Monday, 1 March 2010

AFTERNOON TEA by A. J. Humpage

Hey folks, let's all share a nice cuppa with AJ...

Afternoon Tea

She was hungry again.

The inner gnawing of her guts felt like spiders crawling around in the pit of her stomach. She’d ignored it for a long while, but it just kept coming back, stronger each time. She wasn’t sure how long he could go on ignoring it, the ache, because it would keep festering, growing. She had to eat soon.

She needed company, in the strangest sense. Friendship, not companionship. She sent out an invitation – she chose wisely - and her excitement at receiving a guest was justified. It was the first time in months she’d been able to enjoy afternoon tea with someone.

‘Take a seat,’ Rosita said, regally waving her hand towards the large table in the centre of the dining room.

His name was David. He was a widower. He was short, with a slight paunch, and greying hair fast retreating across his scalp. She’d known him for almost two years, one of the many friends she’d made since moving to the quiet village of Hempton.

David approached the table, quickly noticed the vinyl floor gleaming beneath the sunlight that urged through the large window. He sat down; observed the thin tablecloth, some kind of vinyl easy clean material, not a cotton one as he expected, and two teapots, one green, one white. He’d heard diluted whispers about Rosita’s oddities, but he saw that as rather an endearing quality. Despite her eccentricities, he felt at ease within her rather darkened dining room. The patterned wallpaper and long, dark green drapes gave the room a hint of Victoriana that somehow lulled him, and he relaxed against the chair.

Rosita sliced through the carrot cake and transferred the piece to a waiting china plate. She poured his tea; a gentle movement, unhurried despite the overwhelming excitement swilling in her guts.

‘Enjoy,’ Rosita told her guest as she sat down opposite him. Her voice was soft, like a breeze over grass. ‘There’s plenty.’

‘Thanks for inviting me for tea, Rosita. I don’t get out much, you know, not since Maddy died. This makes a pleasant change.’

Rosita smiled, exposing two sharp front teeth. Her eyes were distantly dark, smooth like glass, yet just as hard and cold. ‘It beats sitting at home all day watching rubbish daytime TV.’ She laughed, but her skin remained unmoved by the sudden movement, her even complexion seemingly hewn from alabaster and quite unblemished, despite being 66. Some said she looked only about 40. ‘You should be out enjoying your retirement, David.’

David sliced into carrot cake with a fork. ‘You’re right. It’s taken a while to get motivated. No one likes to talk about death, but I found I needed to after Maddy died. It helped, but I did purposefully shut myself off for a while, just to come to terms with it.’

Yes, it was a shame about his wife. Cancer.

Rosita watched as David picked up the cake and put it to his lips. She honed in, focusing on the glaze of his saliva over his plump, masculine lips.

He opened his mouth and took a bite.

Something fluttered around her body. She gazed at the way the cake crumbled onto his lip, the way he licked the crumbs, the glistening dark pink muscle catching every speck. Her eyes bloomed like an unfolding flower - her breath caught in her throat.

David dabbed his mouth with a napkin. ‘Aren’t you having any?’

‘Oh, I had my fair share while making it fresh this morning,’ she replied modestly, her eyes capturing his expression like a camera flash. ‘I was very naughty, eating as I made it. But you go right ahead. After all, I made it especially for you.’

David hesitated, quietly contemplated her words. ‘I guess you’ve been feeling lonely since Paul stopped coming to see you.’

Her expression drooped. She remembered how much she loved Paul’s company. Her soft demeanour had lulled him into her home, coaxing him in - a curious, lost cat - but behind the faux Turner paintings, the gleaming ornaments and trinkets, there lurked a ravenous silhouette, eager to pounce.

Rosita blinked slowly. Paul had stopped being her guest two months ago. She remembered he was a gentle man, a widower approaching 60, with a wide grey moustache. It was a shame; she enjoyed his company, his witty repartee.

'I do miss him,’ she replied, lifting the teapot beside her. She poured some tea into her own cup. ‘The police still don’t know what happened to him.’

David nodded solemnly. ‘Do you think something awful happened?’

Rosita shrugged her broad shoulders. ‘Who knows? I mean, he never said anything to me; he never gave me the impression he was going to leave the village. It’s just too dreadful to contemplate what’s happened to him.’

David leaned forward. ‘What did the police say?’

Rosita slowly put the teacup to her lips, peered over the rim. The sunlight behind her silhouetted her head and brightened the particles of water in the steam rising from the hot tea. She sipped, let the liquid soothe her and wash away the lingering hunger.

David was motionless.

Her stomach gurgled inwardly. ‘I think they’re still treating it as suspicious.’

He slowly sat back. ‘Poor Paul.’

‘Let’s not dwell.’ She gestured. ‘Don’t let your tea get cold. How’s the carrot cake?’

David took another large slice. ‘It’s beautiful, very moist.’ He washed it down with several large gulps of tea. When he looked up, he saw Rosita smiling at him, both hands poised as she held the teacup, sitting very still, as though enthralled by him.

Her round, shark like eyes blinked. ‘More tea?’

