The Art of Brewing Tea
The night was getting darker.
Cheri, a white Kacheek, was home alone. Her sister had, as usual, went outside in search for some adventure or whatever. Xynthi was out of the door almost every night, but today she hadn’t been home at all. The pink Xweetok was a restless creature who had to see everything, experience everything, do everything. In truth, Cheri suspected, many nights she was simply bored and needed some exercise to get rid of excess energy. After all, it was taxing on her to sit still during the school hours. Xynthi had asked her to join her on more than one occasion, but sports and running had never really been Cheri’s thing and she usually declined the offer, almost without fail. Reading novels and writing her poems in the darkening twilight had always called to her more. Besides, wouldn’t it be fair if Xynthi would join her evening activities for a change? Even once?
At least the sisters shared a cup of tea every night, and talked about their day. Cheri hoped it was as important for Xynthi as it was for her.
It was 7.45 PM. Cheri finished cleaning the kitchen. The counters were spotless, all the dishes were done, and she sighed contently. It was time for her nightly ritual. A small smile crept on her face, and she filled her kettle that was waiting on the stove. She reached to the cupboards and took an airtight white box that had delicately painted blue flowers on it. Cheri had decorated the box herself, and was quite proud of how it had turned out. She had never considered herself particularly artistic, but the porcelain box simply had called for attention. When it was ready, the white kacheek was relieved of how well she managed the painting.
The kacheek out on the kettle on the stove, and filled it with clear water. She was humming while waiting for it to boil. She didn’t notice that she was tapping her left foot at the same time. Every now and then she checked the window. It was getting dark outside, and there was no sign of Xynthi yet.
There was a simple, white cloth and the table, and Cher smoothed it while setting the table. She lighted a candle, put a couple of blueberry scones on a plate, and set two porcelain cups. The blueberry scones were Xynthi’s favourites.
Cheri frowned. The tea would cool too much soon. Xynthi should have been home already. Feeling vexed, she searched for a tea-cozy from their cupboard.
Cheri waited for 15 minutes still. Finally she gave up, sighed and poured herself a cup. The tea-cozy she had knitted worked surprisingly well, and the tea wasn’t too cold yet. Angry tears began to burn behind her eyes, and she swallowed dry sobs while she dipped a scone to the tea. Xynthi was very rarely out after 8.30, and this was definitely not the day for her to be late. Cheri had a favor to ask.
The Kacheek had already cleared the table when Xynthi arrived, fighting the rise of disappointment and resentment.
The pink Xweetok was bursting with excitement, her eyes were sparkling.
“Guess what I found?” she asked and smiled, holding her paws behind her back. Cheri looked at her, and shrugged. The Xweetok didn’t seem to notice Cheri’s mood, and the willful ignoring felt more hurtful than anything.
“I saw what you were doing at school.” She grinned.
* * *
Cheri was looking intently at the blackboard while her teacher was telling about the history of Neopia. The air in the classroom was stale and a bit dusty. Even though history had always been her favourite subject, it was impossible for her to concentrate today. On her way to school, she had found a lonely little Faellie. It had been hiding behind some boxes in an alley, scared and lost.
Of course she had given the poor creature most of her lunch sandwiches. Of course she had tried to catch it and take it with her. The shivering Faellie curled inside her backpack, and Cheri did all she could to keep her hidden the rest of the day. But it was difficult to pay attention to teachers when her hands, without fail, disappeared into her backpack and petted the poor petpet.
Why wasn’t it allowed to bring petpets into school?
Finally it was time to go home. Cheri grabbed her stuff and rushed outside.
Suddenly she felt how someone yanked her backpack, and the Kacheek dropped it.
“Hey, what’s the rush?” her friend, and striped Poogle named Carla yelled. “Come to my place today! Mom is making cookies””
The backpack came to life, and the poor Faellie sprinted to safety.
“Wow! What was that?”
Cheri burst into tears, exclaimed that she had to go, and run after her new friend. The Kacheek spent hours on the nearby alleys, but couldn’t find them anymore.
* * *
“Where were you?” Cheri snapped, trying to hide the anger in her tone. “I needed your help with something.” She didn’t look at Xynthi, but kept her eyes on the book she had been reading.
“I know,” Xynthi said, still grinning. “Your Faellie disappeared, right?”
“How did you know? I was so careful while hiding her!”
“Come on. When is the last time you were daydreaming in history? Of course I noticed the small bundle of fluff,” Xynthi said and grinned.
Something was clearly moving behind her back.
“I found her!” Xynthi showed the Faellie. It trilled softly, and flew into Cheri’s arms and nuzzled against her cheek. The yellow fur was a bit matted, but it would be fun to groom them.
“...What?” Tears filled her eyes, and she clutched the Faellie like she would never let them go ever again.
“I saw what happened with Carla, so I run home and got your shirt and some cookies.” Xynthi explained. “You were already looking and I didn’t know where to find you, so…” she continued, looking unusually bashful.
“This…” Cheri choked, “this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done to me.” She petted the Faellie and sniffled.
“I knew you had wanted one for a long time now,” the Xweetok said. “You told me that so many times during the evening teas. Besides, I was hanging in town anyway and Faellie-seeking was a nice activity,” she grinned.
Wordlessly Cheri went to hug her sister. The Faellie flew to her shoulder, and the Kacheek went to make another pot of tea.
“I want to hear all about your adventure,” she said and smiled. Xythi was already setting the table. The sisters grinned simultaneously when the Xweetok put more scones on the table.
Cheri lighted the candle.
“Well,” the Xweetok began. “I figured that the Faellie would probably recognise your scent, so I...”
The story continued for a while like that.
After that, Cheri made it her mission to keep a fresh pot of tea warm, no matter how long it would take for Xynthi to get home. Her Faellie (she named them Minerva) kept her company and helped with her evening-rituals. But every now and then, the sisters returned home at the same time, still giggling about a shared adventure to the next city where they had found a mysterious bookshop or a museum, sometimes an abandoned cabin in the woods.
But no matter what, they would drink their tea every night...