. Her sultry voice soothed my nerves as she invited me inside. Her perfume wafted through my nose, as I walked passed her and it mesmerized me for a brief moment. She directed me into her living room. All her furniture made of dark wood except for the ivory coloured sofa she directed me to sit on.

    "I wasn't sure you would come." She said as she sat in a light blue armchair situated on my right.

    "I wasn't sure I would either." I stared at her beautiful porcelain skin, which drastically contrasted her dark brown hair.

    She smiled at me, and she seemed, if for a brief moment, as nervous as I was. "I hope you drink tea."

    "Sure, tea would be fine."

    "The water is still boiling." She let out an impatient sigh, as she looked towards the kitchen peaking partially through an archway. "How was your day?" She seemed to want to remove the silence between us, even with idle conversation.

    "It was good." I said nodding, and rubbing my palms on my pants. Why was I so nervous around her? What was it about her that had me so unhinged?

    A moment later, the kettle's high pitch wail sent her towards the kitchen. I followed her with my eyes, her perfect hour glass silhouette accentuated briefly in the sunlit archway before disappearing.

    I looked around the room I was in. There was a large entertainment unit containing a large TV in the centre, and surrounded by various DVDs and books. I continued my scan of the room, and noticed that it seemed to be missing something, but I couldn't put my finger on the absence I felt. I stood up to take a closer look at the books on the shelves, but just as I did, I heard the clatter of bouncing ceramic dishes behind me. I turned towards the sound.

    "So, Gary. How do you like your tea?" She asked me as she set down the tray holding the teapot and all the fixings.

    "Oh, just one sugar will be fine with me." I said as I returned to my seat on the sofa.

    She put one spoonful of sugar in, and placed the tea cup in front of me on the wooden coffee table.

    "Thank you."

    I considered when would be the most appropriate time to pick it up. Was there a rule of etiquette around this that I hadn't learned? In my curiosity, I watched as she poured a little milk and then dropped a spoonful of sugar in her own cup, stirring once and setting it in front of her.

    "You look nervous." Her words surprised me and brought me back to her, away from her tea cup.

    I shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. "I just haven't been invited to someone's home in the middle of the afternoon before."

    She smiled. "Well, I don't invite just anyone in the middle of the afternoon." She picked up her cup, holding it to her lips, her fingers wrapping delicately around it. "But you seemed to be worthy of such an invite."

    "Really?" My eyebrow raised. "Why is that?"

    "I found you so confident the other night, I thought I would rattle you with something unusual." She smirked for a second before she took another sip of her tea.

    I was prompted by her actions, and brought the tea to my own lips.

    After the first sip seared off the top layer of my tongue, I decided I should say something to avoid taking another sip. "Well, I suppose you have succeeded. Consider me rattled. What would rattle you, Vicky?"

    Her smirk returned, and her one eyebrow raised as her blue eyes shot me a flirtatious look. "Well... " She thought for a moment before continuing. "Nothing much would rattle me."

    "I find that hard to believe."

    She laughed and placed her tea cup back down on the table. I shadowed her actions, thankful for a chance to move the magma ceramic away from my fingertips. I wondered for a moment how she seemed to be unscathed from the scorching temperature of the tea, but her words interrupted my thoughts.

    "I noticed that you like books." She looked briefly towards the books on the shelf I had meant to examine earlier. "What types of books do you like to read?"

    "I guess I like to read fiction. Mostly murder mysteries."

    "Really? Well, I just read this fascinating story about murder at a coffee shop."

    "That sounds interesting." I began silently pondering whether it was a simple coincidence or not. I took another look around the room. Pictures. This room was void of any family pictures. That's why it seemed so strange.

    "Well, it plays out first in a parking garage of a hospital."

    I felt the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Just stay calm, relax your face. "Really, what happens there?"

    "The police find this teenage girl's body on the 5th level of the parking garage. Her hands and feet were bound with duct tape and her body was stabbed several times."

    I swallowed hard. Those details about the first victim were too precise to be a simple coincidence. They were beyond what had been released to the press. This woman must be connected with the killer somehow. I had to maintain my composure. I had to act normal. I slowly moved my hand up my thigh, and had it fall casually to its side, grazing it, my fingers only feeling the fabric of my slacks. Damn! I didn't bring my side arm. I regretted that moment of indecision that had me leave it behind.

    "That sounds gruesome. Were the police able to catch the killer?" I continued feeling both pockets, trying not to draw attention to my hands as I realized that I had absent-mindedly left my phone in the car.

    A smile crept slowly on her face. "No, the killer is still running free. What is most amazing is that there were three other girls killed, the last one found in the supply closet of a coffee shop, and the cops are still without a suspect."

    "You know, that doesn't sound like fiction. It sounds a bit like those real life killings they've been talking about on the news."

    She shrugged. "It's just a coincidence. You know that expression of art imitating life? Perhaps the author thought the news was interesting enough to turn into a story. Or perhaps the killer thought the story was interesting enough to turn into reality."

    "Well, either way, that is a troubled author."
    I was trying to keep eye contact with her, but then I saw movement. Her hand was moving slowly behind her back, feeling behind the pillow that had supported her back. My instincts kicked in and I jumped up from my seat. But I had no gun, no phone. That's when I heard the unmistakable sound of a chamber being cocked. I looked at her hands that were now both holding the revolver, her arms straight in front of her, pointing the gun at me.

    "I guess you are the author of this story then?" I asked as I slowly raised my arms into the air.

    She laughed. "Some detective you are."

    "So you know I'm a police officer?" I felt more confident in that moment. People always think twice about shooting an officer. "You know that if you shoot me, every police officer in this city will be looking for you."

    "Stupid police!" She huffed, keeping the gun pointed towards my chest. "You have no idea what kind of story this is."

    "Why don't you enlighten me then?" I was slowly starting to replay events in my mind trying to figure out if she already knew who I was before we met at the bar. Was this a scheme planned out before I even met her? Why did the DNA on the knife of the last victim belong to a male? She couldn't be the killer, but her actions were causing me to still question the evidence.

    She took a step towards me. I took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. I needed to think of a way out of this.

    "All those girls, they weren't the victims." Her voice was now cold. Her eyes I once found an attraction to, now belonged to this empty soul in front of me.

