Tea for Two by Teresa Yea

1

Perfect.

Lucie Teegarden circled her new cafe with pride, her imagination bursting with ideas for the new space. What was once an old seafood restaurant was now hers to do with as she pleased.

Sure Tea for Two didn’t look like much now, but once construction got underway, she envisioned mint-green shelves filled with vintage canisters of loose leaf tea and a brightly lit display of freshly baked pastries. Her floor would be so polished you could practically eat off of it—not that anyone would be crazy enough to eat off the floor.

It was only natural that Lucie should open a cafe. Elaborate tea parties were her specialty. When she was a little girl, Lucie had commanded her three best friends, Olive Peale née Belmont, Elyse Darrow, and Viola de Roet, to sit demurely at her knee-high play table and sip strawberry milk (they were not big tea drinkers at seven) from dainty floral cups.

Of course, Lucie’s tea parties always ended with Elyse squirting milk through her nose (on purpose) and Olive prattling on about her latest video game achievement, using lingo Lucie didn’t understand.

Only quiet Viola listened to Lucie’s instructions on proper English-tea etiquette.

So while Elyse crammed three homemade chocolate chip cookies in her mouth as Olive bragged about joining an online Black Ops raid, Lucie and Viola held their teacups with pinky fingers pointed to the sky.

And Lucie talked about her dreams of opening the perfect cafe and marrying a prince.

Prince William, to be exact. Before he lost all his hair.

Now, at twenty-six, Lucie had everything she’s ever wanted.

Except the prince part.

Kate Middleton got to Prince William before Lucie did.

But Lucie was hopeful that once Tea for Two was open for business, her Prince Charming would waltz through the doors, sample her delicious cucumber sandwiches, and fall madly in love with her.

Then she can open an international branch of Tea for Two.

In Monaco.

As things stand now, Lucie was the last single member of her friends.

Olive was married to Wesley Belmont, the flashy owner of One Enchanted Evening, an over-the-top Las Vegas-based wedding venue with hot air balloon rentals and lobster buffets that puts Caesars Palace to shame.

Elyse was in a blissful relationship with Aiden Hines, Indigo Bay’s beloved veterinarian and heir to Hines & Sons, a local barbecue sauce company.

They were not yet married. Elyse, a feminist and a minimalist, didn’t believe in the shackles of marriage and how it forced your friends to gift you china and other domestic ‘crap’ you didn’t need. Rumor had it that Aiden was about to pop the question and Elyse may find it in her cynical heart to accept.

Even Lucie’s quiet tea party confidant Viola, now a famous country singer, was romantically ‘involved’ with Eames Fawkes, a bad boy EDM DJ turned softie songwriter. They had a messy affair when Viola was Eames’ vocalist and Eames was technically her boss. Now the tables have turned. Eames, semi-retired from the electronic dance music scene, writes Viola’s music and accompanies her on tour.

No one knows if they’re actually together or if Eames, having screwed up their relationship the first time around, is out of the doghouse.

But Lucie had seen the hope in Eames’ eyes and suspect a permeant make-up is just on the horizon. Their relationship struggle is like a real life country song and probably gives Viola plenty of material to sing about.

Lucie isn’t bothered by being single. Okay, not bothered too much. It’s only natural to feel like a fifth wheel during group get-togethers when all your friends are paired off with their perfect man and madly in love. It makes game night difficult.

Olive had Wesley.

Elyse had Aiden.

Viola had Eames.

At least Lucie had Coralee to call her game night partner.

Even chatty Coralee Davis, who had sworn she’d never fall in love again after her fiancé cheated on her, was smitten and tight-lipped (if you can believe it) by a mysterious guy she met during her solo-honeymoon trip to Iceland.

Coralee met him while they were laid over for three days at the airport. They’d been in a two year texting loop and while Coralee insists they were ‘only friends,’ you didn’t spend days over-analyzing a one-word text from a ‘friend.’

No. Coralee had prospects and the promise of a beautiful romance on the horizon.

But who did Lucie have?

Never in her life had Lucie felt so alone.

Valentine’s Day was especially hard.

What was formerly Galentine’s Day was now officially over. All her friends had romantic dinners, flowers, chocolates, and surprise weekend getaways to the Bahamas (damn you, Elyse!) while Lucie spent Valentine’s Day alone. Even her single mother had a more active dating life than Lucie.

Everyone had moved on with their lives.

Olive and Wesley were trying for a baby.

