A Tea Cup Full of Hope, Ch. 2

Simone’s interview was short and to the point. The shift manager explained a bit of how things were run and what she would be doing, asked her a few questions then told her she’d call her in the next couple of days to let her know if she had been hired. Simone smiled and got up to leave. She made it all the way to her car before she let the doubt she was feeling show on her face. She was sure there were many, more qualified applicants than she and that one of them was sure to be offered the job. She headed home and watched, while she drove, as the wind blew around small snowflakes, then big fat, wet, heavy ones that made your windshield wipers work extra hard. She drove slow in the snow and finally made it home 45 minutes later. Maxine performed her usual ‘happy dance’ when she came in the door. Simone reached down to pet her. When they were done greeting on another, Simone called Cora to see if the tea room would be open today. Inclement weather usually meant a day off, unfortunately. ‘Hi, Cora it’s Simone. Yes, I’m calling to see if we will be open today…,‘ Simone sighed, she knew what was coming,

It’s snowing pretty hard’, replied Cora, ‘so the tea room will be closed today and tomorrow. You know how much the ladies hate to drive in bad weather. No sense in opening if no one will be there.’

Simone thought, ‘I’ll be there. What am I, chopped liver?’

‘We’ll see how things go for Saturday,’ Cora was still talking, ‘but I doubt it will melt fast enough to make a difference.’

Simone knew what Cora did, snow didn’t last long around here. It usually melted in a day or two but for their clientèle, any wet road was a bad road which meant, no matter how much it melted by tomorrow- Saturday, it wouldn’t melt enough to open. Saturday was their busiest day. To be closed an entire weekend when business had already been so slow had Simone wondering about the future of the tearoom. She was beginning to wonder how far reaching was the long arm of, Amanda Cuttington? Oh, Simone she could not reasonably be blamed for the bad weather, but Simone should have been able to find a new job by now, a job worthy of her skills and knowledge but it seemed as if everyone in this city lived in fear of either Amanda, or Simone’s old boss.

Simone was beginning to think she should have immediately moved to a city far away and maybe fudged a bit on her resume. This whole, broke-and-barely making-it, ‘thing’ was not working for her.

“Well Max, looks like I’ll have a three-day weekend. Too bad I don’t have any extra money to go anywhere or do anything. I guess I’ll just have to stay here and find something to do.” Maxine gave Simone a grumble and a few happy stamps of her feet. She had been cooped up all day and wanted to play. Simone went to the toy box and grabbed Maxine’s hedgehog. It was well loved by Maxine and it showed in the way one ear hung on by a thread and both eyes were missing. A good deal of fur had been chewed off in the past two years but that didn’t matter to Max as she waited impatiently for Simone to play with her.

Simone and Maxine growled at each other and wrestled for a long time before they called it quits for the night. After making dinner for them both, Simone curled up on the small couch and turned on the TV. Maxine soon joined her and they snuggled together under an old afghan. When morning came, they were both still in the same spot. Simone got up to start her day, Maxine scrunched farther down in the afghan. Simone went over and slid the panel out of the doggie door letting Maxine decide when to let herself out. Walking into the kitchen, Simone went to the sink and opened the curtains. She caught her breath in wonder as she looked at a world that was completely different in appearance from what she had seen yesterday. Everything was dressed in white-crystal splendor. All the ugly brown of the dormant plants was gone and forgotten in the beauty of the snow. Simone continued to glance out the window now and then as she puttered around the kitchen. She made a small picnic for she and Maxine. Some fruit (Maxine loved green apples), scones, cheese a few nuts and pieces of 70% cocoa dark chocolate in plastic baggies, a thermos full of Earl Grey tea, Simone’s favorite blue and white mug were all placed in her worn wicker hamper as well as a small china bowl for Maxine’s water. She dressed herself in warm layers and Maxine in a sweater that matched her leash and they headed for the car. The plows had been out all night and she was sure they would be able to make it to the Garden of the gods. Simone had an old digital camera stuffed in her pocket. A leftover from days gone by that survived being pawned or sold. She also took a notepad and pen. These next few days would be a good time for her to make some plans. It would be up to God to see if her dreams would become reality. It would have to be Him because she had nothing else to contribute to make them come true but the willingness to do the work necessary to birth those dreams. Maxine danced excitedly in the passenger seat as she waited for Simone to scrape off all the snow and for the windows to defrost enough so they could see.

Twenty-five minutes later, they arrived at the Garden of the Gods park. The snow was deeper on Simone’s side of town than at the park. Even though the roads had been plowed, it had taken much longer than normal to get to the park because of the snow packed and icy conditions. Simone snapped Maxine’s leash to her halter before they stepped out of the car. The snow almost came up to Max’s belly. It was a good thing she had long legs. The two friends enjoyed having the park to themselves and ran around looking for tracks and taking pictures of the beauty surrounding them.

