Friday, February 3, 2017

Free Fiction: Black Tea, Strong

Why, yes. I was thinking about tea parties again today. This ficlet is a little less tea-party like, but it's still along the same lines.


“Here.” George slapped the back of his hand against Paul’s shoulder. “Let’s duck in here.”

Paul looked over the store fa├žade. Coffee shop. The front was an expanse of glass with tables arranged in rows. The ambiance inside looked kitschy, with artwork framed on the walls and an assortment of hanging lights that didn’t match. There was a tower of shelves against one wall with random things to purchase, most of them having nothing to do with coffee. “Okay.”

Paul followed George in through the doors, the rush of warm air over his skin reminding him that he’d forgotten his hat at home, again. His ears burned with cold even more so for the warmth bringing them back to a reasonable temperature. He’d not forgotten his gloves, so his hands were toasty. They'd been doing some window shopping during the morning, trying to keep themselves occupied while they logged some walking miles.

“One black tea. Strongest kind you have," George ordered at the counter. "Large."

The woman marked the order down. "Okay." She fixed her gaze on Paul.

"Hot chocolate, please." He gave her a smile. "Also large."

Something twitched in her expression, but Paul wouldn't have called it friendly. More like perfunctory. She was probably tired of having to smile all day long at everyone who ordered a drink.

Paul and George shuffled to the right to wait for their drinks to appear. Two other people were already there, heads down, phones glowing.

"Why'd you order tea?" Paul asked. "You never like it from a shop."

"Nothing ventured. You know."

Another counterperson approached. One latte, and one of the other people picked it up and walked off. A moment later a caramel cappuccino was deposited and the other person collected it and left. Two minutes later, George's tea and Paul's hot chocolate were offered up.

"You don't even know how long it's been brewing already," Paul pointed out.

"I like it strong anyway." George pulled the lid off and peered in at the tea. "I'll leave it to brew for a bit."

"You like strong tea. Not over-brewed tea." Paul couldn't seem to help himself. He knew how George liked his tea, and it irritated him a little that in only the rarest situation did George get anything even close to a decent cup of tea.

"It's a mess to start with," George said. "Paper cup instead of porcelain. Are you going to start a campaign to get me bone china at coffee shops?"

Paul made a face. "If I thought there was a chance it'd work."

"Sip your cocoa and don't worry about it." George nudged him toward the window and they took a table with a direct line of sight to the busy sidewalk outside.

"If I ran the world, there'd be teacups everywhere, and good tea. Not tea bags. Loose tea. And--"

George covered Paul's hand with his own, interrupting the mini-tirade. "If I ran the world, you'd have remembered your hat this morning. Your poor ears are red."

"They sting a little too," Paul admitted.

George sipped at his tea. "Not entirely awful," he said. "And we got in from the cold."

Paul sighed. "Thank you for that. Sometimes I'm too stubborn for my own good."

George waved the comment away. "Part of the human condition."

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