Time for Tea and Treachery: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Tea Set by Connie Cockrell

Tea. My mom always told me it can fix just about anything. An ice-cold glass on a hot summer day after working in the garden makes everything seem right with the world. A nice hot mug of a mint and menthol tea, your face over the rising steam, is the best thing when you have a cold or it’s allergy season. Or a cup with your best friend as she sobs over the break-up with her boyfriend. That one needs pots of tea.

Today, though. Today was a different kind of day. The table was set with my best tablecloth and tea china. I’d selected a Lapsang Souchong tea for its smoky flavor and aroma. It was steeping in its pot in the kitchen as I expected my guest, Zuri Anranyo, any moment. I added a final cookie to the plate on the table then took the package back to the kitchen.

I took a deep breath. Time to put on some soothing classical music. By the time I had it playing on repeat, the doorbell rang.

I invited Zuri in after we hugged. I’m not much of a hugger but Zuri was so I endured the gesture.

“How lovely!” Zuri sat as she looked over the table. She leaned over the low bowl of roses on the table and sniffed. “What a wonderful scent.”

“I picked them this morning.”

“You did?” She shook her head. “You’re a super woman, Orly. Is there anything you can’t do?”

I smiled. “Oh, I’m sure there is. I just haven’t found it yet.” I gave a mock flip of my hand and she laughed. “I’ll be right back.” In the kitchen I took the tea ball out of the pot and put the pot on a tray with a plate of tiny sandwiches then took it into the morning room. “Tea and sandwiches. A proper English tea time.” I put the tray on the table. “Let me pour.”

“This looks wonderful, Orly.”

I poured tea for her and for me, then sat down. “Help yourself to the sandwiches. There are cucumber and a pate. Take what you like.” I watched as she selected one of each, then handed me the plate. I took what she did and put my napkin in my lap. “There is milk and sugar,” I said as I pointed out the little pitcher and the sugar bowl.

She poured some milk into her tea then two lumps of sugar. “Thank you for inviting me, Orly. After…” she shook her hand in a stopping motion. “After Bob came with me, well, it’s kind of you, anyway.”

I ground my teeth together but smiled. “You’re my best friend, Zuri. And, as for Bob, the heart wants what it wants, right.” I ignored the burning lump in my chest.

Zuri nodded and sipped her tea. She made a bit of a face. “That smoky tea, what’s it called?”

“Lapsang Souchong. I love it.” I knew she didn’t. I didn’t much care. “It goes well with the pate.”

She nodded and took a bite of the sandwich with pate. “Oh. Yes. It does.”

I watched as she ate the sandwich and then the cucumber one as well. She looked around the table. I knew she was looking for water, anything to wash the sandwiches down without having to drink the tea. I deliberately hadn’t put any out. I wanted her to drink that tea. I picked up my cup and put my lips to the rim but didn’t drink. She took another sandwich.

“I’ll admit I’m a bit famished.” She patted her lips with the napkin. “I totally skipped lunch. I wanted to get some of the wedding planning done and I knew I’d be here with you this afternoon and didn’t want to rush.” She looked me in the eyes and put a hand over mine across the table. “Things have been strained, I know. And, well, I’ve wanted to make up with you for months.”

I nodded. “I know. It’s,” I took a breath, “awkward, is all.”

She patted my hand and picked up her tea. Zuri sipped.

“Let me get you a cookie.” I handed her the plate and she took two. She always had a sweet tooth. “Your favorite.”

She smiled. She loved those crispy lemon cookies with the large crystals of sugar sprinkled on top. I’d gone clear across town to the bakery where she bought them, just to make her feel comfortable. I watched her bite into one, eyes closed, savoring the clean lemon flavor. “Ummm, these are so good. Did you get them from LaMont’s?”

“I did.”

“LaMont’s is the best. Thank you.” She finished the cookie and sipped more tea. “You know, this tea really goes with the tartness of these cookies.”

“I thought so too.” I picked up my cup and pretended to sip again. “Now tell me about your wedding plans.”

I listened to her drone on for an hour. I made sure her tea cup stayed full and the sandwiches and cookies were close to her hand. When she left, I closed the door. If she kept eating like that she was going to need a bigger dress. Then I snorted. No, she wouldn’t.

Bob called me the next morning. I could hardly understand him for all the blubbering. “She’s dead, Orly.”

I made the appropriate noises. “I’m so sorry, Bob.”

“She was so relieved when you invited her to tea. Thank you, Orly, for giving her a lovely afternoon.”

“My pleasure.” I smiled as I hung up. I’d cleaned up everything yesterday afternoon. One last thing remained. I pulled the bottle of poison from under the sink and dumped it down the drain. I rinsed it several times, soaked the label off of the bottle and taking them with me, tossed the bottle in a dumpster at a gas station on the other side of town. I threw the label in another dumpster in mid-town. No one would ever know.

999 words

Brigands in the Woods: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Box by Connie Cockrell

Lord Belsing closed his book as he heard his coachmen yelling, “Whoa!” What was this? It was still half a day to Lord Releh’s castle. He heard the Captain of the Guard shouting orders. Belsing pulled the curtains and stuck his head out of the carriage window

He saw guards lined up on either side of the carriage, six more were ranked across the road in front of the carriage horses, Captain Udon in the front. Beyond him were masked men, highway men from the look of them.

