Impact Arts serves up an original short story by law student Aaron Chan.
A light knock on the oak door could be heard as the old woman lowered her frail body into the rocking chair. Clutching her cup in one hand, she blew on the ginger tea in a small effort to cool the amber-coloured liquid. She peered down into the cup, wanting to know if the pieces of ginger had settled to the bottom.
“It’s unlocked!” she called out.
The heavy door swung open and a young man and woman walked into the house. The man, wearing a black overcoat, trailed a few feet behind the woman. In his right hand, he held a faded brown paper bag, and he placed it on the table beside a flickering candle. Gesturing toward the bag, he said, “Here it is, Ms. Robertson, just like you asked.”
“Thank you, dear. You understand, of course. I mean, with all my aching bones and muscles, you know how it is.”
“Oh, Grams. You move pretty well for a woman of your age. Don’t be so hard on yourself,” said the woman.
Both the man and woman gave her a kiss, one on each cheek.
“Please, please. Make yourselves comfortable,” said Ms. Robertson, nodding toward the sofa beside her. “Some tea, perhaps? It’s ginger.”
The two nodded their heads in approval. Pouring the ginger tea into two cups, Ms. Robertson placed them on saucers and then handed them to the couple. After a few moments of awkward silence, she said, “Well, I just hope I haven’t got you two worrying too much. You know how people feel about such things.”
“We’re not worried, Grams. It’s entirely up to you, in any case,” said the woman.
“And I really don’t think you should be so worried about it either,” added the man. “I think it would be best for you to just take deep breaths until the sensation subsides. Just to help you relax a bit. After that, you’ll be all right.”
“You won’t even feel a thing,” the woman said and smiled. “You can even mix it in with your favourite ginger tea.”
Ms. Robertson returned the smile and continued to swirl the bits of ginger that had stuck to her metal spoon. A few moments passed and she looked up.
“But won’t that make my tea taste bitter?” the old woman asked.
“Oh, Grams. It’s always about you and your tea, isn’t it?” laughed the woman. Anyway, you’ll only need to add a little bit. Not too much.”
“One of my best friends managed to get it and he seemed to be fine with it,” said the man.
“Oh, it was Jack, right? The skinny guy with the blond hair?” asked the woman.
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“He was a pretty nice guy. I only met him once, though.”
The three continued to sip from their teacups in an uncomfortable silence. Glancing up from his tea, the man said to the old woman, “You know what, if you’re really that worried about it all, we can stay here with you. Just in case you need some comfort or something.”
“No, no, no. That won’t be necessary. I think it’ll probably take two minutes. Three minutes at the longest. I’ve already bothered you two enough with this nonsense.”
Ms. Robertson looked outside and saw people walking down the sidewalk. Some appeared to be chatting and others were simply enjoying a stroll around the neighbourhood.
“Anyway, enough about me; how’s Jake? He still in trouble at school?”
“Well, ever since I told him, he’s been acting up and refusing to see his friends,” said the man, shaking his head.
“Also seeing as how you two are pretty close, you know how he can be sometimes,” the woman added.
“Little Jake still hasn’t changed, has he?” said Ms. Robertson. “Still the same.”
The three continued to take small sips of tea, occasionally glancing up and looking at each other. Breaking the silence, the woman finally said, “Anyway, Grams, thanks for having us over. We should be leaving now.”
“The ginger tea was really good. Thanks again,” said the man, as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Of course. I’m glad you two liked it,” said Ms. Robertson. “It’s the very least I could do for you.”
As the pair was getting up, the woman said, “Oh, let me help you blow out the candle, Grams.” She cupped her hand around the candle flame and blew it out. “Don’t want you forgetting to do it.”
“I almost did forget. Thank you.”
A few minutes after the man and woman’s departure, Ms. Robertson opened the brown paper bag and took out a small glass vial containing clear fluid. Holding it up to the light that was being filtered into the room through the dirty pane of glass, she squinted her eyes as she scrutinised the contents of the bottle. Unscrewing the plastic cap from the top of the vial, she emptied the transparent liquid into her cup, stirred it and took a sip. Gently placing the vial back on the table beside her, Ms. Robertson gazed out her window and smiled while slowly rocking back and forth in her rocking chair.