Tea Times Three: The Lost Chapters #3

Here is is! The final Lost Chapter of Tea Times Three- which you can totally BUY here!! A lot more chapters and scenes were also cut by the time I finished, mostly due to HOW the book got written. I skipped the middle section and wrote the ending, then edited it together after I wrote the middle. By then a lot of scenes didn’t need to be there anymore and I trimmed down the number of POVs (if you can believe it!)

 

Chapter 3

Geoffrey stood  behind the front counter of the grocery store. He peeped out of the blinds at the teashop. The fancy ironwork shingle over the door swung back and forth in the early morning breeze. The witches had certainly familiarized themselves with Midswich’s strict building codes.

He had to tell someone. Clair, of course. His hands shook a little as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He told himself he was just shaken by the fall. Clair was speed dial number one on his phone and he punched the button.

The phone rang and rang. He was afraid it was about to go to voice mail when a sleepy voice finally answered.

“What time is it?”

“Claire! You’ll never guess what happened!” Geoffrey whispered softly into the phone. He stayed crouched on the floor afraid the witches could see and hear him.

“Vegetables not been delivered?”

Geoffrey could sense her already slipping back to sleep.

“It’s not the veggies!” Geoffrey was shocked by the high pitch of his voice.  He coughed. “Sorry.”

“Are you all right?”

He took a deep inhale to steady himself.

“Witches own the teashop.”

There was a moment of stunned silence on the other end.

Slowly Clair said, “Oh, my… I have to call Emma.” The line went dead.

 

 

2

 

 

Claire Callister pushed a mop of  highlighted brown hair out of her face and pulled her friend Emma’s number from her cell’s address book.

Emma was a good ten years older than Claire but she was a good friend and client. Claire had been cutting her hair for the last fifteen years.

Unlike Claire, Emma was an early riser, getting up at five to do yoga and go jogging with the God Squad, Reverend Austin’s jogging club. She checked the clock. She might be able to catch Emma before meeting the running group.

A chipper voice answered the phone, “Morning, Claire. I was just out the door. ”

“You’ll never guess who’s running the teashop,” Claire blurted. With gossip this juicy there was no time for pleasantries.

“It’s open already?” Emma asked. Then, “Who?”

“Witches!” Claire couldn’t keep the note of triumph out of her voice. Being married to Geoffrey had its perks. He was the most reliable gossip in town.

“Witches? Are you sure?”

“Spellcasting, real life witches,” Claire said trying to keep the glee out of her voice and failing. She blamed Midswich. Nothing much happened in the town so it was all the better when something did.

“Witches.” Emma repeated.

Claire caught the note of anxiety in her voice and she was glad not to be alone. As happy as she was to have news to spread she had to admit Geoffrey’s call had left her with a growing unease. She’d called Emma in part to get some reassurance. Emma was a Christian too but she also loved all things metaphysical. She burned sage to cleanse  her house on a regular basis and even tried to keep her chakras clean.

“Do you think we should be worried?” Claire’s glee faded.

“I think I better call Veronica.” Emma finally said.

“Wait,” Claire said.

“Thank you for telling me.”

“But-”

Emma hung up without answering Claire’s question. Of course that was probably answer enough. Claire flopped back into bed and stared up at the ceiling. Witches were just regular people, right? She chewed the inside of her cheek trying to push away a growing anxiety left now that the thrill of fresh gossip had worn off. What happened if  the town turned into a bunch of spell junkies? Of course there were already two bars, the fake pub, Rosa’s and the grocery store selling booze. That didn’t make the town full of alcoholics. She should be reasonable. She just didn’t feel reasonable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Danielle sat at the table in her breakfast nook looking down at an egg white omelet. She was not a cook and the egg whites came from a carton with a picture of the perfect omelet.

She hated egg whites. Her mother had been a terrible cook and she remembered vividly the severely underdone scrambled eggs her mother had made her eat. ‘Because children in China were starving.’ Honestly, what did that have to do with anything? The runny egg whites were slimy, making little globs of wobbling snot on the plate. Usually, she drowned it in ketchup. Later she just refused to eat eggs at all, opting for breakfast cereal and toaster pastries.

Danielle had burned the omelet nearly black to make sure the whites were fully solid. She still wasn’t sure she could get it down without vomiting.

She picked up her fork and scowled at the omelet imagining herself as some latter day Dirty Harry. “Go ahead, punk, make my day.”

The omelet, too crispy and misshapen, lay on the plate. So far, it was winning the staring contest.

“Think of the last ten pounds,” Danielle said. She tightened her grip on her fork.

She couldn’t take it anymore. How many calories could ketchup possibly have?

Just as Dani stood her phone rang. She breathed a sigh of relief, glad to have any excuse to put off eating the omelet.

“Hey, Veronica,” she said.

“Dani, you’ll never guess who my mom said is running the tea shop.”

“No, I won’t, just tell me.” Dani pulled open her fridge. A nearly empty bottle of ketchup rattled in the door. She eyed the quarter inch in the bottom.

“Witches,” Veronica said. “Can you believe it? I mean, what are they like in real life?
Dani straightened up and closed the fridge. “For real, witches?”

“Yeah. In Midswich of all places.”

A mean chuckle escaped Dani. “God, Aunt Penelope going is going to shit a brick.”

“You’re so mean. You shouldn’t wind her up.”

“Why not? It’s so easy. I mean the woman vacations in Roswell hoping for aliens to land.”

“Do you think I should be worried?”
“What, like do I think the witches are going to lure your kids into their oven with baked goods? It’s a teashop. How evil can it be?”

Veronica laughed, “That’s just what I said. But do you  think it’s a problem?”

