Mavis sat alone in her rocking chair, wrapped in an old frayed shawl with a dirty afghan across her lap. She stared at the dusty television that no longer worked, and wondered if anyone would knock on her door today.
The postman used to knock everyday, handing her mail with a cheerful smile and a good word, but recently he had begun leaving the mail outside on the mat – not that she received mail every day. Some days she was too tired or sore to open the door, bend over and pick it up. Those were not good days for the mail, because something bad always happened to it. Rain would soak it through until the ink ran, or a bug would inevitably get squashed on it, or a neighbor’s dog or cat would leave footprints across the envelopes as they ran through her yard. Wet and dirty mail is not fun to open.
Today she longed for company. She was tired, but was on the lesser side of sore and thought she could make a pot of tea for a visiting friend. She thought it would be nice if her nephew, Tommy, would drop by and fix the television. He was handy with electronics, but she didn’t know if this tv could be fixed again. She had no money for a new one, either. She shook her head. Money, money, money. Everything costs too much nowadays.
The small stipend she worked all those years to put into social security was now barely enough to pay for her groceries each month. She was lucky Harold had paid off the house before he died, because she could not afford to live if she had a rent or a mortgage payment nowadays. She kept the heat low and only used the air conditioning in emergencies, had no cable and only a house phone without a long distance plan. She didn’t need one, as she had nobody left to call these days, and she needed to keep costs down.
A knock sounded at the door. She looked up, startled. She was lost in her thoughts again. Was that the door? She slowly got to her feet, holding the rocker steady and letting the aphgan fall to the floor. She stared at it for a moment and then shook her head. That must be how it gets so dirty. She stepped on it because she could take a long enough step to pass over it. Shaking her head again, she went to the door.
A dirty little girl stood outside, holding her mail.
“Here, Missus,” she said. “I saw your mail laying on your mat, so I thought I’d get it for you.” At the aged woman’s nod, the girl continued. “My name’s Emmy Gorth. I live over there.” She pointed at a house with a leaning porch and chipped paint diagonally across the street.
Mavis studied her for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders. “Hello there, young Emmy,” she said. “I’m Mavis Bell. Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”
Emmy looked at her dress and then at Mavis with a lift of her eyebrow.
“Oh, that doesn’t matter. You’ll be sitting on a proper chair, so it won’t even show.”
Emmy looked across the street and then down at the mat, thinking.
“I guess I could. I’m not much of a fan of tea, though. Do you have any Koolaid?”
Mavis put a thumb under her chin for a moment and then shook her head, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any. Only tea.” She tilted her head sadly to the side as the smile slipped from her face.
“Um… okay. I’ll try tea, I guess,” said Emmy.
Mavis’ face lit up as the girl walked past, handing her the mail. Mavis dropped it on a side table and guided Emmy to a wooden table with two rickety wooden chairs. Emmy sat down rigidly and fanned the wrinkles out from her skirt. Mavis went to start the kettle.
“You are a very special guest today, so guess what?” Mavis asked with a smile.
“What?” replied Emmy with a sparkle in her eye.
“We are going to use my very best china service for our tea today.”
Emmy’s eyes grew wide and she watched every move Mavis made as she prepared the tea.
“I think I have some sugar cookies left here,” Mavis said, fishing around in an old coffee tin on the counter. She brought the tea and cookies to the table on a fancy silver tray.
“Now be careful, it’s hot. And here, put this honey in it,” Mavis said.
Emmy stirred the honey around the rose-covered tea cup in a gentle manner, suddenly sticking her pinky up. Mavis’ eyes sparkled as she smiled. Emmy picked up the cup, blew over the top and tentatively tasted the tea.
Her eyes flew up in surprise. “This is pretty good! It tastes like lemon!” She took a bite of cookie. “Mmmm…”
The two talked over the tea and cookies for a couple of hours. Mavis regaled the girl with stories from her youthful days until all of a sudden Emmy’s eyes grew wide and she popped up off the chair.
“I have to go! My mom will be home anytime now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to see you go, Emmy, but I hope you come back to visit another day,” Mavis told her. Emmy nodded and waved and rushed out the door. Mavis smiled and cleaned up the dishes.
I believe I feel good enough to make a sandwich, she thought.