Afternoon Tea by Catherine O’Brien

The green-eyed monster invited us to afternoon tea. His abode is not what you are expecting; it is graced with beauty and net curtains made of interlaced asparagus spears. He sauteed a hole a few months ago to watch his neighbour’s willows belly dancing in the breeze. He tells us this without allowing the dialogue of his body to engage in any mirth. His flamingo wife teeters in her stilettos as she helps escort us inside. It is clear from the outset that he lives a cosseted life nestled in a grove of wonderfully fragrant orange blossom trees. 

The sitting room is a banquet for the eyes. A ceramic cat spins a touch too quickly on a gramophone, dancers leap from the walls with their legs kicking and punching the air, a sole dragonfly provides an air display and a lemon curd cake calls to us from an exquisitely decorated table. We sit on pastel coloured French Fancies and fight the urge to eat our seats. There is a matchbox at the room’s centre and he stands atop it, creating not a hint of a crease as he adopts a ballet pose. We marvel at the lightness of his burden on the world and applaud until our palms sting in protest. A grandfather clock eavesdrops in the background coyly depreciating time in between stroking its ego. 

If he could, he would have given every particle of himself to the story he told. Every time he spoke, laughter left him slowly in a peculiar movement like a guest leaving a party before the singsong over the birthday cake. However, his eyes do most of the work forming an ocular entreaty not to envy the felicity of his life. He knows all too well how life can be filleted like a fine cheese by misfortunes, he sees the emptiness we carry hollowed into our bones. Our knees were almost touching and his gaze never betrayed its purpose and held us close. Still, our eyes clambered out of our sockets when he screamed “Beg the world’s forgiveness”. We were terrified and thankful when he took the lead and promptly explained what he meant.

“It always tries to make itself a set piece like decadent baubles on a Christmas tree or rain on an umbrella. Envy, jealousy…whatever you want to call it”. 

We nodded vigourously knowing instinctively what he meant. His face was incontrovertibly honest like a child’s who has been caught scribbling on a wall. 

“Joy is born of necessity; it sometimes fumbles unfastening the buttons but ultimately what lies beneath is worth the wait. I’ve learned that the hard way, I’ve had to wriggle free from the quicksand of discontent time and time again. Don’t follow the ways I’ve disowned”.

We leant forward and permitted him to cloak us in the exaltation of his experience.

“I now blow a kiss should I see an orphaned star in the night sky. I collect the ashes of thoughts which get caught in life’s turnstile and resurrect them later. This house is full of tracing paper, I sketch around our lives and discard not a moment. I tether balloons to others to lift them up. I view laughter as being as necessary and vital as an errand to be run. I write long luscious sentences to reach out and I eat cake carefully nibbling around the edges to preserve the cherry on top”. 

Catherine O’Brien is an Irish writer of poems, flash fiction and short stories. She writes bi-lingually in both English and Irish. Her work has appeared in print and online in Iris Comhar, Idle Ink, The Raven Review, Virtual Zine and other fine publications. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. Her work is forthcoming in Janus Literary, Loft Books and more. You can find her on Twitter @abairrud2021.