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Tea For Six

Tea For Six

A Story by Cat

A Katherine Mansfield pastiche


It was such a perfect little chair, thought Brenda. A perfect little chair for her perfect new life, with her perfect husband in their perfect new home. The man who had delivered it thought so too, having commented himself.

“Lovely chair, that,” he had said to Brenda. She had replied simply “Yes it is, isn’t it?” as she was already deep in thought as to where she might place the little chair; too special for the kitchen, but the wrong colour for the dining room and lounge. And so it had been left in the hallway, for all to admire on their way past. Brenda thought the chair was so lovely everyone ought to see it, and what better place for this than in the hallway?

As Brenda admired her new little chair, she thought back to the conversation that had taken place in the post office earlier with a neighbour, Linda Burnell. Brenda had seen her walking in her garden the previous day and so, when she saw the familiar face in town, had gone to introduce herself.

“Good morning! I saw you out walking yesterday, and thought I should introduce myself. I am Brenda Jones �" my husband John and I just moved in to the house next door to yours. We should have tea together next week, when we are settled in.” At first Linda had just stood, surprised by this strange woman’s forward approach and made an excuse to decline the invitation �" Brenda didn’t seem the sort of person she ought to be associated with. But when she walked out of the post office towards Pat in their buggy, she saw Brenda's chauffeur waiting to escort her home in a buggy quite unlike one she’d ever seen up close before �" a real automobile. At this she was thoroughly impressed and decided that maybe the Joneses weren’t so bad after all, so once she had returned home she went to have a cup of tea with Brenda and this time accepted when Brenda once again extended the invitation.

It had been very exciting, as this was another opportunity for Brenda and John to start their new life together, so she invited Linda and her husband to a small afternoon tea with them the following week.

As the day of the tea party approached, Brenda worked hard to make their home look nice. Once the boxes were all gone, she added a few final touches, such as the chair in the hallway, and a bust of Mozart on their new piano. When John had asked her why they needed a piano, as neither of them played, Brenda had explained that “It’s about our image, darling. We don’t want people thinking we haven’t a penny to spare just because I choose to do the housework myself, rather than hiring a silly servant-girl, who would undoubtedly do such a bad job I’d have to do it all again anyway. We have all the other servants, I suppose, but this piano would just secure our image. Besides, not only does it add to the décor of the room, but if we ever have a guest who plays the piano I would like to be able to invite them to perform. I think this house would sound lovely with a little light music floating through it, don’t you?”

“Yes, dear,” as John always said when he knew his wife had already made up her mind. It was the kind of situation that he would often get worked up about, but he wasn’t about to enter into an argument that wasn’t worth his time since after all, they had plenty of money to spend on furnishing the house and once she had made up her mind, that was it. Nothing and nobody could stop her. And so the piano was bought, delivered and manoeuvred through into the lounge, waiting to be played.

In fact, Brenda had already found someone to come and play for them and had invited him along to the tea party. Brenda had met Gordon Brennan when trying to find someone to tune the piano. He had an important job in a big office in town but helped his friends and neighbours by tuning their pianos in his spare time, as he was a keen player himself. Brenda invited him and his wife Anne to join their party, since they lived just down the road and he could provide the lovely musical atmosphere Brenda was aspiring to in purchasing the piano, as well as polite and suitable company.

Gordon and Anne were the first to arrive for afternoon tea. John took their coats and showed them through to the garden, where Brenda was waiting with an assortment of trays on which cucumber sandwiches and ladyfingers were carefully arranged with a pot of tea. A few minutes later the Burnells arrived, but while John went to greet them, instead of accompanying him Brenda had to refill the teapot. After introducing everyone, John came to help her, passing on the apologies of Linda and Stanley, who had been late as they had encountered a last-minute problem with the children.

“I wonder if we maybe should have invited their three lovely girls,” Brenda said in passing.

“Oh dear, we should have! How rude of us not to have done so! We must go and apologise at once �" and ask if they want to bring them over now,” Stanley was getting himself worked up. Brenda simply sighed a not-again sigh and told him not to worry.

“They’re fine! I think Linda and Stanley will enjoy some time without them. They are lovely girls, but everyone needs a break from their children every now and then.”

In fact, when John and Brenda returned to the garden to start tea, Linda and Stanley looked like they had completely forgotten their children already; Stanley in a heated debate with Gordon over some news story or other, and Linda leaning back against her chair in the sun, having a good natter with Anne about some trend in soft furnishings.
“Oh there you are,” Linda said lazily as she noticed Brenda and John reappear with the teapot. “So what do you think of these patterns?” she asked Brenda, holding up some swatches of potential fabrics she was choosing from to get her lounge suite reupholstered.

*     *     *

After the trays had been cleared and all the cucumber sandwiches eaten, Brenda mentioned the piano and Gordon immediately offered to play, so they all moved into the lounge where the instrument was waiting for them. While Brenda went to move the chair from the hallway into the lounge in order to seat everyone, Gordon sat down and started to play a light piece, perfectly creating the atmosphere Brenda had been so longing for. She sat on the arm of John’s chair, their perfect little chair, with his arm around her as they all conversed and thought to herself ‘Now, this is true happiness.’

© 2011 Cat

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Added on March 21, 2011
Last Updated on March 21, 2011



Auckland, New Zealand

I am not an emo. From my writing people think I am, but I'm not. When I'm not at school (Just finishing year 11), I'm writing, singing or playing the guitar. Writing and music are my passions. I .. more..

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