“It seems like God made this just for us, Girl”, Simone said to Maxine watching the cold turn her breath into a frosty cloud. When Maxine didn’t respond, or even move, Simone looked down at her. Maxine was almost completely still except for a slight tremor running through her very alert body. Simone followed her gaze and finally caught sight of what was holding her interest. Bunnies. Two of them were off to the side digging where the snow wasn’t so deep, looking for a few early blades of grass to nibble. Maxine let out a small grumble.

“No,” was Simone’s firm reply.

“Uff,” Maxine shot back a little louder.

“I said, ‘no’ Max, and I mean it!”

Before Simone could get a tighter grip on Max’s leash, her body jerked it out of Simone’s hand as she lunged for the rabbits.

“Max!”

Simone dashed after her but Maxine was the faster of the two of them. All Simone could do was keep her in sight as she tried to keep up with her now very in trouble dog. Simone felt a rush of panic as Maxine disappeared around a red rock formation. Anything could be on the other side. Anything with big teeth and sharp claws that would love to have a pappy snack. Finally making it to the rock formation, Simone rounded the corner at full speed and smacked into something hard and fell flat on her back. Panting and gasping, she lay in the snow trying to catch her breath, all the while worried that Maxine would never be found. When she could open her eyes, she looked up, not at the sky, but at the most beautiful pair of caramel colored eyes she had ever seen. Before Simone could say anything, there was a hot wet tongue licking her all over her face and she saw a blur of fur. She turned her head, the tongue and blur of white and red fur belonged to Maxine.

“Here,” said Caramel Eyes, “let me help you up.”

Simone intended to just let him help her, but it turned into more like him doing all the work while she just leaned on him still trying to remember how to breath. . All she noticed was how good he smelled and how strong he felt under his heavy coat. It was all those muscles that had knocked her down. Not an easy thing to do considering her height. Than again, looking at him, he was no small fry himself. At 6′ 2”-6′ 3” he was a few inches taller than her. He had a nice tan, not too dark, and a smile that seemed brighter than the snow around them. His dark blond hair set off his eyes. Was she imagining things or had they met before? He looked a bit familiar but she just couldn’t place him. She didn’t say anything to him though about looking familiar to her as she didn’t want him to think she was hitting on him.

“Are you alright?” he voice was mellow, almost relaxing, but was there a hint of laughter in it? Was he smiling or grinning? Now she couldn’t tell and her temper flared. Suddenly she felt he was standing too close for comfort. All that manly essence oozing out of him was making her a little too warm. Not that it didn’t feel good, but without anyone else around the big park and so many great places to dump a body… her body should he turn out to be a serial killer; she was beginning to get a bit panicky. Time to go.

“I’m fine! No thanks to you. You should watch where you’re going. You could hurt someone with…” she stopped, tried not to blush but felt her face get warm. ‘With what’, she thought, ‘with those big muscles that had knocked me to the ground and had almost knocked me out?’

“What a way to go.”

“Excuse me? Go where?”

“Huh?” Alarmed at where the conversation might be headed, she feigned ignorance of what she had let slip from her lips and ducked her head so he could not, she hoped, see her face. She tried to change the subject as they walked back to the parking lot. Simone grabbed Maxine and practically threw her in the car. Giving her a ‘look’ and a silent promise of a stern lecture later.

“Wait, before you go, let me give you my card. Please call me if your injuries require medical care.”

‘Was Mr. Caramel Eyes/possible ax murderer serious?’ She thought. ‘Why would he think she would even call him?’

Her eyes followed his gaze. They appeared to be scrutinizing her car… and her figure. Who did he think he was ogling her like that? A blush crept up her neck threatening to inflame her cheeks.

“Thank you very much, but I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”

‘Was that a ‘huff’? Did I just ‘Maxine huff’ at him? I’ve got to get out of here.’ With her mind racing she didn’t notice him tossing his card inside her car as she quickly got in it and locked all the doors. His delicious looking mouth curl slightly when he heard the door locks click. Irritated with herself, him and Maxine, she gunned the engine a bit too much as she was backing out of the parking space causing bits of small of rock and clumps of snow to go flying out from under her tires.

“Maxine-Marmalade-Bradford!” Simone’s anger, more at Mr. Caramel Eyes and her reaction to him than Maxine running away, made her use all three of Max’s names as if she were scolding a naughty child. “We do not go chasing after strangers! We do not go chasing after men in general!”

Simone’s breathing was labored and her head began to ache. She realized she was shaking and pulled over to the side of the road once they were out of sight. She let out a long breath not entirely sure as to why she had reacted so strongly to the stranger in the park. She looked at the view of the park. From where she was parked she could see most of it and a large portion of the foothills and Pike’s Peak gleaming white in the bright sunlight. She thought about the stranger. He was just a man. Two legs, two arms, two eyes… etc. What was the big deal? The big deal was it had been a while since she had been looked at in any way other than ‘The woman Who Brings Us Food’. It was nice. Nice to be ‘seen’. As nice as it was, however, it was unfamiliar to her and that also was upsetting. She looked down at Maxine whose ears were considerably deflated and whose face was scrunched up in dismay. No one disliked being fussed at and Maxine was no exception.

“I’m sorry, girl.”

