The Tea Party
"Tea is proper witchery" - the author

She cashed her paycheck with a heavy heart. Twenty dollars saved out to take Arain and Michael out to dinner. With the events of the past days, however, she wasn't sure if they still wanted to keep the date. Arain had been more than civil, she had been wonderful, but the strain was there. It wasn't her fault. No, she thought, it was neither Arain nor Michael's fault, it was by all means her own. It had certainly been presumptuous of her, she reasoned, as she stepped out into the cold winter air. Just because she had the kind of heart that fell in love with more than just a single "true" love... just because she believed that true love was a myth, and that real love was everywhere, if you knew to look... She had assumed that the others would feel the same way, that the three of them could be together. And it had nothing to do with lack of love or respect for Will... she was just as madly in love with _him_ as with Arain and Michael.

She stopped on the pavement in front of the local giftshop. The store was mostly reasonable, and maybe there would be something in there to cheer her up. A nice new earring. Or one of those pretty little books that were blank and smooth on the inside, eagerly awaiting her poems. It would be nice to get out of the cold, at least. Even if she didn't buy anything, she could look about.

She went into the shop and eyed the jewelry case. It glittered winkingly back at her, and she shook her head slightly. No, jewelry wasn't it. She smiled at the woman behind the counter, and walked slowly around the crowded shelving, taking in each item. No... that's not it... Teas. She stopped in a little corner that was set up for the teas and spices and stared at the rows of cans and packets. Darjeeling? No. Irish Breakfast? No. Ahh... jasmine. She picked up a small packet and looked at the price. Not bad at all. What else? No, not peppermint... not that, not that, not... here we go. She smiled at the cannister of fresh tea. "Cardamon Cinnamon," she read to herself. "Warm The Heart Tea." What a find... She took the cannister from the shelf, saw the price, and swallowed. It was almost ten dollars for the can. But it was very good tea... She saw that it was also leaves, not bags. And me without a proper teapot, she thought. Oh, well, can probably make it in the coffee maker... She circled the shop a few more times, picking up little things here and there, and putting them down again with a sigh. And maybe they have teapots... She found a shelf piled with earthenware, handmade by a local artist. One teapot. One beautiful teapot. Thirty dollars. She put the pot down. Twenty dollars saved out to take Arain and Michael to dinner. Her paycheck had been only forty. Minus three to mail Will's Valentine gift, and minus the eleven dollars worth of tea she held in her hands. That left... not enough. She turned around slowly, spying another pot, smaller, commercially made. Twenty-seven dollars. And it wasn't half as nice as the other.

Sighing, she went to the front of the shop. Might as well just buy the tea and forget the pot. But if she went to the bank again... Taking a deep breath she walked to the counter. She didn't really realise what she had done until several minutes later, after asking them to hold the pot, after running to the bank and drawing out forty dollars that she really shouldn't... until she was walking home with the teapot in a box, barely daring to breathe in fear that she might drop it and shatter her prize. She took the long way, not wanting to risk slipping on the icy stairs. As she walked she smiled to everyone and no-one. "I've bought a teapot," she whispered to herself. Never had something so ordinary brought her so much abrupt happiness. I must share this with Michael. And Arain, of course. But Michael *must* be there when I brew the first pot of tea from this. The first pot is the most special...

She came to top of the first hill on her way home and stopped for breath. As she stood, she spotted Michael coming down the pavement. How ironic, since I was just thinking of him... She grinned and he waved.

"Lynn!" he yelled. "How are you?"

She beamed at him, her pleasure showing clearly on her face. "I've bought a teapot!"

"Well, that's good..."

"Oh, it's wonderful! It's a very nice one, and expensive. A _proper_ teapot."


They smiled at each other. Michael, to her knowledge, knew nothing of the troubles between her and Arain. Maybe they could all talk... over tea... "What are you up to? Busy?"

"Nothing now. I'm through for the day."

"Want to come have tea? I need to try it out, you know."

"Sounds great." He grinned. "What's Arain doing?"

"She's probably lying down... hasn't been well since the other night..."

"Oh." Michael paused then smiled again. "I don't think I've ever seen you this happy."

"It's the teapot. Tea, you know, is proper witchery. You've no clue how happy this makes me..." They joined hands and trekked the rest of the way to her building. The halls were loud as usual, and she shook her head at a shout from another room. People don't seem to appreciate the simple quiet things, she reflected. Like tea... She kicked open her door and noted her prostrate roommate on the bed by the door. Apparently dying. There was a large pile of tissues around the overflowing trash can.