David nodded, but wasn’t quite sure why he was nodding when there was still half a cup left. He looked up again. The sunlight looked hazy, and seemed to be taking on a different colour in his mind.

‘What tea is this? It has an unusual tang,’ he commented.

‘Assan,’ Rosita answered. She frowned. ‘Why? Does it taste off?’

‘Oh no, it’s not unpleasant. It tastes really good.’

Rosita reached over to the other teapot and topped up his teacup. ‘Good. Drink up.’

Somewhere inside his mind her voice sounded like a schoolmistress, telling him to drink up, eat up, there’s a good little boy, David...

He placed the cup to his lips, and he knew the liquid was hot, yet the pain did not register. It bypassed the synapses and instantly evaporated, and he drank as though quenching a thirst, to rid the feeling that his mouth was full of sand.

Rosita settled back and picked up a few currents from her scone. She slipped them into her mouth, rolled them around her tongue as though tasting a deep, full-bodied wine. A tease; a prerequisite of desire.

Hot liquid spiralled down David’s throat and sluiced into his stomach. The sound of her licking her lips and sucking her finger seemed overtly loud, and it sent an erotic bolt right into his groin. He gulped the rest of his tea to stave off the sensation, but the tide churned and frothed, and he suddenly felt nauseous, light headed.

When he found her face again, it seemed as though the brightness of the afternoon had crept into the room like an interloper, and it now clouded her face with a beguiling haze.

He blinked hard. ‘Rosi...’

Rosita watched as David’s eyelids began to shutter. Something other than hunger now fluttered in her stomach. The rush of excitement was like a tide crashing and fizzing against the rocks.

She came forward, cocked her head. Her smile looked like the opening of the vulva...inviting him in, pulling him into her sexual cloud.

He saw movement, but his eyes wouldn’t focus.

‘David, there’s a lot of colouuurrrr in youuure cheeeksh...’

These words...slow, like a vinyl record on the wrong speed, slowly filtered into his brain cells.

She moved, but the movement was so slow that his conscience began to panic; he could no longer decipher his surroundings, could barely make out what she was saying, and the blackness came swiftly, smothering...

The clang of his head against the china plate and cutlery seemed loud, disturbing the silence momentarily, and then he was still.

Rosita stared at him, face down in his carrot cake. Beneath his greying skin, she could see the last pulsing of a heartbeat. She got up from the table, turned around and wandered over to the window. Afternoon sunshine bathed the village common; sunlight winked through the trees, scattering patterns across the grass.

She drew the curtains, away from prying eyes, out of courtesy.

She moved back over to David, lifted his head. His eyes were wide, frozen in the moment of death. The poison had worked quickly and painlessly.

She let go, and his head flopped back into the squashed carrot cake. She could wait now; wait for his body to cool, wait for his blood to congeal. Wait for his body to ripen over the next few hours. She didn’t want too much of a mess, after all, even though the vinyl coverings made it easier to clean up afterward.

She drifted into the kitchen, then through to the utility room, hummed to herself. She opened the door into her garage, flicked on the light. At the far end of the garage stood a large chest freezer, whirring quietly. To the right of the freezer there was a large metal rack, full with assorted boxes and pots and jars. She approached the rack, lifted up a hessian sack. The hacksaw and cleaver clanked inside. Then she picked up a bucket.

She lifted the lid of the chest freezer. She smiled...a fat, doughy, self-satisfied smile. She reached in, touched the large, frosted plastic bag in the little rack stretching the width of the freezer. There was little else in the freezer, other than a couple of darkened ribs. Two months ago, it had been full with meat. Now it needed refilling.

She wiped ice from the plastic bag, smirked. ‘Oh, Paulie...look at you.’

Paul Benfield’s clouded, dead eyes permeated the frost, his hair and moustache thick with ice, skin frozen, pallid. His head was all that was left. And a couple of ribs.

She’d eaten the rest. But now she was hungry again.

She touched the bag with a tender, sharpened fingernail. ‘Don’t worry Paulie, you’ll have a friend to talk to very soon...’

She closed the lid. Flicked off the light.

Afternoon tea was over. It was time to prepare dinner.

AJ Humpage works full-time for a local authority, but in her spare time she writes articles for local business magazines, short stories and poetry, and she has just completed her first novel.


  1. First class writing that, AJ, with fantastically detailed descriptions, a great build up of suspense and imaginative similes.

    Top notch!

  2. I feel slightly giddy now...

    Good as always, AJ, but you know that. It drew me in as always and there was a good flow of tension and pace. Rosita sounds like my kind of girl.

    Keep it going and please remember that five lettered word.

    Pixie xx

  3. stunning. It's obvious she is not quite right, as it were, but in which way and what is going to happen to the hapless David is played out so carefully you have to go with it to find out.
    Love it!

  4. Nice one AJ! I like a good food story. I started getting worried at the vinyl surroundings - from there on in I was hooked.

  5. Classy. Very well written and involving.

  6. Your writing is always so beautifully crafted, and this is a perfect example. I love the sensual poetry you bring to your descriptions.

    A wonderful piece.

  7. This is entertaining. I was there and could feel every aspect of this.