    "Why do you say that?" I asked, still trying to keep my voice calm. The longer I keep her talking, the more of a chance I have of getting out of this alive. I looked around the room for anything I could use as a weapon. That's when my eyes fell on the steaming cup of tea at my knee level.

    "They weren't these innocent girls that the media plays them out to be. Why do people only say the nice things about a dead person? Why can't they say the whole truth?"

    "And what is the whole truth?" My eyes were trying not to stay fixed on the tea cup, but were jumping between her cold eyes and the hot tea. I didn't want my eyes to give away my strategy. I just needed her to take one step closer, to be within range.

    "The truth is..." I watched her foot move towards me. That was my cue. My hand reached for the cup and threw the hot tea directly in her face.

    "Aaaahhhh!" Her ear piercing screams nearly distracted me as I looked for her gun.

    I saw that it had slid under the couch. I considered reaching for it, but she was already preoccupied, her hands were to her face, her body crumpled on the floor. So, I decided that my best option was to head for my car. To call for backup. I bolted out of the living room towards the front door.

    My triumphant feeling was short lived as I turned towards the front entranceway and a thunderous crack halted me dead in my tracks. I found myself staring at teenage boy standing between me and the front door. He had auburn hair and freckles on his face. His blue eyes were cold and dead.

    "The truth my mom wanted to say, was that all those girls rejected me." The boy said slowly. His voice was cold, eerie, and yet all I could feel was a white heat throughout my chest.

    I looked down to see the crimson colour spreading across my torso, turning my blue shirt a deep purple.

    I could hear Vicky still screaming in the background as I felt my knees go weak and release under the weight of my body. Through a blur, I saw the boy open the front door and run out.

    I realized that after all the life threatening situations I've been in, it was a simple rendezvous on a Saturday afternoon, a date where we drank tea that was my undoing. I hoped Vicky's son wouldn't think of taking my phone from my car so that the police could at least track down where I went. How long would it take for them to notice that I was missing?

    As I found it increasingly difficult to take in a breath, my thoughts flashed to my wife who had left me years before. I longed to see her again, feeling regret for how neglectful I was with her. How I took her for granted so many times. Those thoughts lingered with me as I felt all my strength escape me, leaving me with only one option: to close my eyes.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  4. Kalleth Bright-Talon

    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

    Nov 7, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Early Morning Terminator Tea [708]

    "English Project: Pop Culture Marketing and Examples of its Benefits"

    "I'm JJ Abrams and my favourite beverage, is Earl Grey tea. I've directed the Star Trek reboot films and I'm directing episode seven of Star Wars. I don't just drink any Earl Grey tea either. I drink Garner's Earl of Grey Garden tea!"

    Sam Garner leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes blearily as he stared at the line he'd written on his laptop. It took several blinks, and the revolting last gulp of sludge at the bottom of his cup to make him realize just how shitty a line it was. A glance at the top right of his screen read 1:49 AM, and Sam stretched out before exhaling deeply. "Mmf. So much for asleep by eleven thirty..." Sam deleted the dialogue and closed his laptop. The darkness was near complete at his desk, and the all-consuming quiet of the early morning hours was getting to him. He got up and took his cup with him, up the stairs and into the kitchen. Once upon a time Same would have worried his parents would scold him for staying up this late, but as far as he knew they had given up on trying to regulate his circadian rhythms. If he stayed up this late, he'd pay for it in kind.

    Sam ran his cup through cold tap water, and then set it down to go take a piss. Squinting in the bright light of the bathroom, he peered at his face in the mirror. Dark circles under his eyes, numerous small scars on his cheeks and a splotch of acne on his nose and chin. Ugh. His hair looked nice though, and Sam sighed before finishing up and returning to the kitchen. He grabbed his cup and ran the boiling water tap until it was mostly full. Next he rummaged through the tea cabinet and pulled out the last bag of what had been "Garner's Earl of Grey Garden tea." Steeping it solemnly, Sam pinched himself to try to cling to consciousness. After a handful of minutes, he trashed the bag and stirred in four spoons of sugar and a lick of honey just because. A dollop of milk completed his signature cup of energy and he staggered back towards his bedroom.

    It was with great care that Sam Garner made his way down the stairs with his cup of tea. It was steaming and for the time being, he kept a light on to make sure he didn't screw himself over. Sliding over a coaster through sheets of paper scrawled in drafts of his thrice-damned English assignment, Sam set down his tea and began to conjure up a brilliant and witty piece of dialogue advertising his fictional brand of tea leaves.

    "I am the Terminator, and despite my lack of physical human organs I too love the sweet juicy taste of Garner's Earl of Grey Garden tea! Hasta la vista baby, because now I'm going to go drink some of Garner's Earl Grey tea, but you had better believe; I'll be back!"

    Sam giggled hysterically at the prospect of Arnold Schwarzenegger voicing his tea advertisement, and the clock showed 2:23 AM through teary eyes. Time for sleep, he scolded himself. The darkness grew deeper, and Sam felt his head dipping forward.

    Of course, he needed to finish his cup of tea. Sam saved the draft, which was only slightly better than JJ Abrams., and brought up another window and logged in to YouTube. Seeing an interesting upload by a writer Sam liked, he opened the video and groaned when an advertisement came up. Sam was about to skip the ad when he heard Arnold in the muted volume of his laptop's speakers, "I am the Terminator, and despite my lack of physical organs I too love the sweet juicy taste of Garner's Earl Grey Garden tea! Hasta la vista baby, because now I-"

    Sam woke up in damp boxers, stained with Earl Grey tea. The late morning light seeped in through his door, and he saw the remains of his beverage spilled and stained all over him and the floor. Sam yawned and stood up sluggishly. "All this for a cup of tea..."
  5. Ex Leper

    Ex Leper Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Likes Received:
    THERE'S ALWAYS TIME FOR TEA [1778 words]

    A robin red breast lands on the wall outside the café. It twitches it's head this way and that before flying away. The bird has been startled by a passing man, who crosses the road and enters the shop.