“I don’t care, but I know plenty who will. Reverend Sunshine for sure.”

Veronica laughed again. “God, you’re so mean.”

Reverend Austin had never had a kind word for anyone that Dani knew. Hs sour demeanor was nothing a candy bar couldn’t fix. How a grown man survived on rabbit food she couldn’t guess. Low blood sugar might explain a lot.

Dani could hear Liz and Jordan fighting in the background.

“Hang on,” Veronica said, “Hey, put that back! I’m taking the last Twinkie!”

“Sorry,” Veronica said to Dani. “I gotta get the little monkeys to school. Wanna meet for lunch?”

“Sure,” Dani said.

“Rosa’s at 12:30?”

“I’ll be there.”

Veronica hung up and Dani turned back to the now cold omelet. She picked up the plate and took it to the garbage. The omelet bounced into the trash.

 

 

5

 

 

Penelope Owens stood in the kitchen and stared thoughtfully at her backyard. The sight of new buds and purple crocus poking out of the brown grass couldn’t cheer her up. She had been standing there, a can of dog food in one hand, the can opener in the other for ten minutes. She was trying to calculate how long it would take Reverend Austin to get back from his morning jog. He didn’t take a cell with him and he forbade the others in the running group to bring anything electronic as well.

The phone rang and she started. Prince Albert whined at her feet, looking up hopefully at the can. His slender tail whipped back and forth.

She looked down at him. “Sorry.” Penelope answered  the cordless phone hanging from the kitchen wall.

“Hello?”

“Aunt Penelope, guess who owns the teashop?” Dani said gleefully.

Penelope frowned, “Witches.”

“Damn it,” Dani swore under her breath. “So you already know.”

“Of course,” Penelope said. “As if witches could pull anything over on me. I know all about their tricks.”

“They might actually improve this town.”

“I wouldn’t get attached if I were you.”

“What are you planning, Penelope?”

“Just wait ‘til Reverend Austin hears about this.”

“Come on, they’re just witches, not terrorists,” Dani groaned.

“There’s no such thing as just witches Danielle,” Penelope held the phone in the crook of her shoulder and opened Prince Albert’s dog food. The beef bits in gravy plopped into his bowl.

“I feel racist even having this conversation. Look, I gotta get to work,” Dani said.

“It’s not racist to protect yourself or your family,” Penelope said. Her hand tightened on the empty can of dog food. “Promise me you won’t go to the tea shop.”

Penelope waited for Dani’s reply. She tossed the can into the recycling. Why did Dani have to be so stubborn? She was just like her mother. Bull headed. When Dani was little she would pout and ball her fists sticking to some ridiculous point. Just like her mother, Penelope’s sister, had at that age.

A frustrated noise came from Dani’s end of the line.

“Maybe. I don’t know,” Dani said at last.

“I would appreciate it a great deal. You are, after all, the only family I have left.”

“Nice guilt trip, Aunt Penelope. I’ll think about it.”

Penelope smiled. She bent down and gave Prince Albert a scratch behind the ear as he scarfed down his breakfast.

“Thank you, dear.”

Dani hung up with one last grunt of exasperation.

Penelope looked at the clock on the microwave. Quarter to seven. Reverend Austin should just be getting back to his house.

 

 

6

 

 

After last night’s rain had washed the world clean, this morning’s jog had been particularly glorious. Reverend Austin had once heard that the Navajo ran five miles in the direction of the sunrise everyday and when dawn broke, thanked the great Creator. He understood perfectly why. It was good to have the earth beneath your feet, see the beauty passing by and feel the workings of your body, which was truly a gift from God. He often felt jogging and appreciating nature was as much a communion with God as going to church was.

Austin walked the last few blocks to his Tudor-style house built in the twenties and later remodeled with gothic interiors of dark wood paneling and diamond pane windows. He went around the side gate and entered the backdoor. In the mudroom, he took off his running shoes. The kitchen was pristine and little used. Oscar Austin was one of those rare, tidy bachelors who immediately washed, dried and put away any used dish. He ate sparingly to begin with so there was rarely much mess to clean. Austin ate the recommended seven small meals a day and supplemented them with protein shakes and power bars.

He pulled a strawberry flavored electrolyte gel  from the fridge and went to his office to listen to his phone messages and stretch out.

The message light on his answering machine flashed twenty two. Austin frowned as he propped a foot on the desk to stretch is hamstrings.

The phone rang as he folded himself over his leg. For a second he thought about ignoring it but duty won out over self-indulgence. He picked up the receiver.

“Reverend Austin speaking,” he said.

“Reverend Austin, I’m glad I caught you.”

Austin grimaced at the sound of Penelope Owens’ voice. She was a dedicated parishioner and a good woman but prone to hysterics, that as her clergyman of choice, he often ended up on the receiving end of. He often wished he could pass her off to Pastor Clark at the Baptists.

“What can I help you with?” He switched legs on the desk to stretch the other one.

“The tea shop. It’s run by witches!” she said.

Austin froze mid-stretch. So, it was what he suspected. Witches had come to Midswich. He felt a flare of territoriality. How dare witches come to his town. And worse than that, open a teashop. They might as well have opened a bakery. Surely this was a test. Not just of the town’s character, but of his own.

“Thank you for telling me, Penelope.”

“Can you imagine,” she said. “Witches in this town.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t think they’ll be staying.”

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear you say that,” Penelope said.

“Good-bye, Penelope.”

“Er, good-bye.”

Reverend Austin hung up. Obviously Mrs. Owens had wanted to say more but Austin had plans to make starting with this Sunday’s sermon. There were two days left to work on what he wanted to say.

 

 

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