Three Cups of Tea
The silence swirled its way around her as she stood in front of The House; its high walls and thick wooden door seemed intimidating now in a way they never had before. It was freezing and her hands had gone numb long ago, but she couldn’t make herself walk up the stone steps onto the large, dark porch. She couldn’t make herself go inside. Everything was different now – the magic was gone.
“Jenny,” Miriam’s voice came from behind her. “It’s okay not to want to go inside.” Miriam’s soft and comforting touch on her lower back reminded Jenny that there were still reasons to keep going. “You are allowed to pause.”
“I can’t write this one away…” Jenny’s voice sounded distant. “I can’t fix this with silly one-liners and happy endings.”
She felt reduced from woman to little girl as she looked up at The House, still flawless and pristine. The lights were off, but it wasn’t unwelcoming. It was still home.
“I’ve lost the keys,” Jenny said tonelessly. “I can’t get in.”
In the windows, they could see faint silhouettes of the stories that had taken place there. Feet bolted to the ground; one story twisted around Jenny like a never-ending nightmare. It would give no forewarning of its arrival. It would dot beautiful, painful memories in seemingly unrelated things. It would hollow her smile with ease.
She felt her phone go off in her hands, but she was lost in thought and in physicality. She wandered through the familiar space in her memory, cosy and warm in the hoodie she’d bought not ten days prior. Everything was so colourful – sometimes she couldn’t really believe she was here. She hummed contentedly and her phone vibrated again. She answered the call.
“Jenny, I’m so sorry.”
She blinked and the memory was silent. Had she made it up? Surely, she had made it up. She was always making up silly stories. This one was the silliest of all.
She looked down at her hand to find that her phone had been replaced by the key to The House.
“Can we go inside?” she asked, finally.
Miriam didn’t say anything, but the hand she had resting on Jenny’s back pushed her forward softly until they were at the door. Miriam gave her a comforting smile as they keys clicked in the lock. Jenny took a deep breath.
She switched on the lights in the kitchen. She switched on the heating. She switched on the kettle. She placed three steaming cups of tea neatly on the table that she recognised from the many times they sat around it and giggled over nothing. A big table full of inside jokes that seemed to have no origins or came free with fried noodles.
She could write endless tales and rewrite them when they didn’t read the way she had intended, but she couldn’t rewrite this one.
“I miss him,” she said, realising that she’d made three cups of tea for two people.
Hayley-Jenifer Brennan is just getting her start in writing, and has two publications under her belt so far. This is a deeply personal piece about loss, grieving, and the time it takes to move forward.