    I haven't seen him in twenty years. My eyes moisten at the thought of the last time I saw him. At this point in his life he is about the same age as me. Around fifty. Give or take a year. He wears the same faded red painters bib with it's multi-coloured stains that I always remembered him wearing. His hair is a bit fuller than the last time I saw him, and he looks fuller-bodied and more full of life. Although, there is a sadness in his eyes. Anger too. I know why as well. His son had been shot just last week. Point blank. In the right eye. Just as he was mustering the courage to ask out the beautiful Spanish girl who kept glancing at him over the medical book she was studying for college.

    I know this, because I was the one who shot him.

    "Terry," I call out.

    The man looks over at me and hurries over.

    "Did you send me this note?" He pushes a scrap of paper towards me. It reads: I KNOW WHO KILLED YOUR SON.

    I nod. "Yes."

    "Then you need to tell me." He towers over me, his fists on the table, a threatening glare beneath his eyebrows.

    "Can I get you boys a drink?" The young, slightly overweight waitress says.

    Terry shoots her a fierce look.

    She smiles back, disarming him. Terry relaxes slightly, and shakes his head.

    "I'll have a cup of tea, please," I say. "And, so will Terry."

    Terry begins to protest, but I insist. "We need to talk," I say. Terry relents and sits down on the chair.

    "What is there to talk about?"

    How to proceed? I haven't thought this far. How much do I tell him? My elbows are on the table, my hands before me as if in prayer, and my index fingers are tapping together as I ponder. I suddenly blurt out: "Do you know who I am?" like an over-excited school boy.

    Terry looks at me thoughtfully, and for a second, I see a glimmer of recognition. It passes. Weather it is doubt, or unbelievability, I can't say. "Should I?"

    I let the question hang there for a moment. "You should."

    "Well, I dont," he snaps.

    The waitress comes back and places the cups of tea down in front of us. They are small cups with red, painted flowers on them. There are sugar sachets, and a spoon on the saucers.

    "Anything else?" asks the waitress.

    "No, thank you. We're all good," I say.

    I open a sachet of sugar and empty it into the brown liquid. I give it a stir and take a sip. The tea is too weak. I hate café tea.

    "Thirty years ago last week I met the most amazing girl," I say.

    "Do you know who killed my son or not?"

    "Please, bear with me." I take another sip of tea. "Thirty years ago I met the most amazing girl. I never really struggled when it came to girls, but when I saw this one my tongue forgot how to work." I close my eyes and inhale. I try to remember the smell of her hair, but it escapes me. I can only smell fried bacon and coffee. "Her long, black hair that came down to the middle of her back. Her olive skin. So exotic. And her sly, seductive smile. She was a dream woman come true."

    "She sounds nice."

    "She was," I stir the spoon around in the cup creating a depression in the tea. "I loved her very much."


    "My sweet dream girl is well beyond my reach now," I pause. Terry seems interested despite himself. "You're thinking I didn't ask her out. Oh, I did. I married her and we had three beautiful children together. But life has a cruel way of tearing away from you the things you hold most precious."

    Terry nods in sympathy. "I know."

    "Can I ask you a hypothetical question?"

    Terry nods. He picks up his cup of tea for the first time and sips it.

    "If you could be forewarned of your son's murder ahead of time and told the identity of his killer would you kill the perpetrator?"

    "Yes," Terry says in an instant, without need for thought.

    "But, what crime has he committed?"

    "He killed me son."

    "Not yet he hasn't."

    Terry was silent. He stares into his cup as he stirs the spoon round.

    "Then I would do whatever was in my power to prevent the murder from taking place," Terry thinks about each word carefully before speaking.

    I smile. "That's what I have done."

    Confusion contorts Terry's brow.

    I continue. "I am... I was... I will be a very rich man. Rich men wear targets on their backs, Terry. People want a piece. Some people demand a piece. Fewer still take action and try to take a piece."

    "What are you talking about?"

    "Blackmail, Terry. Blackmail. First my youngest daughter was taken from her school. The police were impotent. Then my youngest son was snatched from the streets and bundled into the back of a van. The police were weak. My eldest son was taken away from his place of work by bogus officers. The police were hopeless. Then they abducted my beautiful Maria from our own home. The police failed me."

    I had to stop. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. A tear rolls down my cheek. Terry offers me a napkin, but I refuse.

    "Is this connected to my son's murder?"

    I nod. My brown reflection stares back at me from the teacup. I take a sip. It is getting cold.

    "The day after my wife was kidnapped I received a call. A mechanically disguised voice told me that if I ever wanted to see my family alive again," I stop again and look out the window. I need a moment to collect myself.

    A boy runs past bouncing a small red ball. He stops, faces the window and watches me. There is no expression on his face. Without warning he throws the ball at the window, it bounces off the glass and back into his hands. He runs off laughing. The waitress runs outside and shouts abuse after him. Then, she comes back into the café and apologises to the customers.

    "The voice on the phone told me to be at a certain address at a certain time," I continue. "I was to meet a man. The person on the phone assured me it wouldn't be one of the kidnappers, but another victim like me. This person was to hand me a gun and I was to execute the entire family living at the address. The kidnappers were not after my money. They just wanted to see me fall."

    We are both silent as I let that sink in.

    "Did you do it?" Terry asks.

    "Would you?"

    "If it was my family at risk I would do anything."

    "Could you?"


    "If someone put a gun in your hand and said you had to choose between a total stranger or your family, could you take that gun and pull the trigger?"

    "Yes," less certain.

    "That's what I did. I knocked on the door and shot Mr. Hart in the face. I walked into the front room and I shot his wife in the chest. Twice. Then..." Then I start crying. It isn't the first time I've cried over that family.

    Terry sits back in his chair. He seems uncertain. The waitress and the other customers watch on with alarm. I am the centre of attention. That's not what I want. It's supposed to be just Terry and I. Time to clear the place out.

    I pull the pistol out and slam it down on the table. The teacups jump in their saucers. The customers and the waitress scream and run for the door, squeezing through the exit in their panic. Terry looks at me, unflinching. He recognises the gun.

    I nod to the unanswered question. "That's the gun I shot your son with."

    He snatches it from the table, jumps to his feet and points it at my head. "Why?" he says. "You didn't even know him."