Simone reached over to pat Maxine who jumped up and began licking Simone’s face to let her know all was well. Simone hugged her best friend and buried her face in Max’s fur. “I’m sorry”, she breathed again. Now Simone was mad at herself for two reasons instead of one; her reaction to the man in the park and her temper flare towards Maxine.

“Let’s go home.”

During the drive home, Simone’s mind ran through her chance encounter with the man at the park. What an odd accent he had. He didn’t look or sound like any man she had seen before in Colorado Springs. He was dressed for the cold weather, but not in the rustic wear she was accustomed to seeing. His ‘look’ was more continental, more sophisticated. He didn’t wear a ball cap which immediately gave away the fact he wasn’t from Colorado where ball caps, sweatshirts, long shorts and sandals were a year round dress code. Simone figured he was the best thing she had seen in a while.

Still determined to make a special day for herself and Maxine, Simone decided to visit her friend Violet form the tea room.

Vi had an open door policy with Simone. She just needed to call first to make sure Vi was home. Simone called her friend when she got home and made arrangements to have afternoon tea with her at 4 p.m. at her house. Hanging up the phone, Simone went around her trailer and prepared for some much needed, self-care. She gave Maxine a raw hide treat that would keep her occupied for a while, drew all the curtains and shades shut, went into the bathroom and began running water for a hot bath. She lit some candles, added some pink salt to the tub and let out an audible sigh as she sunk into the relaxing, hot water.

An hour later, she was done soaking away the morning, had dressed and redone her hair & make-up. Vi always looked great and Simone would never have arrived for tea looking anything less than her best.

“Hey girl,” she said to Maxine, “want to go visit Daphne? Let’s go!”

Maxine bounded to the door and waited impatiently for Simone who took Max’s leash off the hook and put it on her for the short walk to the car. Once settled inside the car, Simone took off for the old north end part of town. Vi’s family had owned a house there for generations. Simone noticed that the sun had come out enough to clear paths in the snow making driving easier and less dangerous. A few minutes later, Simone drove down the driveway that lead to the front of the familiar house made from cut limestone. Maxine, recognizing where they were, made little happy noises as she waited for Simone to let her out of the car. Practically racing each other up the porch stairs, Simone and Maxine landed on the porch a little out of breath and full of excitement. Both Simone and Max enjoyed the company of their older lady friends. Violet reminded Simone of gentler days and gentler ways while dispensing valuable advice, while Maxine and Daphne, Vi’s own black and white papillion, entertained one another with seemingly endless enthusiasm. Maxine had even brought along her favorite squeaky toy to share with Daphne.

Mrs. Myers, Vi’s live-in caregiver and house keeper, was waiting at the door to greet Simone. It had been she who had let Daphne out to greet Maxine.

“Welcome, Simone.” Mrs. Myers greeted her with a warm smile.

“Hello, Mrs. Myers.” Simone greeted her back with warmth and respect.

Simone followed Mrs. Myers down the hall to the sitting room where Vi was waiting for her. Myers announced Simone and Maxine then headed to the kitchen to perform the task of tea making.

“Hello, hello!” chirped Vi. “Welcome, Ladies,” she said referring to both Simone and Maxine. Maxine jumped into Vi’s lap to greet her friend with dog kisses and happy noises. Daphne, still on the floor next to Vi, gave an impatient yip and she and Max were off and running to whatever adventure awaited them. Simone bent over and gave Vi and hug. “Hello to you too, Vi! How have you been? Are you enjoying the snow?”

Simone started the conversation as they waited for the tea and scones. Just as Simone was finishing up telling Vi about her encounter in the park with the handsome stranger, Ms. Myers arrived pushing a squeaking tea cart ladened with all sorts of goodies for them to enjoy. Much more than what Simone had been treated to in the past.

“Goodness, Vi, you’re really pulling out all the stops here today. What’s the special occasion?”

Was Simone imagining things, or did a look of mischief flash across Vi’s face just now?

“Oh, I thought I would have Myers do something a little different and special today for a change. Do I need a special reason to spoil a friend?”

“Of course not, I hope I’m not being rude. I love it, it’s very nice.”

Simone, taking on the role of ‘mother’ (meaning she would pour and serve) reached for the tea pot and poured a cup of tea for each of them. It looked different from last time when they had sipped a basic black tea, stout and without much flair. Simone looked at Vi, her face asking the question.

“Yorkshire Gold,” said Vi.

One of Simone’s favorites. Also before they had enjoyed a simple sampling of scones and fruit. Not so today. Today, the cart nearly groaned under the weight of the variety of delicacies being offered. Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches with a hint of wasabi, roast beef with French tarragon mustard, chicken salad sandwiches tinted pink, a variety of scones and pastries and fresh fruit served on Vi’s best Wedgwood china. Simone could tell that something was up and that Vi would get to it when she was ready. Before she could open her mouth to ask, Maxine and Daphne burst into the room and came running up to the women sniffing the air expectantly.

Vi laughed, “Look at them! They are making sure that they don’t miss out on anything.”

