Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Communication Breakdown (12/16/10)
TITLE: Tea for Two
By Kimberly Russell
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"Like anyone cares," I grumble out loud. Great. Now I'm talking to myself, too. No wonder people are gawking.
I've had a lousy day. And as usual, I'm stressing out while the rest of the world just goes on their merry way. When will I ever learn to not sweat the small stuff?
It's always silly things that get me going. I can handle major crisis but throw in a minor curve ball, and I'm undone.
Take today, for example. I got a text from my niece asking to meet me for lunch. I'm busy running errands but decide to take a break even though I don't have much time.
I arrive early and order my sandwich since the service is known to be a bit poky. The appointed time comes and goes and finally I place an exasperated phone call. And find out that my niece misunderstood the answer and thought I had declined.
She felt awful and apologized profusely, which was nice, but the fact remains that I'm sitting here by myself. Eating a lunch that wasn't even my idea.
Now I've gone from annoyed to irritated.
I attack my sandwich and glare around the quaint restaurant, daring someone to mess with me. Apparently the plan is a success, since no one approaches--not even the waitress.
The soothing atmosphere and nourishment eventually have a calming affect, despite my determination to remain ticked off. The tension vacates my neck and I can feel my shoulders stand down. I even indulge in a bit of people watching.
Scoping out the room, my gaze comes to rest on a slight figure, hunched over a corner table. Her shabby coat of undetermined color is frayed at the cuffs and gapes from several missing buttons. Graying hair peeps out from under a scarf tied securely under her whiskered chin. She clutches an oversized pocketbook that looks like something my grandma would carry. Sensing my scrutiny, she turns fiery blue eyes to casually meet my stare and I look away, embarrassed at being caught.
But not for long. I am mesmerized.
The patrons breeze by, often pulling away as if she has cooties. She pays them no attention, her face a study of serenity, while she waits to be served.
Two waitresses hustle past, their whispers barely concealed. "I had her yesterday, Laura. Today it's your turn." She glances sideways at the object of my observation.
"Come on, Mary. Can't you just do it? The smell almost turns my stomach. How long do you suppose it's been since she's had a bath? And of course, there's never a tip...."
The words fade but I have heard enough.
And my blood begins to boil.
If there's one thing that irritates me (even more than messed up plans) it's the lack of respect that runs rampant in our society. I glare at their backs while the debate continues and decide it's time for action.
Gathering up my sandwich and coffee cup, I move toward the corner table.
"Excuse me, Ma'am. I notice that you are alone, as am I. Would you mind if I join you?"
She issues a non-committal head-bob and I settle across from her. I become aware that once again, I have attracted attention and I'm tempted to stick out my tongue.
Let 'em look.
I finally flag down a waitress who has been trying to avoid my stare and she shuffles over. "I don't believe you have waited on my friend and I would appreciate it if you would take her order. Now."
The waitress mumbles, addresses my companion, and hurries away. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, I muster up my courage.
"My name is Carly. What's yours?"
"I'm Mary," comes the soft reply. She studies me like a bug under a microscope and it somehow unnerves me.
"Nice to meet you."
No further words are exchanged while she sips tea the waitress has finally delivered.
I find myself impressed when she sets the teacup down with a flourish worthy of a debutante. While daintily patting her lips with a napkin, she turns a blue-eyed twinkle my way.
"So. You come here often?"
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