Morning Tea Added£1.59
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(A short story of 3244 words)

Morning Tea


by Rebekah Clarkson

A woman and her young daughter are invited for morning tea at a the home of her ex-husband and his new wife. A story about the distance between how people want things to be and how they really are.

The four of us sit under Sally’s pergola having morning tea – an attempt to be civilized and mature. There is a slight chill in the air but a stream of sunlight weaves through a tangle of aged wisteria and knotted grapevines above us, warming our heads and chests. And as if orchestrated by Sally herself, birds flit and sing.

But morning tea is a bad idea. It is Sally’s idea and they are her words: civilised and mature. I looked them up in the Oxford before I came, like research. I memorized the meanings, to be clear about what Sally meant, to stay focused, to stop my eyes and mind glazing over.

Civilised: polite and good mannered. Mature: having reached an advanced stage of mental or emotional development characteristic of an adult.

I breathe them in, try to fathom them, convince myself that they are real. Pete and Sally. They are sitting opposite me in a blur of sunlight and bright orange silk, intensely familiar and intensely strange.

I try to stay focused on my little girl. Jessie. Her cheeks are pink and small and round like perfect little plums resting on her bones. She’s smiling her fresh, uncultivated smile, not yet given a conscious thought, tested before a mirror, stretched or picked at. She’s feeding the dog with crumbs from her scone and the dog has a similar quality. Saliva drips from its jowls, tail waving madly. I can’t remember its name.

I wouldn’t have thought of staging something like this, wouldn’t have wanted it. But Sally put an image in my mind, which raised the temperature of my blood – an image of Jessie (my Jessie), familiar in Sally’s home, calling out to her, using words that are meant for me, just for me. I can’t imagine it, but this is the picture that Sally has drawn in my head. And given I’ll be spending so much time with Jess, she said, I’m sure you’d like to know what kind of woman I am. You never know, she said, we might become friends.

Well, I can’t stomach it. I feel sick, quite physically sick...

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A review of Morning Tea from the CUT team....

A smart and insightful short story about the flux of human relationships; about how those we were close to can come to seem like strangers, and the small victories and defeats that follow when circumstances dictate that we’re unable to cut them loose.

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