Simone laughed and nodded in agreement. She took the saucer from underneath her cup and filled it with a little tea for Maxine but set it aside to let it cool a bit first before placing it on the ground. Vi handed Simone her saucer asking her to do the same for Daphne.

“I have a surprise for the ‘girls’,” said Vi with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “look under that silver lid.” Simone lifted the lid on a small chaffing dish. It was filled with roast beef cooked rare. Simone smiled at Vi’s generosity as Vi rang a small silver bell. The two dogs danced around excitedly as Simone divided the beef equally between two dishes and set them on the floor for the dogs to enjoy.

As the ‘girls’ ate the beef and drank their tea, Mrs. Myers came into the room in response to the bell Vi had rung. In her hands was a small covered silver dish which she set on the table. Vi and Simone continued to visit and laugh. Vi entertained Simone with stories from her youth of suitors who called upon her and her progressive ways of thinking that more often than not got her into trouble with her parents. “Boys just didn’t understand me”, Vi lamented then quickly added, “that’s okay. I got rid of the ones who didn’t know what to do with me and the way I saw the world, and it made room in my life for the man who was to become my husband!”

After hearing about how Vi and Richard, her now deceased husband, had met. Simone told Vi a few stories about the goings on at the restaurant. Vi waited patiently for Simone to finish then reached across the cart to the covered dish Mrs. Myers had brought in and handed it to Simone.

“What’s this?” Simone asked.

“You’ll have to open it to find out.” Said Vi with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

Simone lifted the lid of the dish, inside was an envelope. She gasped as she looked inside the envelope and took out the check inside. The amount was big, very big. More than Simone had or would have managed to save while working her insurance job. She looked at Vi in confusion.

“W-what?”

“When I was a young woman,” Vi began, “I had more money than you could shake a stick at, only we did not talk of such things as it was considered vulgar. Things change, Simone and I want to talk to you about it now.”

Simone had been stunned into silence by the contents of the envelope and thought it best to let her friend continue uninterrupted.

“My father had been one of this city’s founders and he had made quite a lot of money in developing the land around us.”

“Though, as I said, I had money, I had very little freedom. Oh, at first when Richard and I dated and were married he seemed to be interested in and enjoy my unconventional ways. As time went by however, it became more and more evident that what he had really wanted in his heart was a wife that would stay home and raise his heirs. Not someone to help him run the company my father was giving to him. My father was giving the company to my husband, not to me. I made my decision at the time not to say anything and to involve myself in volunteer work like every other rich housewife in town. Everyday, though, when my husband would go to work, my heart would go with him even though it was clear I could not. After a few years of trying, it became clear that we would never have children of our own. My father discouraged us from adopting, it wasn’t as accepted in those days as it is now. Twice now in my life I was not to have the desire of my heart and I had to live with the knowledge that my husband had lied to me to get me to marry him so he could get to my father’s business. Even though he ran it well, I always felt cheated and since divorce was unheard of then I kept my mouth closed and lived life the best that I could but always wanting more. I’ve seen you work hard at the tearoom, Simone, you have the freedom I never did. You have the same drive and desire to make something of yourself but the lack of funding is what is holding you back. I had drive and money, but no freedom. Now, take the money I’ve given you and live your dream. If that means you want to open your own tearoom, you can even do that here in this very house. It’s old and has original Victorian furniture and decorations. You can use it all, every piece of furniture, picture, china, linen, is yours. All I ask is that you allow me to live here until God calls me home. Can you do that? Can you live with an old lady? There’s also a quit claim deed in that envelope giving you this house, now.”

Simone’s head was spinning.

“But with the house and all the ‘trimmings’ included, there wouldn’t be much to buy.” Said Simone. “Some paint here and there and some minor repairs, I would need to commercialize the kitchen to bring it up to the heath department’s codes but certainly nothing costly enough that would use up all this money.”

“Oh no, the money is for you whether you open a tea room or not. I have more than enough and I’m not getting any younger so I may as well give some to those I love and enjoy watching them spend it. You’re my friend Simone, and I love you and I’ve enjoyed our visits so very much. It’s very lonely here. Not much ever happens. It’s just me, Daphne, and Mrs. Myers, oh and my great-nephew who’s visiting for a little while, but soon he’ll be gone and it’ll just be me and Daphne. Oh won’t you say, ‘yes’, Simone?”

Simone thought about what Vi said as her eyes looked around the room. Seeing the time on the clock on the mantle, she stood up as she said, “Vi, I’m sorry, I did not realize how late it is. I need to leave before the roads freeze up.”

“Oh dear, Simone I hope I didn’t say something to upset you!” Genuine concern washed across Vi’s face at the prospect of having offended her young friend.

“No, no, Vi! Of course not! It’s nothing like that. I had planned to leave before the roads froze up. You know how the shady parts of the road get glossed over with ice after the melting snow has left behind all that water.”

Simone called for Maxine. Maxine came running into the room excited to see her leash in Simone’s hand. However, once it was on her and she realized they were going home and not for a walk, Maxine’s ears drooped in disappointment.

Simone looked down at her, “I feel the same way, Girl.”