    "I do... did," I finish off the cold tea. Disgusting. "After I shot that poor family I was overcome with grief and guilt. My family were released, as promised. But I was never the same. I might as well have been dead to them. Every night I prayed for a chance to save that family. I prayed for a chance to put things right. And, eventually, my prayers were answered."

    "You've got a nosebleed," Terry says. It isn't out of concern, it is just an observation.

    I wipe my hand over my nose and the tips of my fingers are red.

    "I guess I'm being written out of existence," I let out a pathetic laugh. "You can shoot me if you want. Soon, it won't matter either way."

    Terry puts the gun down. "You're not making sense. What do you mean your prayers were answered?"

    I wipe my nose with a napkin. My blood stains half the tissue. "I fell asleep on the sofa, as had become normal. When I woke up I was laying on a park bench," I tell Terry. "Straight across the park, sitting beneath a tree was Maria. She was reading a college book. Some medical book. Maria always wanted to be a midwife. She kept glancing over the top of the book. I followed her gaze and there I was. Handsome and young."

    "You're crazy," Terry says.

    "What was the best way to save both my family and the Harts?"

    I wait for an answer, but Terry just looks at me with disgust. His eyes dart between me and the gun.

    "I figured that if I shot myself before I got to know Maria, then she could live a happy life without me. I wouldn't be around for the blackmailers to choose me. My children would never be threatened. The Hart family would never be killed. By taking my life I saved eight. God, or whatever phenomenon granted me my prayers, gave me this chance to put things right. I didn't waste it."

    "You're crazy," Terry says. Tears stream down his face.

    "Why do you cry, dad? Do you recognise me now?"

    "You sick f..."

    Terry's finger squeezes the trigger.
  6. Jeff Countryman

    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

    Aug 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Redneck Tea Party (1,409 words)

    I’m the youngest of five brothers. That means I can get away with anything. My oldest brother once skate-boarded off the roof of our two-storey house, did a flip in mid-air, and did a belly flop into the pool in our backyard. Dad wacked his backside with a hickory stick a hundred times and he waddled like a goose for a month afterwards. I pulled the same stunt four years later and became an instant celebrity when my dad boasted about my great feat down at Reggie’s Bar & Grille. I’m the youngest – I can do no wrong, I am protected, I am coddled, I am the family favourite, and I get what I want.

    And what I wanted was a tea party.

    I broached the subject over beers with my brothers, Mark and Luke at Reggie’s Bar & Grille. We’re a family of rednecks; blue bloods to the core. When we do things, we do ‘em rough and tough. Testosterone rules in our family. Thus Mark’s reaction: “The hell you say!”. Luke was only capable of grunting as he turned every which way to make sure no one heard me ask them to come to my tea party.

    “Mom wants a tea party and that’s what I’m going to give her,” I told them. “You’ll both be there.”

    Mark sat back, regarding me with a wary eye for a long moment. “You saying she’s dying?”

    Luke’s attention came back to our table in a flash. Any mention of Mom tends to command great attention. She’s the family matriarch and knows it. “No, she’s not dying,” I answered quickly. “She’s just getting old and wants to be treated like a real lady for once in her life. I, for one, happen to agree and you guys are going to help me.”

    Luke snorted his disapproval which didn’t mean much. He’s the middle child and rendered negligible in the pecking order. We only use him when we need a swing vote in arguments between the two youngest and the two oldest boys. He doesn’t say much but we love him. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t heard him say a word in over a year and I wondered if he’d gone mute or something. I made a mental note to check on that later.

    On the other hand, Mark is closest to me in age and we tend to stick together. Not this time, though. “I’m not going to no tea party. Ever. Grow up, Josh," he protested.

    “The team’s coming,” I coaxed with a sly smile that I knew would goad him on.

    His eyes bulged. “You invited the whole god damned hockey team to a tea party? Are you freaking out of your mind?!”

    The table next to us must have overheard. Chairs began to slide and squeak on the wooden floor as they tried to keep their distance from the freaks talking about tea parties. I wanted to laugh but choked it back. “Not yet, exactly. I was gonna do it after tonight’s game.”

    Mark leaned in close. “You’re going to ask a bunch of naked, sweaty, hairy jocks in the shower room after a hockey game to come to a tea party? And you expect to live?”

    I leaned in to match his glare. “I’ll be careful not to drop the soap,” I said with a grin and took a gulp of my beer. “But yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. We’re men. We can handle a tea party in our backyard for god’s sake. What’s there to be afraid of?”

    Finding our conversation amusing, Luke guffawed with a shake of his head. I shot him a look. “What’s so funny? You’re not man enough either?” He shrugged and returned to studying the label on his beer bottle.

    “Leave him alone,” Mark warned. “You’re drunk.”

    I wasn’t even close to it but slammed my fist down on the table in protest. “We’re a family, damn it! One for all and all for one, and all that crap! Both of you are coming to my tea party and that’s that.”

    Chatter stopped at every table within hearing distance. The pool tables went dead silent. Both waitresses dropped their trays. Somewhere outside a bell tolled in a church steeple and my life flashed before my eyes. All we needed now was for the juke-box to start playing the theme to ‘The Good, The Bad, The Ugly’ and we’d have ourselves Mexican standoff worthy of the six o'clock news.

    “Crap,” I muttered, standing up with my hands automatically balling into fists. “We’re gonna have to fight our way out of here boys.”

    Silence from my brothers.

    I looked down to where they remained sitting and squirming in their chairs. I couldn’t believe it. The bar was about half full and I was out-muscled on my own. “Guys?” I hissed at them. “I need a little help here.”

    Oddly, yet heroically, it was silent-Luke that responded by standing up by my side. “Our Mamma’s got the cancer,” he roared, whipping his head around to meet the eyes of our enemy. “She wants a tea party before she goes to live with Baby Jesus and we aim to give it to her. Any of you got a problem with that you can tell me to my face.” It was a lie, but an honourable one under the circumstances.

    I stared at him for a moment. “You can talk?” I asked in a whisper. “I thought you’d gone mute on us.”

    He ignored me but Mark slid his chair back and stood to join us. “And that goes for me too,” he said bravely.

    There were murmurs and shuffling feet all around but not one man advanced. “What kind of tea?” someone yelled from the back.