“Give us your gold,” the lead highwayman said. “No one will be harmed.”

Captain Udon’s horse danced, the Captain brought the horse back into line without effort. “Be off with you, brigand. You’ll get no gold from us.” He moved his hand to his sword hilt.

The brigand eyed the Captain then the carriage. “Those are Lord Belsing’s colors, Captain. He has enough to share. We’ll spare you, your men and the lord if you accede to our demands.”

“Fancy talk for a thief,” the Captain snarled. “Ready!” he called.

The guards drew their swords. The guard beside Lord Belsing’s window said, “Better get inside, my lord.”

Belsing thought not. He was on his way to propose to Lady Nyesta Releh and wanted this business done and without bloodshed. He was about to get out of the carriage when he heard rustling. He looked into the woods. There, men came out from behind tree trunks and boulders, all ready to fire their bows. They outnumbered the guard five to one. He opened the carriage door and descended.

“Gentlemen,” he called.

Captain Udon didn’t turn around. “Please return to the carriage, My Lord. I’ll deal with this scum.

Belsing strode to the Captain and addressed the brigand. “Sir. Would three purses of gold satisfy you?”

The brigand laughed. “I can see the chests in your supply wagon. You carry more than three purses of gold.”

Belsing sighed. He didn’t want to treat with this man at all. “May I have your name, Sir, since you so clearly know mine.”

The brigand gave a jaunty salute. “Iristan, My Lord. Prince of the woodlands.”

“I’ve heard of you, Prince Iristan. You’re causing a great deal of trouble on the roads.”

Iristan bowed. “Thank you, My Lord. Now, if we could have at your supply wagon.”

Captain Udon drew his sword. “Hold, ruffian. Or you will meet my sword.”

Iristan laughed. He flicked his hand. A circle of arrows hit the ground encircling the Captain’s horse.

Belsing jumped as three of the arrows whizzed past him.

Iristan patted his horse on the neck to sooth it. “You are surrounded and outnumbered. There is no need for you or your men to die today.”

Belsing raised his hand. “Hold Captain. Let us walk back to the supply wagon with Prince Iristan.”

“My Lord!” The Captain began.

“Come, Prince.” Belsing waved to the brigand. “Let us complete this business and we’ll be on our way.”

“By your leave, My Lord.”

Belsing marched back to the wagon and stopped next to the driver. Iristan rode behind him and the Captain followed as half of Iristan’s men came out of the woods to the road. “There,” Belsing said. “The chests of gold are marked. Please leave the rest.”

Iristan made a small gesture and his men came forward. Two men jumped up into the open wagon and hauled the small chests to the back and handed them down to their fellows. “Take just four,” Iristan called to his men. “After all, Lord Belsing must pay his way on his journey.”

Belsing was relieved at that. While he was a Lord, gold didn’t grow on trees and he didn’t have much compared to the other Lords. Udon grumbled under his breath.

Iristan rode up to the wagon and looking in. He picked up a highly-polished box, hinges, clasps and corners capped with fine brass and inlayed with mother of pearl in a swirling leaf design. “This, I’ll keep for myself.”

“No!” Belsing leapt forward. “You cannot have that.”

Iristan wheeled his horse around, box still in his hand. “Why not?”

Belsing swallowed to calm himself. “That is a gift for Lady Releh. A…a proposal gift.”

Iristan laughed. “Men! Lord Belsing is going to propose!” They all laughed. He looked back to Belsing. “What’s in the box?”

Beside him, Belsing could see Captain Udon’s sword rise. “Please. It’s a very rare tea. Grown in China. I’ve had men gone for two years to bring it to me for this gift.”

“A great treasure then.” Iristan put the box in his lap. “What say you, men? Should we give the Lord his tea back?”

Some good naturedly shouted yes, some no. Belsing’s stomach clenched. The Lady was known to love tea. He wanted the box back. “Man-to-man, Prince, return the Lady’s gift.”

Iristan looked around him. Belsing could see his eyes dancing with merriment. “It would be cruel to send the Lord to his proposal with no gift.” Iristan handed the box to Belsing. “Take it and good fortune.”

Before Belsing could respond, Iristan whistled. His men scurried into the woods on all sides and disappeared as Iristan and his mounted riders galloped away, down the road Belsing had just traveled.

Captain Udon shouted, “About! Follow those men!”

“No!” Belsing called. “We proceed to Lord Releh’s castle.”

“My Lord!” Udon pleaded.

“It’s a waste of time. The men on horseback will have already melted into the forest with the rest of the men. You’ll not find them.”

“We need to clear the King’s Way of this rabble.”

“We do.” Belsing sighed and walked to his carriage door. “But not today. Let’s go.”

With poor grace the Captain called his men into marching order and the carriage moved on. Belsing stroked the smooth surface of the box, tracing the mother of pearl. Yes. We’ll catch up with the Prince of the Forest. But first, I’ll propose to Lady Nyesta.


Thank You!

998 Words

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