“So stay,” Vi said.

“Stay?”

“Yes, the roads are getting bad and you can see the part of the house you’d be living in if you decided to take me up on my offer. Sort of a trial run.”

“I don’t know,” Simone hedged.

Simone looked down at Max. She was panting and wagging her body. She had obviously enjoyed her day with Daphne and Simone was dreading the drive home. She could hear the clock on the mantle ticking, waiting, as was Vi. Though her mind was spinning, Simone heard herself saying, “Okay, I’ll stay.”

Vi clapped her hands in excitement and rang the silver bell for Mrs. Myers.

“Mrs. Myers! Show Miss. Bradford to her room so she can freshen up and have a tour before dinner.”

“Yes, Ma’am. Follow me please, Ma’am.” Mrs. Myers turned to leave the room. With sweaty palms, Simone bent down to hug Vi, then followed Mrs. Myers out of the room and up the stairs to her wing of the house. Her wing of the house?! It was all so unreal. Simone griped the banister as she ascended the stairs. Max tried a couple of times to rush past her but Simone held her back. Once she had been shown to her room and left alone, Simone fell back onto what might be her new bed. She looked around the room without really seeing it, then reached into the envelope, pulled out and read the letter and deed that were inside and looked again at the check amount. It was the biggest check she had ever seen. She could take it and pay off every debt she had and still have enough to live comfortably for the rest of her life without even having to think about working. Simone exhaled slowly then took a deep breath and read the deed. It was straight-forward and gave her complete ownership of the house and land on which it sat and every single item within the house. Everything. Simone’s breath caught in her throat. No one in her whole life had been so generous to her. She had had to work, and work hard for everything she had in the world which as of this morning wasn’t very much. Try as she might, she couldn’t think of what she could have done to impress Vi so much to give her the money and house nor what she might have done to earn such a gift. Isn’t that how things worked? Didn’t you have to work hard and hope you didn’t die before your dreams came true? Who handed someone something so large without them having first done something to prove they were worthy? It reminded her of the salvation God offered to everyone who answered His knock on the door of their life. Not one could do anything to earn it, it was freely given. Simone laid her head down on the bed with her arm across her face and felt hot breath in her ear but not soon enough to avoid the tongue that always followed. Smiling she looked over at Max who stood beside her head, slowly wagging her tail. Max had wanted to make sure Simone was okay and this was her way of ‘asking’.

“Well, Girl, should we do it? Should we pull up stake and move in here lock stock and barrel?”

Maxine cocked her head to one side and wiggled closer. Simone gathered her friend into her arms and prayed.


A Teacup Full of Hope Ch.1

Photo by @carlijeen on Unsplash

Simone Bradford struggled through the front door of her trailer avoiding stepping on Maxine, her very-excited-to-see-you! sable and white papillion, She dropped her mail in a trail behind her as she walked through the tiny trailer to her even tinier kitchenette. She placed the grocery bags on the floor before putting away the cold items into the ancient refrigerator, she lifted, Maxine’s leash off the hook it occupied by the front door and took her Papillon for a walk before dinner. When, Maxine had finished her ‘business’, Simone went back into the trailer, removed, Maxine’s leash and grabbed ‘dinner’… a box of crackers out of one of the cobalt blue cupboards above the stove, and put a kettle of water on to heat while she put away the rest of the groceries. She then placed a teabag of the cheapest green tea she could find in the white cup with pink and yellow roses that used to belong to her grandmother. There was a time in Simone’s life when her grandmother’s ‘country china’ was not good enough for her to use. During that time inher life it was ‘Go Wedgwood or go home.’.

‘My how the mighty have fallen.’. She sighed to herself.

When the kettle finally whistled, she poured the hot water over the tea bag and carried the cup and saucer, and the box of crackers, with her through the kitchen, into the small living room where she went through her mail as she sat in her favorite chair.

“Occupant, Resident, Simone Bradford or Current Resident, credit card bill, utility bill- nothing yet from Prince Charming,” she said to Maxine who was now in her lap trying to steal licks of hot tea from Simone’s cup. “Oh, yes! My new tea catalog came today! Look Maxine,” she showed the cover of the thin catalog to Maxine who showed a respectful amount of interest while trying not to get caught stealing crackers.

“Gee, Maxie, when the highlight of a girl’s day is getting a tea catalog in the mail, it’s time for her to get a life!” Maxine cocked her head to one side and huffed at Simone in what sounded to her like agreement.

“Don’t be so quick to agree,” she told Maxine as she got up to put her uniform, from the tea room where she was a waitress, into the wash with the rest of the dark clothes waiting for new life to be given to them before being doused again tomorrow with tea, bits of scone, and assorted sandwich fillings.

Simone felt a poke on the calf of her leg as she finished and looked down at Maxine. “Ready for dinner?” she asked her friend. A huff and stamp of feet was Maxine’s response. Simone went to the refrigerator feeling thoroughly bossed by her opinionated dog. She opened a can of food for, Maxine and placed a couple spoonfuls of it in her dog’s dish along with a treat. Simone would have felt eternally guilty if she didn’t spoil her friend. Maxine was only two years old, but they both had been through a lot in that short amount of time. Simone was more inclined to spend her money on Maxine than herself, and today was no exception.

