Afternoon Tea by Vivienne Moles

“Alright if I sit here?” 

“Fine.” 

“It’s a mad rush outside. So busy at this time of year. Nice to sit down. Particularly after the day I’ve had.” 

“Yes, well, coming up to the holidays, isn’t it? I expect a lot of people are doing last minute shopping.” 

“I suppose. The traffic is manic! It’s taken me ages to get from one end of the high street to the other.” 

“Can I get you some tea, Ma’am?” 

“Can you give me a minute, only I’d like to have a look at the menu.” 

“No problem, Ma’am. I’ll be back in a minute.” 

“Thank you. I’m feeling a bit peckish. Haven’t had much all day. I see they do a cream tea here? There’s a photograph. It looks delicious. Have you had that? 

“I don’t think I have. I usually have a cuppa, just to sit down and rest my feet before continuing with my shopping.” 

“I think I’ll try the cream tea. I’ll ask when she comes back. They seem quite busy.” “They are always here. Have you got a lot to do before the holidays?” 

“Well, not now. Not so much as I used to.” 

“I’ve done most of my shopping. I’m not one of those that leaves everything to the last minute. They do a fair teacake if you fancy that.” 

“No. I’ve made up my mind, thank you.” 

“I used to come here a lot. It was a regular ‘ladies what lunch’ venue for a group of us. We had several places we went to but this was always a firm favourite.” 

“Oh. That must have been fun. I’ve never really done anything like that. Not regular, like.” “Would you like to order now, Ma’am?” 

“Yes. Yes, please. Can I have a cream tea with tea, please? It says you do it with coffee if I want, but tea, please. I don’t want coffee. Thank you.” 

“Yes, Ma’am. Won’t be a moment.” 

“She was nice.” 

“Who?” 

“The girl. You know, the waitress. Nice manners.” 

“Yes.” 

“I’ve had a funny sort of day.” 

“Well, I suppose it’s a bit like that at this time of year.” 

“This was really odd though.” 

“Did you want to talk about it?” 

“Well, not really. Well, yes. Yes, I suppose I’ll have to tell someone.” 

“There’s your cream tea coming.” 

“Oh, yes. Thank you.” 

“Will that be all, Ma’am?” 

“Yes. Yes, thank you. For now. Ooh, that does look lovely!” 

“I envy you now!” 

“I’ll get one for you if you like. My treat.” 

“No, no. I wouldn’t dream of it. Anyway, I’ll have to be getting back soon.” 

“No, don’t go for a minute. Please stay for a while. Yes, that’s when it will be odd, you know, going home. It was dark when I left this morning.” 

“I always look forward to the lighter mornings.” 

“Me too. It was very dark though, early morning. I think I’d been dreaming: a nightmare or something. I know I woke up with a start. I don’t really know if I screamed or whether I dreamt I screamed, do you know what I mean?” 

“Yes, I think so.” 

“Anyway, I thought we’d had a power cut. My husband was lying dead to the world. He obviously didn’t hear anything. So I probably didn’t scream out loud. Then I heard it.” “What did you hear?” 

“It was something downstairs, like someone was rifling through the drawers in the kitchen or dining room, I couldn’t quite tell.” 

“Didn’t you wake your husband?” 

“Thought it was probably best not to. He’d been on the beer last night and had come in late. He’s never in the best of moods when he’s had a skin full. I usually just let him sleep it off. Just one of those things that you have to put up with, you know?” 

“Well, not really but—.” 

“Anyway, I couldn’t just do nothing, leave it, like. I had to get up.” 

“That was brave.” 

“Not really. I thought I was still dreaming so I wasn’t really fully... you know. 

“Anyway, we’ve got this old rounder’s bat we keep by the bed, just in case. My Gary always said be prepared. He always said if we had anyone come in the house, we were always going to have something to protect ourselves with.” 

“It was a bit, er, foolhardy to go on your own though?” 

“Like I said, I half-thought I was dreaming. Must have been those tablets I’ve been taking. I’ve had trouble sleeping, you see, just recently.” 

“So what did you do?” 

“I went downstairs, gripping the bat for all I was worth. It made my knuckles quite sore, I can tell you. Then I saw this figure. It was dark, very dark. I don’t think it was a power cut but there was no moon, see. I knew it wasn’t Gary, because he was upstairs out cold. Anyway, I stood really still on the second to last step, the last one creaked, and waited.” 

“I bet you were frightened?” 

“I suppose I must’ve been but I was so riled to think someone had come into our house and was going through our stuff. It must be that adrenalin thing you have in your blood, you know, that stuff that makes your reactions just go wild. I did no more than charge at the figure brandishing the bat screaming something like a war cry. Honestly, if anyone had been watching, it probably looked quite funny. I wasn’t laughing. I was furious. I still couldn’t see much but the figure, well, by then I knew it was a man, lay on the floor. He was quiet. I must’ve knocked him out. My Gary always said you don’t want to mess with me! I know I’m stronger than I look.” 

“Did you wake Gary up then?” 

“Well, that’s the funny thing. I was just about to go upstairs and get him when someone else, I only saw one person downstairs when I first went down, started to move behind me. There must have been two of them, I thought. Though goodness knows what rubbish they expected to pick up at our house! I must have been in such a state that I turned round quickly and struck out with the bat again.” 

“My goodness. Didn’t Gary hear all that kerfuffle and come down to help?” “Well, no. Thing is, it was Gary. I saw his striped pyjamas in the stray light coming from outside.” “That must have been dreadful for you. Is he alright?” 

“This is where it gets awkward. I don’t really know if I should tell you. I’ll have to tell someone or I’ll explode.” 

“You can tell me if you want, if you think it would help.” 

“The other bloke was Frank. Frank’s a good mate— was a good mate— of Gary’s. They’d both been drinking last night. That’s not unusual. They often stay until last orders and I get these texts with pathetic little excuses. Anyway, I’d gone to bed and he came home ever so late. Frank must have crashed out in our living room. I never heard either of them. Must be those tablets I was telling you about. That’s what they do— really knock you out.” 

“Here’s your bill, Ma’am.” 

“Thanks. Anyway, I didn’t find out it was Frank until I switched the light on. “I didn’t know what to do for the best. There was Gary one side of the room and Frank the other, blood pouring from both of them. I panicked. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?” “Didn’t you call for an ambulance?” 

“I couldn’t. Like I said, I panicked. I leant down to Gary and he looked— dead. I couldn’t make it out. Shock, I suppose. He would always tell me what to do in these sorts of situations. I never know with these things.” 

“But you called for help eventually?” 

“The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. I went and got my small compact mirror from my handbag, like you see them do in the films. It was horrible because I had trodden in some blood. I was leaving bloody footprints on the hall carpet. It looked like a scene from a horror film. I held the mirror up to Gary’s mouth.” 

“That was to see if he was still breathing...,.” 

“But he wasn’t. Nothing. Then I did the same with Frank. I must have half given him a wallop with the bat. The back of his head was in a right state. He was dead too.” “So did you get the ambulance? Police?” 

“No. Not yet. I must go. I suppose I’ll have to go and do that now. Frank’s wife will wonder where he is. Here, can you tell the nice girl I enjoyed my cream tea when she comes back for my cup? I’d better go. It was nice meeting you.” 

“Hang on a minute, what’s your name?” 


Published in Issue #18

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