Short Stories

Little Luke’s Tea Time

playground7Little Luke loved recess time. For this first grader – as is with all 6-year-old children in general, and especially for the boys and girls in his first grade class who never once gave him a second thought, recess lasted an eternity. The others quickly learned the value of cliques and groups, disdain and contempt while they played the usual games of tag, chasing one another, taking turns on the swings, or having it out with tiny fists over a disagreement, one thing they all agreed on was this: not one of them liked Luke. And if you were to ask them why this was so, they would turn their heads up at you with a puzzled look, shrug it off, and continue with their Lego projects. This never bothered Luke, who was too pale and too skinny. He simply went on about his own business; never once questioning the fate dealt him at birth. To everyone in the world, Luke was simply invisible.

Each day at ten in the morning, Luke hauled out his dusty, blue blanket from his cubbyhole, gathered his toys, and headed for the big tree at the far end of the playground. There, he spread out his blanket on the ground and carefully laid out his rag-tag team of Barbie dolls and stuffed animals that he’d collected from trash bins or stolen away from forgotten corners. Once they were set up, it was tea time. He served it with precision just as he had seen on TV, although his hands would tremble the slightest bit. He pictured his tea set to be exactly like the one he had seen and he imagined it to taste just as good, though he had never tasted it in his entire life.

He had invited, as he always did, the girl from his classroom who sat behind him two rows over. He always caught her looking at him and when he did, she quickly turned her head forward, suddenly engrossed in the teacher’s lesson on the correct way to write the letter Y.

Amy never could make it to tea time as she was always caught up in the games that the other children played. By the time she did, she was already running late. But Luke always placed an extra setting in hopes that she would make it to his side of the playground before eternity halted at the sound of the bell.

He did this every day for two whole months and she always promised she would come, until the day she stopped coming to school. A month, the teacher informed the class that Amy had moved. Her father had been reassigned to Fairbanks. She then pulled out a stack of letters from Amy to everyone in her class. Luke opened his and it simply read: “I’m sorry. Let’s have tea.” There was no forwarding address and he had no clue where Fairbanks was located.

His life continued as it had before. He went left when he should’ve gone right, said yes when he should’ve said no as if fate was playing a cruel joke with his life. Luke continued setting a place at tea time for Amy until he grew too old for silly games.He never forgot her.

It wasn’t until about twenty years later that chance encounter brought him back to Amy. She was in town visiting, when she saw a thin, pale young man across the street. She immediately recognized him and she waved to him. Luke, taken by surprise that anyone had even noticed him, waved back tentatively. They caught up with each other right there on the corner of First and Main. She was running late, but arranged to meet later that evening. “Take me to tea,” she had told him. She laughed and he smiled, finally knowing the warmth of being in on an inside joke. She hurried off, but not before scrawling down her address at the hotel… Just in case. He didn’t want to lose her again like he did in first grade.  It was a date twenty years overdue.

*    *    *

Luke sat on the comfortable couch of the Tea Tea Bar five hours later and ordered a pot of herbal tea. She was already an hour late. He poured it into his glass with the expertise of one who had been doing it for years. His fingers trembled a little, but he knew that would pass. It always passed after a few hours. He thought back on the menagerie of guests under the tree in the playground from years before. When he no longer had a need for them, he had disposed of them with his own hand. Sometimes he would use the butter knife from his mother’s kitchen drawer. But he always served tea with trembling hands right after that.

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This story was written for the Tipsy Lit Prompt of the week.

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Flash Fiction, Short Stories

A Dying Sun

dead-can-dance_Within-The-Realm-Of-A-Dying-Sun-There was a time when things were different.

That longing, because it was a longing, permeated through her skin and infected the air until she could bear it no longer. She opened a window, but only the last of the sunlight’s strength seeped in. The crisp, still air of a new autumn did nothing to abate the aroma and only reminded her of the short time left. She closed the window and hurried out the door.

She was all too aware of the cloaked figure that moved through her domain: a shadow that stretched out, growing longer on the ground as the days grew shorter. It lurked behind the sycamore trees, peeling the white bark off the trunk in large flakes as it closed in. It threatened her flowers, as it moved among the thorns. It lingered at her window, reaching out to her from under the cloak.

He, too, had reason to long. She heard him in the whispers that ripped through the branches and rattled the leaves. She felt the words gather around the hem of her skirt, making it dance around her ankles. Come back, come back, come back. They would be reunited again, but not today. She would not bear the burden of his impatience.

She tended her garden meticulously, harvesting the remaining blooms that withered in her hands as soon as she plucked them from the soil. The petals shriveled and curled at the edges, turning a darker shade before disintegrating to dust. She knew that even the ever-blooming grandifloras, the chinas, the floribundas, and the rugosas did not live forever…

There was a time when things were different.

There was a time when she took joy in gathering the flowers in the spring that her mother planted late in winter. In her hands, the fresh bouquet smelled of the earth perfumed by the sun. It was always the first gathering that smelled the best. It was the one thing she looked forward to each year, when the frost on the ground retreated and gave way to warmer days. It was a garland of perennials that would adorn her head on the day of her nuptial.

When she first saw him, he tried to seduce her from the garden. He stood tall. A smoldering figure ashen by the dust of his travels. He carried exotic fruits in a sack. He offered them to her, but she refused, never stepping beyond the roses that surrounded her. Each day he came and offered and every day she stood her ground. They danced this way all through summer and into the fall, until his patience had run its course.

She knew the moment she first caught a scent of his impending approach that she would have him. She imagined biting into his red lips and drinking in his bitter scent. This foreign thought shocked her and thrilled her. But she sent him away each time and waited for his return. For he always came back to seek her out until the day he would have her. She listened for him in the rustling of leaves and in the cooling warmth of the dying sun.

She longed for him just as she did the first time she gave in. That day, he offered her a fruit from his sack. It was heavy in her hand as she ran her fingers along the hard, leathery skin. He took it from her and dug his fingers into it and ripped it open. He raised it to her lips. She bit into hundreds of pleasantly acidic seeds, letting the juices drip onto her bodice from her red-stained lips.

Each year he claimed his queen from the realm above and seduced her with his promise. Each year, they sped off, hand in hand into the dark chasm, leaving behind a trail of death that waited for its resurrection upon her return the next year.