“Hey, girl, are you ready for your present? It’s your birthday today!”

Maxine had no idea what Simone was so happy about but she liked the tone in her voice and did a little dance around the kitchen floor ‘huffing’ and shaking her head to make her ears flap. Simone laughed at Maxine’s impatience and reached into one of the bags still on the counter and pulled out a plastic container full of something brown and cut into strips.

“Guess what I have? Give up? It’s dried, cut up buffalo livers! Mmmm! Come on girl. Come on!” Simone lead Maxine on a brief chase into the living room. Maxine poked her in the leg with her nose the whole way. Simone pulled out a piece of liver from inside the container.

“Sit!” she commanded Maxine. Maxine huffed at her and stamped her feet.

“Sit I said,” Simone tried again. Again, HUFF was the only response she got from Maxine. Laughing, Simone gave the piece of liver to, Maxine.

“I guess no one should have to do tricks to be fed. Even if it is expensive buffalo livers!”

Simone had bought Maxine from a breeder in town three weeks before she lost her job. Already smitten, she couldn’t bear to give her back. It had been a financial struggle, but Simone had kept Maxine with her through thick and thin. That decision had been worth every penny and sacrifice. Simone sat back in her chair and reached for her book; Sayings of the Desert Fathers. She had overslept that morning and didn’t get to do her prayer, and quiet time before she left for work. The day had not gone well. Her attitude had been off and as a result, her tips had been low. ‘No one to blame but me,’ she thought. As she sat reading, Maxine’s giant ears flicked and she was up and out the flap of her doggie door. The only thing Simone had been able to teach her was not to bark at the neighbors, just strangers. When Simone heard Maxine growling and huffing, she knew it had to be at the people in the trailer next door. Maxine drew a fine line between obedience and getting away with murder. Evidently, according to Maxine, huffing and growling weren’t barking and she had refused to give them up. Simone had finally consented and in the end it had turned out to be a good way to tell what was going on around her. Maxine did her job well. An hour later Simone had completed the reading and was ready for bed. Early to bed and early to rise had not yet made Simone wealthy, but she was healthy and wise.

“Maxine!” she called out. “Here, Max! Come on girl! Come inside!”

Maxine bounded through the doggie door with a huff and several wags of her body. Simone slid the panel in the doggie door just in case a skunk or neighborhood cat decided to try and wander in during the night.

“No sense in tempting them,” she said to Maxine.

Simone carefully went through her nightly routine. She shook her long auburn hair out of its chignon and brushed it smooth. Slipping into her shorts and t-shirt combo with the roses on it, she sat on the edge of her bed with Maxine next to her and said her prayers. When she was done she slipped under the covers. Maxine looked at Simone and then crawled over to her own side of the bed and lay down.

“I don’t know why you bother,” said Simone, “we both know where you will be before too long, tucked in and snoring next to me!” Simone reached over and grabbed Maxine pulling her next to her and snuggling her close. Planting a kiss between Maxine’s ears, Simone told her ‘goodnight’ and turned out the light.

Morning, as it always did for Simone, came much too early. She disturbed Maxine as she got out of bed and was rewarded with a familiar grumble of protest. Knowing Maxine wouldn’t get up on her own, Simone picked her up and carried her to the front door, opened the door, set Maxine down and closed the door without undoing the panel so she couldn’t sneak in when Simone wasn’t looking. Maxine sat there for a couple of minutes still trying to wake up. Simone left her little friend to her own devices and went into the kitchen to start her day. She filled her small tea bell full of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea and waited for the kettle of filtered water to boil. By the time the water had boiled and the tea had steeped 4 minutes, the scone she had taken from the freezer to cook was done and she was ready for her quiet time. She stopped by the doggie door to let in Maxine and was greeted with an indignant huff as Maxine trotted past her and went back to bed.

‘She’s even worse at mornings than I am,’ Simone thought to herself.

Thirty minutes later, Simone closed her bible with tears in her eyes. Proverbs 24:16 was the last thing she had read, ‘for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.’

“You are so good, Lord,” she said out loud. “Your hand lifted me up and carried me each time I fell. Thank you, Lord. You are so merciful and good.” she looked around her at her humble abode and knew to the eyes of a stranger it did not look like much of a blessing but since she was not living in her car, she had enough money to pay her current bills (which weren’t much) and money to buy food (barely) she really could not complain. Wants and needs were two very different things but as always, she added to her prayer, “and Lord, I pray for more than enough.”.

