Tea Ceremony

They come from different directions – she from the east, he from the west.

The eight-lane motorway is almost deserted. The Mercedes in which he is being driven passes slowly through a pall of yellow smog. There are plants in the central reservation where each leaf, tendril, frond of limp grass is dusted, choked, almost fossilised, making the present seem to come from a time lost in antiquity.

In the distant garden, in which she now waits, it is raining. There is peacefulness – not peace, for the world is alive. It is beautiful. Quiet. Birds sing. The sky is grey but somehow luminous, bright. The air is clear. Bamboo shivers, shakes – whispers of eternity in the breeze. Water drips. The iridescent grass, upon which she gently steps, is cut short. As she walks the sound reminds her of crunching crêpe paper. She smiles at the distant memory.

Around the lawn a square of small wooden black and red lacquered tables and chairs has been arranged as in the border of a chess board: red, black, red, black. There is a gap in one side of the border to allow entry. At the centre of the lawn there is a single black table on which are placed two white tea bowls. Two chairs are set facing each other on opposite sides of the table. The chairs are wet. She sits on the chair facing the entrance to the garden. Fine rain falls. She waits.

A serving woman approaches and sets down two cast iron teapots on the table; the rain sizzles beneath their heat. The woman slightly bows, places a cotton cloth next to the teapots, turns and walks away. 

Looking up, she sees him walking into the garden and onto to the lawn; with minute almost imperceptible steps he seems to glide across the grass until he stands in front of her. He is dressed all in white. He carries a small red and black lacquered box. He bows and sets the box on the table. She nods. Using the cloth the serving woman brought she protects her hand and fills both of the tea bowls. They drink green tea. 

The breeze stops; the bamboos are silent. They are alone in the garden. The birds have flown. Water drips.

Do you have it? she asks.
He turns the box towards her and opens the lid so she can see inside.
It really is his? she asks, looking at a human heart.
He’ll not hurt you ever again, he says.
With great gentleness and affection she puts her hand on his hand. Thank you, she says. 

They drink tea.

There is peacefulness, not peace, for they are alive. It is beautiful. The sky is grey but somehow luminous, bright. The air is clear. Once more the bamboo shivers, shakes – whispers of death in the breeze. 

She closes the lid of the box.

Water drips.

I hope you enjoyed this story.  Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday. 
Please feel free to pass them on to others you know who may be interested.
You can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door” here >>>More

© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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