    The question puzzled me. Tea was tea. I knew there was different name brands but beyond that I had no clue. “What do you mean what kind?” I called back. “Just the kind that guy invented – you know – that Earl Gray guy.”

    There was a roll of chuckles and laughter. The mood in the bar relaxed. “You got your elderberry tea, your French vanilla tea, your cinnamon tea, and your elderberry tea,” another voice called out. “Take your pick. “What’s your mamma’s favourite?”

    I shrugged helplessly. “Strawberry, I guess.” I looked at my brothers but they were staring at me with scrunched brows and I knew I was on my own. “You’re all invited,” I ventured forth. “ It’s tomorrow at noon. The third house on Maple Street.”

    The crowd began to settle back into their seats after a polite round of applause and the Mexican standoff was over.

    “Do you realize you just asked an entire bar of rednecks over to Mom and Dad’s for a cup of tea?” Mark asked me, shaking his head in wonder. “A freaking tea party, Josh!”

    I gave him my best grin and put my arm over his shoulder. I put my other arm around Kevin’s shoulder and pulled them close. “Family hug,” I informed them. Both of them pulled away but I grabbed them tighter. “Let’s hug it out boys. Then we have to go to the tea store.”

    By and by, we had a tea party the next afternoon with our Mom as the guest of honour. Granted, it was only one cup each before the bootleg whiskey jugs got opened – but it was one heck of a tea party. In fact, it became a tradition to honour Mom and we had our tea party every year for the next decade while Mom was alive. There was over two-hundred people at the last one and the party rocked into the night as the bonfire roared.

    I’ll be ninety-five years old come next month, yet I remember that day fondly – the day of our first redneck tea party. Mom and Dad are long past. So are my brothers; Matthew, Luke, and John. Mark is still hanging on though – he’s a good ‘ole boy – ain’t nothing gonna kill him off any time soon. The two of us go down the dining room in this old nursing home for a cup of tea on Mom’s birthday to honour her memory:

    To all the mothers far and near,
    We raise a toast with a glass of beer.
    A toast to you, we say!
    And in your honour, a cup of ‘tay’.
    God speed and God bless.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2015
  7. oTTo

    oTTo Member

    Sep 18, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Better Him Than Me (536 words)

    It was Friday evening when the black sedan pulled in front of Ms. Eversly's suburban home. From where I sat on my porch I could tell the driver was a man. I could see him pull his gloves and mask on. A chill went down my spine and my stomach turned, but I didn't let the discomfort show on my face.

    I looked down to my left. Sitting beside me was my son, only nine years old and still learning of the evils of the world. He wasn’t aware of how law and order works. Laws make the men, or in some cases women, that are tasked with handing out corporal punishment orders.

    "Why is it okay for them to beat people up?" my son asked, looking up from his bowl of ice cream, his face smeared with vanilla and sprinkles.

    "Well, there are laws and sometimes people have a hard time following those law," I started, "Not long ago there was this new law, corporal punishment. What that means is that when someone breaks a law of a certain type, like not paying a fine or even failure to be somewhere when they are supposed to be, guys like him show up."

    "Who is he dad?" I knew he would ask.

    "He is a Corporal. Corporal's do the beatings. Sometimes they are private, like Ms. Eversly, and other times they are public. Do you remember a few months ago when your mother and I were glued to the TV?"

    He nodded, looking up at me.

    "A group of men had done some very bad things to some young kids. They were publically beaten to death by a troop of Corporals. I didn't want you seeing it, and your mother and I didn’t talk about it, because you were a little young."

    "Is it fair?" my innocent son asked me.

    "Fair? The people that receive a visit from a Corporal are breaking the law. They are not always bad people, but they need to be taught to stay in the lines that we as a community have established. It is better than spending thousands to lock Ms. Eversly in jail for a year or more. This way she can feel, in pain, what she did wrong."

    "I think it is mean. Ms. Eversly is a nice lady." My son was still innocent to the cruel reality of the world. I didn’t care to expose him too much, too soon.

    A scream could be heard from Ms. Eversly’s house. Another scream and then another. The bowl of ice cream in my son’s lap quickly melted into a vanilla and sprinkle soup. His eyes were locked onto Ms. Eversly’s front door.

    Twenty minutes after the last scream quieted the front door opened. Silently the black dressed man closed the door and followed the walking path to his sedan. The engine cranked to life and off he sped.

    “They make more money than I do every year, that’s for sure.” I said to my son, almost more to myself to break the silence.

    "Why don't you get a job as one dad?" My son surprised me with his question.

    "It isn't my cup of tea, son." I said flatly.
  8. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

    Oct 21, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Cave of Ice
    A Christmas Eve Story [1651]

    He imagined a steaming cup of tea, if only to keep his hands warm. Not as a drink—no, he had his whiskey for that. A halfempty bottle of the state store’s cheapest, presently under his head as a makeshift pillow. Park benches weren’t exactly the most exquisite of hotel beds. The pretend steam warmed him. His hands stopped shaking. Maybe he could get a little sleep before moving on. Maybe. He pulled his wornout hat down over his eyes.

    The noise wasn’t much of a bother anymore. Back in the beginning he could hardly sleep a wink for all the zooming cars and shouting kids. But that was then. It was all white noise now, the same as a fan in the bedroom on a hot summer night. He grunted in his halfsleep. Sometimes those days were like dreams. Maybe they never existed at all. Years on park benches will make you question a lot of things.

    But the noise was different on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t just in the background—it was front and center, impossible to ignore. Hell, he could even make out the sound of carolers a block away. Carolers, for Christ’s sake! In record-low temperatures in twentyfuckingfifteen. It was as if he were living in a Currier and Ives, or some collector’s Christmas Village train set.

    The cars hurried home to their warm houses. Houses with lots of steaming cups of tea. Steaming plates of dinner. Turkey or ham or maybe both. Seven fishes. Not that sardine anchovy smelt bullshit, either. The modern seven fishes: crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops, tilapia, calamari, and California rolls. Two hundred dollars at the seafood counter. That’d be waiting for all the girls and boys with money.

    And presents. Real presents. Not rocking horses and bells and nutcrackers and all that shit from the old songs and bedtime stories. Real presents like phones and tablets—anything to distract people from people. Anything to keep them from having to talk to each other. Because who the fuck needs family when you have gadgets.