She put down her bible and got up to finish getting ready and leave for work. Rushing to the bathroom, she scooped up her hair into a clip and sprayed it into obedience with her cheap drug story hair spray. Next came the face washing and makeup. She did a full-scale application of foundation, blush, lipstick and eyeshadow and even curled her eyelashes before applying her mascara. Even when in ‘corporate America’, Simone felt it was important to look her best which for her included; makeup, hair done and jewelry on, even if she was just waitressing. Next came her uniform. The most ridiculous thing she ever had to wear in her life. Since Miss. Daisy’s Tea Parlor tried to mimic an old fashioned Victorian era tea room, all the waitresses were required to look the part. This meant mutton sleeves and long hot skirts in black with white caps and aprons, even in the summer. Despite the silly get-up and serving tea all day, Simone had grown to love tea and everything about it. She especially liked it when some of the customers would dress in period clothing. Their outfits were colorful and exotic while hers was merely functional and drab. Her one small act of individuality in her costume, was the bright red lipstick she always wore. Placing some dry kibbles in Maxine’s dish and checking to make sure she had plenty of fresh water for the day, Simone walked out the door.

Getting into her very worn out car, Simone closed the door being careful not to slam the skirt of her dress in the door jam. Just as the car was warming up, she pulled into the parking lot of the Victorian house that had been converted, and painted in a tastelessly garish manner, into Miss. Daisy’s Tearoom and Millinery, in Old Colorado City. Using her key, she opened the door and started the morning prep. A little while later, she heard a car outside. Looking out the window, she saw the cook drive up. Simone had arrived her usual half an hour early. Betty, the cook, was always on time and Kate, the other waitress, was always late. Today was going to be a big day. They had two Red Hat© parties coming, plus three separate reservations, all within a half an hour of each other. The tea house opened at eleven. It was seven ’til. Betty took over the kitchen, leaving Simone free to vacuum and check the tables to see if they needed wiping down and if the salts and peppers needed topped off. She finished just as the first Red Hatter came through the door. A 90 year old cutie, she had that beautiful white hair that looked like spun sugar. She wore a red hat with a generous helping of feathers and sequins, a lovely purple dress with long sleeves, and a red and purple feather boa wrapped around her neck. She, too, had put on makeup this morning and topped off her look with some great sparkling earrings and a brooch.

“Good morning, Violet!” Simone greeted her enthusiastically. She was a regular and Simone had enjoyed getting to know her. Many of the ladies were a joy to be around. Some were cranky and cheap with their tips, but for the most part, they were like Violet, glad to be alive and still full of life. Vi, as she liked to be called, came over to give Simone a hug.

“How are you doing, Simone, dear? Got a handsome rich man yet? One that will spoil you and buy you the world?” Vi asked with a chuckle.

Violet spoke in a crisp, pleasant clip, pronouncing every consonant, sealing every word and never used slang.

“No, not yet, and besides, I wouldn’t want the whole world, it would be too much to clean!”

The two women exchanged pleasantries for a couple of minutes then the conversation turned to their dogs. Vi also owned a papillion.

“Daphne sure did enjoy Maxine’s visit last week. It took her another week to recuperate, but it was the liveliest I have seen her in a while, Simone.”

Simone remembered the play date when she had taken Maxine to over at Vi’s house. The two dogs had romped in the backyard for most of the time Simone had been there. Vi had served Simone the most delicious scones while she was there. Better than that, Vi had given her the recipe. They, like her friendship with Vi, would always be a heart treasure for Simone. Simone settled Vi into a seat by the window. Simone knew she liked to look out the window and see what was going on out on ‘The Ave’, Colorado Avenue. She liked to ‘people watch’ the tourists.

“Foot traffic is a little thin today,” Vi said, “do you think it will pick-up?”

“It better. If it doesn’t I just might have to rob a bank!” came Simone’s standard reply. The official tourist season was still to come, when the streets brimmed with people. Simone was confident it would pick-up here in the next month or two, especially the closer it got to summer. Simone excused herself and went to get Vi some ice water with lemon.

“Here you go, Vi,” She said as she set the glass down.

“Oh! I did not hear you come in,” came Vi’s startled reply. She had been deep in thought but now that Simone had broke through her reverie, she looked away from the window and up at Simone. Just then the door opened and laughter followed the slight breeze in as three more ladies joined Vi at the table. Simone left them to their ‘hellos’.

Back in the kitchen, Betty was pulling hot scones out of the oven.

“Ten more minutes on the quiches,” she told, Simone, “how we doin’ out there?”

“Great! All but two of them are here.”

They worked in silence for a few minutes.

“What time did Kate say she was coming in today?” asked Betty

“She didn’t. Does she ever?”

They both chuckled at the joke. They loved Kate, what wasn’t to love? They just didn’t like her unreliability. Simone finished spreading the cold curry chicken salad onto the croissants, adding; sprouts, slices of tomato, & lettuce before putting the tops on then cut each sandwich in half and neatly arranged the pieces on the middle plate of a three tiered, vertical serving stand. In between the chicken croissant sandwich were nestled little cucumber and butter finger sandwiches. Next she took the chocolate covered strawberries off the wax paper they had been sitting on and placed them on the bottom tray with other bite sized fruits and petit fours covered in bright frosting.