She flipped on the lights. Arain groaned. "We're making tea!" she announced happliy.

"So what? I'm dying over here!" Arain snarled. "Oh. Hi, Michael." She sat up slowly and blew her nose.

"Maybe I should go..." Michael began.

"Not bloody likely," she replied, putting the box with its precious contents on the table. "You promised to help me make tea." She turned a pair of liquid grey eyes at him and he smiled softly. "I've snapped, you see. I'm going to do the dishes, and probably redecorate tonight."

Arain stared. "You? Are going to do the dishes? When it's been your turn for a month?"

"Well, I need a pot to boil the water. And we need cups."

She busied herself unwrapping pot while Arain and Michael chatted. She set the lid carefully aside, set the teas on the table next to the lid. Then the pot itself. She inhaled sharply at the sight of it. It was beautiful. Certainly one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen.

"Isn't it lovely?" she said to Michael.

"It is..."

They smiled at each other. "And here's the tea... it's special. Loose tea. Cinnamon Cardamon. It's to warm the heart."

She opened the cannister and held it under Michael's nose. "Mmm," he said. "Smells good."

"Here," she said to Arain. "Smell."

"I can't smell anything."

"You can smell this."

Arain frowned and sniffed at the cannister. She recoiled, scrunching her face up. "You're right. I _can_ smell _that_."

Michael and Arain helped her wash the cups and the pot that was to boil the water. They laughed and joked as though nothing was wrong. Everytime she looked at them, she felt a little pain. How happy we all would be... After all, there is more than just sex to it. Don't think me so shallow... She laughed with them, though. Because she was happy. Not content, but happy.

They went back to the room, and Arain and Michael sat on the bed. The water was on the stove in the kitchen. She picked one of her special tapes to play -- light, pretty music. She hugged Michael, leaning down and wrapping her arms around him. He rocked her in time to the music.

"Today I love everyone," she whispered. "I'm happy. By no means content, but still happy."

"That's good," Michael said.

Arain nodded in agreement. "I'm glad you're happy."

The three made a warm tableaux before the open door. Arain lay with her head in Michael's lap, and he stroked her hair. Michael bowed his head, and allowed her to massage the pressure points behind his ears and at his temples. She wished for all his tension to be absorbed into her fingers, and he did appear to relax after a minute or two. She kissed the top of his head. "I have to go check the water."

She came back -- the water had not yet boiled, and they resumed their pose.

"What is this, anyway?" Arain asked.

"16th century madrigals. `The Waverly Consort, Renaissance Favourites.' Don't you like it?"

"Except for that first song -- sounded like Christmas carols." Arain shrugged.

A few minutes later she went back to the kitchen and the water was boiling. She got a potholder and the teapot. She warmed the teapot with some of the hot water, and then carried both teapot and water pot back to the room. She kicked the door shut behind her.

"All right. Help me, Michael." She put the water down and handed him the warmed teapot. She opened the cannister again and put in three spoonfuls of tea. "Now we put the water in and let it sit a bit." She put the pot on the table and poured in the hot water. The scent of cinnamon and roses curled up to her and she smiled at the teapot. She put on the lid.

"We'll give it five minutes. I like it strong, but we'll make it about regular." She sat down on the bed with the other two and sighed happily. Then the tape ended, and the sound of static filled the air. She jumped to her feet. "I have something you'll like." She found the tape she was looking for and put it in to rewind.

"It's sort of like techno-bagpipes."

"Oh, really?" Michael looked horrified.

"You'll like it," she promised.

The tape finshed rewinding, and she pressed play. The sounds of skirling bagpipes with a synthesised backbeat filled the air. "Isn't this wonderful?"

"It is kind of neat," Michael replied.

She looked at the clock -- it was time. She poured the tea out carefully, and gave Michael the first cup, and Arain the second, taking the last herself. The three sat side-by-side on the bed, with Michael in the middle. She looked out of the corner of her eye at the others, waiting until they both had taken sips before tasting her own. It was wonderful tea. Wonderful.

"Mmm. This is really good." Michael gave her a soft smile.

Arain nodded. "It's not bad."

She smiled happily. Tea -- what else can bring people together like a cup of tea... Nothing, of course. And this being special tea from a new pot makes it all the more glorious.

"My heart really does feel warmer," Michael said quietly. He put a hand to his chest, over his heart. "Right here. Warmer."