    He shivered. Steaming cup of tea. Steaming cup of tea. Warm up. The carolers were on the move. He lifted his hat and peeked out at the road. They weren’t there, but they had to be nearby. Their voices were louder. They were singing “Silent Night.” As if it had any chance of being silent. Maybe the park wasn’t the best place to spend the night. He scoffed. No fucking kidding.

    He sat back up and sucked more whiskey out of the bottle. Now it was more than halfempty. How’s that for optimism? The night darkened around him. Sky black with clouds full of freezing snow. White lights across the street on the lawns. Red and green lights at every intersection. One house with those gaudy flashing blue icicle lights hanging from the gutters. Another swallow of whiskey. Better than any sleeping pill he’d ever taken. If it were any other night he’d be out cold. Well, he was still cold, at least.

    A policecar crept by. No lights, no sirens. Just creeping. The asshole was staring him down, he could tell, even though he couldn’t see through the windows. Almost as if he had nothing better to do on Christmas Eve than prowl for hobos on park benches. The car never stopped; it just kept on rolling, and eventually it rounded the bend and disappeared down a side street. He sat and waited a moment. Nothing more happened. The carolers kept on singing.

    He pushed himself up off the bench and steadied his halfdrunken legs. The night was getting colder, and dreams of steaming cups of tea weren’t going to cut it. Maybe if he just walked the block a few times he could get the blood flowing again. Maybe he’d fine a trashcan fire with a few other kindred spirits around the corner. Who knew? He started toward the street. More cars zoomed by on their way home—the stragglers, the workhorses whose asshole bosses made them stay late on Christmas Eve. Bosses who left early or didn’t even go in. Bosses who expected reports on their desks Monday morning. Happy fucking holidays.

    Then the lastminute shoppers. Gotta make sure you have presents for everyone. Who cares if it means not spending more time together? They hurried on home too, right behind the workhorses, to their warm, cozy houses. With steaming cups of tea waiting for them. The light changed from red to green. He crossed the street just as the first few flurries began to swirl around him.

    The decorations had always been tacky, but now the words “over-the-top” would be an understatement. Giant inflatable snow globes were not holiday spirit, they were fucking masturbation. He lost the spray of this breath in the blinding light of a house covered roof to lawn in white bulbs. There was a time when his mother would drive him around the neighborhood and he’d marvel at the fat Christmas lights outlining a single door or covering a single tree. Maybe netting thrown over the bushes. But this was something else entirely.

    The carolers were out of earshot. No more out-of-tune singing to make him think of Christmas specials from decades past. The snow fell harder. Nothing terrible—just enough to make the cozy teadrinkers merry. Or jolly. Or whichever adjective. Some merry, jolly spirits sat on their duplex porches, eyes following him. He sucked down more whiskey and crossed the street.

    He passed a house with candles in every window. A thin line of white lights along the gutters. Nothing more. Minutes passed as he silently gazed at the house. Something pulled at him, deep in his center. Maybe the folks weren’t home. Or maybe they just had a little more holiday spirit than everyone else. One last holdout. One last bastion of humanity against the continual humming of the machine. A bit overdramatic, perhaps, but not entirely untrue.

    A line of parked cars met him as he rounded the corner. Clearly a Christmas party farther up the street. He continued on, glancing at the houses. Finally he found the epicenter. A Griswold house if there ever was one. Hell, the music was so loud he could hear it from outside. Christmas songs. Not the religious ones. Not even the loungey, jazzy Bing Crosby ones. Corporate pop music with a Christmas tree on the cover. He remained still for a long moment. It was as if the warmth radiated from the house itself. Slowly he crept up the driveway, pulled by some invisible thread that hooked him and would not let go. He swigged the last of the whiskey.

    The closest window looked in on the dining room. The table was covered with plates. Some kind of bird, maybe a turkey or duck. Maybe even a real Christmas goose. Onions and carrots and potatoes. Glasses of water and wine sitting and waiting. A plate of cookies on the far counter, covered in plastic. For the kids, for later. After presents. He could make out the glowing tree from the living room beyond. Plenty of gifts with nametags.

    The music echoed. Almost drowned out the muttering across the street. He stepped closer. The kids ran in from the living room, two at a time, to take their places at the table. A few kicked in some loose toys along with them. Then the adults hobbled in behind them. One with a cigar, a few with whiskey, most with suits and ties and dresses and glittering jewelry. Their finest. Gaudy jewelry. Cheap suits. The purest definition of faux riche he’d ever seen.

    “Hey man, the fuck you doing?” came the call from across the street.

    The muttering was a little louder now. But he was drawn. The kids at the table. The toys under the tree. The hot dinner, the music, the lights. Christmas, in a word. A family together. Merry spirits and laughter. What else mattered? The snow fell harder and the wind picked up. Icy blades on his skin. The hat only kept so much away. He reached out his hand, barely even realizing it, and touched the glass.

    The kids saw it. One of them turned to an adult. Pointed at the window. Eyes grew wide. Murmuring. A racket louder than the music. Hurried footsteps. He withdrew his hand as the front door flew open.

    “Get out of here,” came the shout from the door.

    He turned his weighty head, vision trying to keep up. Hands numb, throat dry.

    “Did you hear me?” the shout continued.

    The porchspirits across the street chimed in. “Yeah man, get the fuck out of here.”

    “Get off our lawn!”

    “Daddy, why is there a man in our driveway?”

    “Is that Santa Claus?”

    “No, sweetie, it’s just a dirty bum.”

    “C’mon man, leave the nice people alone!”

    “Honey, go call the police.”

    He staggered away, back to the street, the jeers following. He fell against a car and set off the alarm. The siren rang in his ears. The music was gone. Sharp wind sliced and snow stung his eyes. He stumbled down the sidewalk, into the blackness at the end of the street. He barely even felt his head hit the pavement.