The scones were last; placed on the top tier so that their heat would not rise up to whatever food was sitting on the plate above which could cause it to melt and/or fall apart or wreck its taste. Each table was also treated to a tray with three wells in it; each well filled with either cream, lemon curd or jam. Checking on the ladies again, Simone saw they were ready to begin. Each of the tables of four was given a three tiered tray filled with the delectable finger foods Simone and Betty had just made, for the ladies to enjoy with their tea. She took the last of the trays of food and tea out to her ‘guests’ and after a little explanation about the food, she let them be so they could enjoy themselves without interruption. She always referred to the customers as her guests. She would have loved to be the owner of Miss. Daisy’s. Simone had tried several times to get Cora to jazz up the menu or serve an exotic tea or plan a special chocolate tea. All her ideas had been shot down. However, since Cora was rarely at the restaurant, Simone would sneak in some of her ideas whenever she could. They had all been a hit with her customers except for the most stubbornly unadventurous. Simone was always pouring over tea books for new recipes and tips on how to do things better or to add variety. She helped Betty clean up in the kitchen while the ladies were having their meeting. The occasional sounds of laughter would find its way down the hall and into the kitchen. Simone loved it. Being single and alone, she was sometimes lonely too. Remembering the voices and the laughter from the day helped her at night when she was feeling blue. All she had to do to feel better sometimes, was to think about the day. The happy faces of the customers, the smells from the kitchen and especially the laughter, helped ease some of the emptiness in her life. All that, plus Maxine, made her feel blessed, but there were some things missing in her life that friends, food and pets couldn’t replace. Simone wanted her own business. She desperately wanted something to call her own. Her friends at work thought she needed a man. THAT was the furthest thing from her mind. She put the dishes in the sanitizer a little too hard earning herself a raised eyebrow from Betty.

“Something on your mind, Kid?” Betty asked.

“No. Nothing!” Simone’s reply was a little enthusiastic for Betty. She grunted and turned back toward the rack she had taken out of the oven. The next reservation had wanted quiche and although there was plenty in the freezer from the day before, they knew the supply would be wiped out and none would be left for the lunch crowd, if there was a lunch crowd. The bell to the door rang interrupting her thoughts. She looked around the corner and saw five ladies walk in. She greeted them with a warm smile as she confirmed they were her next reservation. Kate was still missing in action. Simone felt herself getting nervous. Simone and Betty had been unable to convince Cora that she needed to let Kate go and find a replacement who knew how to tell time. Simone took the ladies to their seats and set them up with menus and flatware. When they were ready, Simone put their order in with Betty and went to check on her Red Hatters. She was greeted with a happy cheer as she entered the room. Everyone was smiling and seemed to be having a great time, and more than one of the ladies complimented her on the food. Simone smiled to herself. The gamble of jazzing up the usually bland chicken salad had paid off. She had read about the lavender sugar used to make lavender scones in a magazine and, since it was Vi’s Red Hat group, and she knew far enough in advance they were coming, Simone had made the lavender sugar herself a week ago. She fairly skipped into the kitchen on the wings of praise she had received and shared the kind words with Betty.

“You oughta be running your own restaurant,” said Betty, “you have the know how–”

Simone cut her off before she could get too far.

“There’s a big difference between know how and funding, Betty, you know that. Until I win the lottery, I’ll just have to make do with the way things are.”

Betty started to protest.

“No, Betty, let’s not even go there. I just don’t have the money and talking about something I want when I know it’s out of reach is too painful for me.”

Vi was passing by the kitchen on her way tot he ladies’ room when she heard what Simone said.

“Hope deferred makes a heart grow weak, Lord. If it is your will, show me how to bless Simone.” she prayed as she shuffled down the hall way.


Vi’s red hat group stayed for three hours until they wore themselves out talking and planning their next gathering. Other than the reservations, no other customers came in all day. Right on schedule, the door opened at 3 pm. and in walked Cora. Kate had not come in, nor had she called to say she wasn’t coming in.

“How’d we do?” asked Cora leaning on the counter. Cora only cared about the bottom line. She did not care enough to come in and contribute toward making the tea room a success. She felt she had done her part by putting the tea room into existence and she expected her employees to carry the burden of making it work.

Simone had just finished counting the drawer and handed the envelope over to Cora so she could see for herself. They had barely hit $300.00 and that was even with some of the purchases from the Red Hat ladies. If she was disappointed, Cora hid her emotions. Simone took her apron off and stuffed it in her bag to take it home to be washed. Her day was done at the tea room but it would still be a while before she made it home. Since her tips at the tea room were getting smaller due to the lack of customers, she was on her way to a job interview for another restaurant on the evening shift. She hated the idea of leaving Maxine alone so much, but if she didn’t start bringing in more money she wouldn’t even be able to afford Max’s food. Though it wasn’t required of her, Simone usually stayed late to help clean up the kitchen. Not today. Cora didn’t know about the interview but Betty did and gave her a reassuring wink as she left to get into her car. As she walked across the parking lot, Simone saw the owner of the building talking to a man she had never before seen. They were pointing to different areas of the building as the spoke to one another. Their conversation came to a halt as she walked by and resumed after she had gotten into her car. She briefly wondered what they were talking about but was soon too busy driving to think about it anymore.