Mysteries, Love, and Tea
by Kelly F. Barr
Brad hated his train commute back and forth to the office everyday. The train was often crowded and nearly everyday, whoever sat next to him would reek of cigarette smoke, turning his stomach and engaging his gag reflex. He’d be forced to stand, his laptop bag over his shoulder and briefcase in his hand, or find another place to sit. If he stood, he’d arrive to an empty home with an aching shoulder and arm.
Today had been no different, and it had been a standing day. He turned the key in the lock and let himself into his empty house—no one to greet him and no sound except for the hum of the refrigerator. His mom and dad suggested he get a pet, but he wasn’t a cat person and didn’t want to have to walk a dog before and after work everyday.
What he wanted was a woman in his life, but all the women he’d met so far, since moving to Boston, were either shallow or more interested in his money than him, or weren’t interested in a long-term relationship. He sighed, moved to the kitchen and paged through the menus he had in a basket on the counter, pulling out the ones for restaurants he knew delivered. It was Friday and he was beat—didn’t feel like cooking or going out.
After ordering a pizza, bag of chips, and a two-liter bottle of root beer, he trudged to the bedroom to get out of his suit and tie. Exiting the bedroom in a comfortable pair of lounge pants and a sleeveless t-shirt, he slouched in his favorite chair, grabbed the t.v. remote, hit the power button and started flipping channels. He had just settled on a college basketball game, when the doorbell rang.
After paying the delivery guy, he put two pieces of Italian sausage pizza, oozing with cheese, on a plate, along with a handful of chips. He put ice in a glass and poured root beer over it. Then he returned to his favorite chair.
The basketball game ended at ten. Brad cleaned up his dinner items, ate a slice of the now cold pizza, put the rest in the fridge, along with the bottle of root beer, and went to bed.
Monday morning Brad stood on the platform in a crowd of people, once again waiting for the train. When the train pulled up, screeched to a halt, and the doors opened, people pushed to get through the doors. Brad didn’t even attempt to grab a seat, but instead stood and held onto the handrail.
As the train began to move, he saw a woman with waves of chocolate brown hair falling to her shoulders, slender legs beneath a tan skirt, and a book in front of her face. She seemed completely oblivious to everyone around her as she frequently turned the pages. Her eyes never left the book until the conductor’s voice came over the speaker, announcing they were entering Downtown Crossing.
That was Brad’s stop, but it appeared this woman planned to get off there as well. As she closed her book, he noticed she was wearing turquoise framed glasses over eyes the same chocolate color as her hair. She wore pink lipstick on bow-shaped lips. When the train stopped, she stood, picked up the briefcase at her feet, and when the door to the train car opened, she brushed past Brad sending the scent of sweet pea and violets to his nose. He moved to follow her.
He weaved in and out of other commuters to keep the woman in view. It helped that she was wearing a bright pink blouse. Though it was no easy feat, he managed to follow her to the street. She turned the same direction he did on the sidewalk. He could follow her much more easily now that the crowd thinned out a bit. As they drew closer to the office building where Brad worked, he wondered if she could be heading to the same building. However, she entered a skyscraper three buildings before his.
For weeks, the woman with chocolate hair and eyes rode in the same train car as he did, always reading a book during the ride. Brad wondered how to interrupt her reading and introduce himself, but his mind kept coming up empty.
Then one day, the train lurched to an unexpected stop and her book toppled to the floor. Brad bent and retrieved it, their eyes met as he handed it back to her, and he said, “Hello.”
She gave him a small smile, took the book, and said, “Thank you.”
Her voice was velvety soft like a caress upon his skin. “My name’s Brad.”
“What are you reading?”
“I enjoy mysteries, especially cozy mysteries. This is an Aurora Teagarden mystery called ‘A Fool and His Honey’ by Charlaine Harris.”
Brad grinned. “Catchy title. Do you enjoy tea and gardens as well?” He quirked an eyebrow.
Laney gave a little chuckle that sounded like water bubbling over rocks in a stream. “Actually, I do.”
“Maybe I could take you to tea some time?”
“Downtown Crossing,” the conductor’s voice came over the speaker.
Laney rose, met Brad’s gaze, and said, “That sounds lovely. How about this Saturday?”
Brad’s lower jaw went slack, but he regained control quickly. “Saturday would be perfect. Say two o’clock?”
Laney nodded. “It’s a date.” She reached into a pocket on the front of her briefcase, pulled out a business card and handed it to him. “Call me on your lunch break and I can give you my home phone number and address.”
Brad nodded, took the card, exited the train, and walked to his office with a new spring in his step.
Saturday afternoon, Brad took Laney to a Japanese tea house and garden. They enjoyed sitting in the garden sipping Japanese tea and getting to know one another. As they were leaving, Brad took Laney’s hand in his.