    He woke to the reflected flashing of blue and red lights. More tacky lawn decorations. Then he was lifted up, arms behind his back, and pressed against the policecar. The cop was saying something but the words were garbled. Then he was forced into the seat, the door slamming beside him. The heat was on inside the car. The shivering immediately stopped. His eyelids drooped. Warmth. Embracing him like a loved one. His head rolled back in its arms. The world began to move forward, on its way to a warm bedroom away from the icy winds. There might even be a steaming cup of tea waiting for him there.
  9. Blighters

    Blighters Member

    Apr 3, 2015
    Likes Received:
    When The Skies Are Grey (2415 Words)

    When the skies are grey and the mood is low, Put a kettle on to glow,
    For a cup of tea is sure to place, a big wide smile back on your face.

    Sarah could barely remember what a smile felt like, the muscles which had once pulled her lips into that crescent of happiness long since succumbed to atrophy. ‘Low’ didn’t even begin to cover the depths of her despair nor the vastness of her self loathing. Still, she nursed the lukewarm cup of tea in front of her in two hands, staring into it’s depths with a lost look.

    Life had not been kind to Sarah. In fact, life was a fucking bitch. A disease ridden whore who took sick delight in the pain of the others.

    It wasn’t that long ago that Sarah had thought she had it all. A fantastic job, working in her own veterinary practice with a team she’d hand picked herself. A wonderful husband, Sam. Kind, absolutely gorgeous, caring and the most supportive human being she’d ever had the luck to meet. And Ruby. Ruby... The most perfect little girl a mother could ask for. Just the thought of Ruby made her throat clamp down in agony, instinctively choking back the wail that constantly threatened to escape.

    When the skies are grey and the mood is low, Put a kettle on to glow,
    For a cup of tea is sure to place, a big wide smile back on your face.

    Ruby had been three when she was taken, just over sixteen months ago. People often said they’d ‘gone through hell and back’. Most didn’t have the faintest concept of Hell. Wait until you lose a child, then you understand a little about Hell. The police had called it ‘the ultimate opportunistic abduction’. As if that were a consolation. They’d be shopping together, Ruby and Sarah, getting the weekly shop done before heading home to cook dinner together. She’d turned her back for one second. Literally one second! But in that time Ruby had turned away and wandered down the wrong aisle by herself.

    Watching the CCTV afterwards had been one of the most harrowing experiences of Sarah’s life. Ruby had been visually upset, looking around for her mummy lost and scared. She’d ended up tugging a woman’s coat nearby who’d been studying a row of spices, clearly asking for help to find her mummy. The bitch hadn’t paused for a second. Not a single second, hence the ‘ultimate oppurtunistic’. She’d crouched down, comforting Ruby with a big smile, before taking her tiny hand in her own. But instead of walking around the shop until Ruby spotted Sarah, she’d left Ruby straight out of the supermarket and to her car, abandoning her laden shopping trolley without a backward glance.

    The car had been found abandoned two days later. It had never been registered.

    Officially the investigation was still open. But Sarah knew that was bullshit. Hell, even the police knew it was bullshit. The only one remotely taken in by the charade was Joe Public.

    Sam had left her. He’d never said it out loud, even now he couldn’t hurt her like that, but they both knew he’d never been able to forgive her. It was her fault. They both knew it. As police and public interest waned Sarah’s desperation ratcheted upwards. She hired private detectives first, one after another after another. None managed anything other then making a hefty paycheck off her. She tried bribing the store staff for more information. She paid journalists to run follow up stories, desperate to keep the focus on Ruby. She’d even been drawn to a physic. That’d been a huge fucking waste of money.

    And along the way she’d alienated absolutely everyone who’d once cared for her. Friends and family all driven away by her sheer refusal to give up.

    Which had led her here. Out of ideas. Out of money. Out of people. Just about out of life.

    When the skies are grey and the mood is low, Put a kettle on to glow,
    For a cup of tea is sure to place, a big wide smile back on your face.

    The rhyme had been something her and Ruby had made up together. A little ditty, constructed while sat in a coffee shop similar to the one she wallowed in now and then repeated so often it had started to infuse into every thought. It’d been one of their ‘things’. Something they both loved, finding little coffee shops with only a couple of tables. The tiny quaint coffee shops only ever found down twisting side streets and cobbled paths. It’d been Ruby’s job to pick the cake. That had been her favourite. Tiny nose pressed against the glass counter, eyes lit up with excitement at the sight of such sweet delights.

    Sarah twisted the mug in her hands, deep in sour contemplation. It was stone cold and had been for at least fifteen minutes now.

    There was no cake on the table.

    A bell chimed behind her announcing the arrival of new patrons to the already busy cafe. Sarah barely registered the noise until a mother and her child walked past her table, making their way towards the serving counter. They were holding hands, the little girl giggling happily at something her mother had said as her golden curly hair bounced up and down with obvious glee. She’d been dressed in the prettiest little yellow dress with big white flowers blotted around randomly.

    For no logical reason Sarah looked up, studying the pair jealously. The little girl was about the age Ruby would be now. She had the same hair as well. Longer admittedly then Ruby’s had been, but curly and blonde just like hers. She even walked like Ruby, rocking forwards and bouncing on her toes every third or fourth step in just the way they’d been trying to teach her not to do when she’d been snatched.

    Sarah’s eyes snapped open wide.

    It was Ruby!

    Sarah moved without thinking, her body driven by pure maternal instinct. She literally flung herself towards the pair, just as they reached the counter. Without pausing she threw herself on her knees, sweeping up the girl in her arms as tears erupted in fountains from her eyes.

    “Ruby!” she choked between huge sobs. “Ruby! Mummy’s here! Don’t worry! Oh my god my baby!”

    Something was instantly wrong. ‘Ruby’ started struggling in Sarah’s arms instantly, screaming and crying ferociously as she swung her arms around and kicked frantically trying to break free.

    “Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!” she howled in desperation

    “Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing? Get off my daughter!”

    Sarah felt a strong grip on her arms, wrenching them open and suddenly freeing Ruby from her grip. Ruby flew from Sarah’s clutches, instantly attaching herself to the impostors leg and burying her face in her skirts.

    “Who the hell do you think are!”, shouted the impostor, throwing a protective arm around Ruby and glaring at Sarah fiercely.

    Sarah stood up looking like something hell had spit back out again. Her hair stood out like Medusa’s writhing snakes while her face had become a techinicolour mess of pain.

    “Get. Away. From. My. Daughter” she seethed, anger barely being contained within her.

