Tam poured tea for herself and her guest, into two delicate china cups. The tea had all been laid out on the sideboard, and when Rayna arrived, Tam prepared the cups and brought the tray over to the table. "I'm terribly sorry about the miscommunication." Her gentle smile led credibility to her soft-spoken words as she stirred her own tea. Rayna smoothed her hands on her legs and watched Tam lean back, the lovely cup in one hand and its matching saucer in the other. "You see, the word came that Teegan was out, so of course, he's..." Tam's eyes flickered down to her knees and back up. "... done." A stern look came into Tam's beautiful eyes as she gave the final word on Teegan.
Rayna picked up her cup and saucer and stirred with a tiny spoon. This was how it went with Tam. Tea, beauty, and polite conversation. Conflict caged in propriety. "But nobody cleared that with me." Rayna made her protest in a matching gentle tone. Teegan was part of Rayna's team. She should have been consulted, but what was done was done. One didn't raise one's voice to Tam.
Tam shrugged an apology. "Again, Mr. - ahem - informed my office directly." She sipped delicately at her tea cup. "You may, of course, take your concerns to him if you wish." It was a safe bet no one would ever attempt that. The only way up was through Tam. Only Tam knew that she was the end of the line. She always said she was taking orders... usually over a cup of hibiscus tea, always with a smile, always in a sweet, calm voice.
Rayna sighed and sipped her tea.
"Can you cover the lost personnel?" Tam inquired, her eyebrows arched over her cup.
Rayna set her cup down, rubbing her brow with one thumb and forefinger. Contradicting Tam would be career suicide. She was a sweet, lovely woman, and she was just following orders. Rayna was in a tricky situation. "Ugh... I mean..."
"Please, think carefully, as we share our tea. Don't answer in haste." She raised her cup in a silent toast, sipped, and added, "I'd hate to lose you, too."
Rayna forced a smile and mirrored the toast. Her mind raced. She sipped in sync with Tam. Could she adjust things? Sip. Was she due for Teegan's fate if she couldn't? Sip. The room felt warm. She opened the top button of her blouse. Sip. Her eyes blurred - what was the problem she was trying to solve? She stared blankly at the flowers in a vase behind Tam. Tam. "Um, I'm sorry -" Her own voice sounded miles away. "What was the question?" Her mind pushed out the slurred words while crawling through a web of conflicting thoughts.
"I think you know, dear."
In minutes, Rayna collapsed in the over-stuffed chair, her cup of poisoned tea spilling onto the floor. Tam gave a "Tch" sound and moved to press a napkin over the spill. "That will stain." She rang a small bell for one of the men to come take care of Rayna. There was work to be done, and she needed her space in proper order.
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Almost every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment. Today's story came from a random phrase ("Lovely Villain") that a friend threw out in conversation a couple nights ago.