"I told you," she said knowingly, placing a hand on top of his, "tea is proper witchery." "Stop it!!" Arain cried.

Michael paused, and sat up. She lay there, inhaling deeply through her nose as she closed her eyes and waited. She felt a hand on her shoulder and her eyes flew open.

Michael took Arain's hand, as tears ran down the other girl's face. "Lynn, sit up," he requested. She did, and he took her hand as well.

"I've been thinking..." he began, and she grinned. "Why are you smiling? 'Cause I've been thinking?"

"A dangerous pastime..." she intoned dryly. Arain half-smiled through her tears.

"Well, anyway, I've been thinking about what Lynn talked about the other night. And I've been searching my heart, and..."

"Don't say the p-word," Arain commanded. "I don't want to hear it. There are some things that are all right for some people -- that is one thing that is not right for me, okay? Do you understand?"

Michael shook his head. "No, listen to me. Hear me out, all right?" Arain nodded reluctantly. "There is a lot of love in me for both of you. I have always wondered if there could be so much passion for two separate people, and have it be more than desire, or lust, or whatever. But what I feel is stronger than that, and I feel it when I look at Lynn... And when I look at you, Arain."

"Does it anger you," she said suddenly to her best friend and beloved roommate, "to see him kiss me?"

"Yes," Arain answered flatly. "Because I feel that we should be together, just the two of us." She looked at Michael pleadingly. It was the first time she had voiced her feelings outright. Oh, she had often hinted here and there, but this was the first declaration that Arain had made. "No threesome."

Michael shook his head. "It'll never work like that," he told Arain gently. "Can't you see that I want to be with you _both_? Why else would I have stood for all those nights of sharing you? If I can share you two, then why can't you share me?"

She looked down at her lap. "I don't think Arain loves me the way I love her..." she muttered. She stood up suddenly and brushed away Michael's restraining hand. She stopped the stereo.

Both Michael and Arain knew that she'd express herself someway, not necessarily through spoken words. They weren't expecting her to pull out a CD and place it on a certain track that made them all shiver.

The voice filled the room, swelling as she turned the volume dial. " I want you now... tomorrow won't do... there's a yearning inside... and it's showing through... reach out your hand... it's so easy to choose... we've got time to kill... we've got nothing to lose... I want you now..." Tears ran silently down her cheeks. Michael stared. Arain clenched her fists. As they watched, she slid down the wall until she was curled into a little ball on the floor, shaking all over, hair spilling around her and arms hiding her face. Usually when she was upset she screamed, she threw things -- she displayed her emotions as violently as she felt them. But this time it was different -- she only sat there and shook as the silence grew more and more opressive.

Michael looked back and forth between them -- the huddled form on the floor, the stunned one sitting next to him, clutching his hand desperately. A microcosm of the greater problem was being presented to him here, who to comfort, who to carry. Who to choose. At last he made his decision and stood, jerking Arain to her feet. He pulled her with him across the room where he knelt. He reached out, and a hand shot out and slapped him across the face.

Without looking up, she hissed "Go with her. It's a choice you've made before, in her favour, in her warm and delicate favour..." Then she did look up, and the pair saw that her face was streaked with tears, but the eyes were dry. "Look at me. Look at me and tell me what you see." She held his eyes and spoke in a low growl. "A precious whore. At least *she* has virtue, and for that I love her more than you know. You have always despised that honesty about myself, both of you."

Michael stared. Arain bit her lip.

"That's not true," Michael whispered.

"Prove it," she hissed. "You keep me in the closet, only take me out to play with me when you feel like it. If you really care so fucking much, then _prove_ it."

Michael buried his face in his hands. "How?" he mumbled. "How can I prove it to _both_ of you??"

Arain's lower lip trembled. She took a deep breath and then reached out suddenly, wrapping her arms round both pairs of shaking shoulders. "Love us both -- equally."

She stared, shocked and relieved, into Arain's eyes, and silently nodded without breaking the gaze. Michael looked from one to the other, and nodded slowly. "I'll try..." he whispered. And he brought both their lips to his in turn, then both at once. Then there on the floor, the heart-warming tea melted all the ice and it spilled forth as warm tears of joy. They made love on the rug -- the teapot was spilled, but it did not break.


by Caile Donachaidh Kane

this story was written in the early spring of 1995, while I was involved in a... unique situation. I've gotten the permission of both the other parties to post this here -- a dramatization of how we came together. There are actually 5 stories in all, but I've been sworn to secrecy on the others. :) Names have been changed.