    A flash of shock and anger flew across the impostors face. “She isn’t your daughter you crazy bitch!”.

    “She IS my daughter!” screamed Sarah hysterically, making another lunge towards Ruby. The impostor blocked her, twisting herself around and putting herself in between Sarah and Ruby.

    “Someone call the police!” yelled the impostor, eyes flashing dangerously. “She’s crazy!”

    Sarah’s hand was moving before she’d even realised what she as doing.


    The back of her hand connected with the impostors face with such force it knocked her backwards, sending her stumbling back towards the counter with Ruby still clinging to her leg desperately. A channel of crimson flourished into life on her face where Sarah's engagement ring and gouged out a deep groove.

    Before she could take another step Sarah felt multiple sets of hands pulling her back, trying to hold her in place.

    “Get off me! Get off, get off, GET OFF!” she screamed, thrashing desperately against the do-gooders!

    Why couldn’t they see it? Why weren’t they holding down the bitch with her hands all over Sarah’s daughter? As she flung herself about trying to get back to her daughter Sarah tripped, losing her balance and falling to her knees. Hand’s piled down onto her shoulders, holding her down in place as if she were about to be executed.

    Anger and desperation fueled her though, more powerful a drug then anything man could make by itself. Everyone had given up on her. Everyone had given up on Ruby. Everyone but her. So she fought on, clawing at the hands which held her.

    “Ruby! Ruby honey it’s me! It’s Mummy! Ruby darling?”, she weeped, huge wracking sobs wreaking havoc through her body. “Honey it’s me! Come to Mummy Ruby!”

    Between tears she glimpsed Ruby peeking out from the impostors skirt, her face stricken with sheer terror.

    Her heart split in two, seeing her little girl so scared and upset.

    Had she forgotten her? Had she been taken so young that she couldn’t even remember her own mummy?

    Time seemed to sidestep the normal bounds of physics, speeding up cruelly to rob Sarah of any remaining time with her Ruby. She cried. She screamed. She howled like caged animal intent on breaking free and rescuing her little girl.

    She felt her mind slipping the shackles of sanity. Again. No, no, no, no no.....

    “Sarah? What are you doing?” The voice seemed to swim to her through a fog of incoherence.

    It came from a police officer who had seemingly materialised from nowhere to the side of Sarah. He was crouched down, arms crossed with hands hooked into his stab proof vest. He looked at her head slightly tilted with a mix of pity and kindness.

    Multiple hands still held her down though.

    I don’t need your fucking pity, thought Sarah angrily, but instead hissed quietly “It’s Ruby”.

    She was aware of how crazed she sounded, but couldn’t find the energy to care anymore with every ounce of her focused on her daughter. Her eyes remained riveted on Ruby, as they had for the last twenty minutes.

    “It isn’t Ruby Sarah.”

    “It is!”, she seethed, eyes finally swinging around and staring at the office with all the intensity of a tsunami.

    “It isn’t Sarah”, repeated the office, his eyes looking sad. “This young ladies name is Jessica.”

    “It’s Ruby! I fucking know it is! I know my own daughter”

    “It’s not Ruby Sarah. I’m so sorry. You know it’s not her. We’ve been here before haven’t we Sarah?”

    No no no no no no...! How dare he bring that up! That wasn’t fair. This wasn’t the same.

    Sarah’s mind was loosing all clarity, the sheer focus of her determination stripping it of all other function. Huge cracks appeared in her being, fissures of personality.

    “You’ve been here before Sarah. Twice. Do you remember?”

    “This isn’t the same!” she whispered hoarsely, pure conviction running through every fibre of her being. “It’s her. I. Know. Its. Her.”

    “I’m really sorry Sarah. Honestly I am. But we agreed this with both you and Sam last time this happened. If it happened again we were going to section you. Do you remember that discussion Sarah? I’m afraid we’re going to have to take you to the station and have a doctor take a look at you. You’re not well. So what do you say you stand up and we walk out of here together to go make you better again. Leave Jessica and her Mum to their tea?”

    He realised he’d made a mistake before he’d even finished his sentence.

    “SHE ISNT HER MUM!” screamed Sarah, fury giving a glint of menace to the insanity in her eyes as she redoubled her efforts to break free.

    The police officer shook his head sadly before standing up and addressing the crowd of people holding the crazy woman in place.

    “Pick her up please. But don’t let her go. If you can get her arms behind her I can cuff her.”

    Sarah felt multiple sets of hands lifting her, hauling her onto unsteady feet with all the dignity afforded to a recently slaughtered pig. Her arms were wrenched behind her and she felt the cold grip of steel encase her wrists. Still she refused to give up. She gathered up the entire remains of her frayed sanity before trying one lest desperate plea.

    “Ruby? Ruby honey? You don’t have to be scared. It’s me. It’s Mummy. You remember Mummy don’t you baby? I’m sorry I shouted honey. You can come over here and give Mummy a hug.”

    The little girl peeked out from behind the impostor again, catching Sarah’s eye for the briefest of seconds with her own wide innocent blues, before they filled with fear again and dived back behind the impostor.

    The final bridge to rationality crumbled as Sarah let out a single high pitched animalistic screech.

    “Let’s get her out of here”, the police office said.

    Sarah fought like her life depended on it as strong sets of hands started hauling her backwards towards the patrol car parked outside. Her mind finally caved, cleaved in two by the pain of her loss. She could no longer think. She could no longer reason. She was reduced to the most basic instincts: fight or flight.

    So she fought.

    The entire time she fought she repeated the same thing over and over again in a voice so calm and at odds to her struggling it gave her the impression of being possessed.

    “When the skies are grey and the mood is low, put a kettle onto glow...”

    “When the skies are grey and the mood is low, put a kettle onto glow...”

    “When the skies are grey and the mood is low, put a kettle onto glow...”

    “When the skies are grey and the mood is low, put a kettle onto glow...”

    Just as Sarah had been hauled to the open doorway, a tiny high pitched voice replied, the words unsteady and partly muffled by skirt.

    “...for a cup of tea is sure to place, a big wide smile back on your face.”

    The cafe froze.

    And from that moment Satan himself couldn’t have kept Sarah away from Ruby.

    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
    Matt E likes this.

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