First, I grabbed the tray from the living room, still sitting idle on the table. Then I walked back to the kitchen to finish. The “table” itself was a dark walnut chest. It was the first thing I noticed when we walked in, kind of like a treasure chest but with a flat top: brass lock, robust, big, the length of the floor almost so every seat could rest their drink on its finished top and beautiful. Handmade, I stroked it as they explored the rest of the place. I had opened it earlier to find two heavy blankets neatly folded and left them, appreciating the owner’s care in setting them there for us. To me it was the perfect place for them. It was the only time I felt perfection in this house save the moment I peeked through the back window to see her. Not the kind of chest for magazines but cozy utility. Both were thick: one a monotone light green and the other white and speckled with little pine-colored trees. I imagined them a set. Lifting them only to find out what was underneath the solid comforter, nothing, I left them in their storage container and finger the lock, the top. We knew it was a table not just by its placement but the set of coaster on top: blue and brown marble.
“I love all the wood!” she screeched.
I took in the horror of the rest of the place: not small but felt trapped. The walls are beige, all beige and there was no art work except for one very large painting that hung above the fireplace: a portrait of trees bordering a lake and a small canoe at shore. The painting itself was proficient. I could say it was well done and someone had taken time with it. Not sloppy but uninviting, obsolete. I let my finger trace the edge. It was oil, or at least it looked like oil but it was far too large. Large and made for obsolescence.
“Look the cabinets are all wood,” she said.
I remember her screech when we first walked in, all wood
I marveled at the chest but then marched to the first bedroom, claiming the downstairs as our own. I was going to ignore the garish place while being stuffed inside of it the way one ignores the sanitarium the same. The counters were too light, a golden oak, and with all this tree around us why. And with such a gorgeous chest why? It was fake. With granite tops. It looked cheap. Maybe it was the color I couldn’t stand, the staining that made the company so grating like the way a city walls you. But this was underwhelming, like I wanted more of a bizarreness if we were going to watch the walls shake. Wooden cabinets don’t normally bother me but this did. The couch, armchair, lamp and table all this cream color matching the carpet. Everything this eggshell nothing and the counter tops too light yet there was: my pretty pirate chest in the middle of the floor. I saw it first and knew I’d return to it. I was perseverating as I unpacked my stuff. I left yours by the door. The room was better: blue drapes, open so I could see the robins cling to branches, and white painted furniture. Like a child’s room but at least it wasn’t that Ikea stain. The bed resembled a day bed and the comforter and sheets matched the drapes: blue with white accents and pillows: a sprinkling of embroidered flowers. A sprinkling of white among the periwinkle. I pulled out my own tray first.
The tray was dark walnut. It is handmade and I began to draw the triangle on it and then I set it on the bureau: white with a mirror attached like a little girl lives here. There was even a small white jewelry box; one of those old cheap ones that when you pull it out, you see pink foam to stick your earrings in, a place for rings. All that is missing is the strangled ballerina or the the strung peach pearls losing their tautness. This is a child’s room I have picked and fit for a child’s name, you said. Lilian. I heard the back door open and close and footsteps run upstairs. You probably had gone out and I was fine with it. The house should be done in dark walnut as if we are in the middle of the tree. What a better setting. At least create the mood. We are in the middle of the forest now, night and I began to set the tray methodically: lemon, saucer, teacup, spoon, napkin, sugar, honey. The sugar is in a white porcelain bowl with a lid, the tiny silver spoon on the napkin next to it and the honey is still in its plastic bear. I have no time to pour the honey into a separate canister nor do I think you would mind.
I pick it up carefully. I had already poured the tea and headed into the bathroom where you were waiting, head back against the tile, eyes closed. I set the tray on the closed toilet seat and sat on the floor. The tea was Earl Gray, not that I needed the caffeine but appreciated the orange undertones, the careful cultivation of scent and flavor.
“Bergamot,” I said to no one.
I don’t even use sugar or honey but making the set complete comforted me, especially with how things stood between us.
“Do you want me to continue? The story?”
Your head turned slightly towards me and I sighed, unsure of how to really approach you.
“Ok, I will start with Valentine’s Day BUT,” I raised my inflection, watching the steam, not yet taking a sip, “I prefer no interruptions in tale. And,” I looked at you, “I expect no judgment from someone like you.”
My name is a child’s name you told me and I am acting like a spoiled child.
“The first thing you should know is my name in this story is Sada. Sada Black. No interruptions, David. I’m gonna tell you how I moonlight.”
“Lilian” or “Sada Black”