Aiden is addicted to escape rooms. Elyse has secretly started a bridal registry for the most hideous concrete plates Lucie had ever seen.

Viola is now the second coming of Dolly Parton while Eames… Lucie didn’t know Eames too well, but she noticed that he’s cooled it with the F-bombs.

And Coralee’s now a part-time yoga instructor.

Everyone has grown and evolved in their lives and careers.

Everyone except Lucie, who, until three months ago, was still working at her family catering business, Confectionery Kisses.

She’d been under her mom’s supervision since high school, baking the same old wedding cakes until they sparred over buttercream icing. There had been an irreparable falling out: tears, name calling, passionate fist raising (can’t take the Jersey out of Mama), and spiteful cake smashing.

Confectionery Kisseswas her mom’s company. Mama called the shots while Lucie was just an employee.

Now Lucie called the shots.

Tea for Two was hers and hers alone.

It was a good thing she was single. She couldn’t fit a royal romance with the future Prince of Monaco in her busy schedule if she tried.

Lucie’s sensible pumps clicked against the sawdust-covered floor as she consulted her plans.

The counter will divide the Parisian-inspired tea room from the kitchen.

In the empty space, she visualized wrought-iron chairs with luxurious lavender cushions and sleek cafe tables packed with warm candles and fresh roses.

She imagined dashing authors migrating to her cafe with typewriters in tow. “Oh hello, Mr. Hemingway. Same seat as usual?” Granted, she’d probably get writers in sweatpants lugging beat-up MacBooks, but let’s just keep the Parisian expat fantasy for now.

Everything on the counter will be spotless, the brand new copper register and credit card machine just so.

A fresh tower of French macarons will be the tea room’s centerpiece.

Thisgleaming glass case, which does not exist yet, will house all her candy confections: Turkish Delights and green apple toffees, lavender drops and chocolate bonbons.

As for the second display case: pastries. Her apple popovers, rosemary & cheese danishes, and mini pecan pies.

There will be a soda fountain serving root beer floats, chocolate malts, and a rainbow selection of sugar crystal lollipops.

Lucie frowned at the unfinished walls. Soon the peeling plaster will be painted over in ‘spring mint’ or ‘spearmint.’ She’ll have to consult her paint swatches.

Tea for Twowill be the best tea room/cafe/bakery in Indigo Bay. She’ll host birthday parties, bridal showers, and anniversaries.

And, unlike her decade long tenure at Confectionery Kisses, Lucie will have absolute control over the artistic direction.

No more fights with Mama over the way things are run or the quality of their food (Mama’s quality control was starting to slip, in Lucie’s opinion).

No more incompetent staff, most of whom couldn’t care less about Lucie’s mission for the business. She was the boss now and everything, from her food to the aesthetics of her cafe to her new employees, was going to be perfect.

Jotting down a long list of improvements, Lucie gathered her chestnut curls into a ponytail and whirled around, nearly dropping her clipboard at the surprise visitor in the doorway.

“Sam?” Lucie narrowed her eyes at the tall figure with his arms jammed into his jeans’ pockets. “How long have you been there?”

“The door was open. Just thought I’d…” Sam Halladay halted mid-way toward her and lifted one long leg. The paint-smeared front page of the Indigo Bay Chronicle was stuck to his shoe. “… stop by to say ‘Hello.’”

“Careful where you step.” Lucie hugged her clipboard to her chest. “I’m in the middle of painting.”

Sam grimaced and peeled the paper from his Nikes. The white rubber sole was now spearmint green. “I like the color.”

Lucie blushed, a gut-reaction whenever she ran into Sam Halladay…

Which was why, for the past six years, she made it her mission to never, ever run into Sam Halladay.

But avoiding someone in a small seaside town was next to impossible, especially when that someone owned the local movie theater across the street.

Sam was precisely the reason Lucie never went to the movies if she could help it. But her friends, particularly Olive, who loved Old Hollywood’s selection of Criterion Collection films insisted that they all go to double features of Alien and Aliens, Terminator and Terminator 2, Predator and Predator 2.

Olive loved sci-fi horror movies.

Andshe loved sequels.

Andshe loved to drag her friends to these showings, which usually meant Lucie would see Sam folded in that tiny ticket booth and be reminded of…

That week in April.

Six years ago.

When she and Sam, partners in a project for Intro to Filmmaking, had to pull an all nighter on their documentary about the lowcountry salt marshes, when she —

Then he—

Then they both —

GAH!

Lucie shivered, embarrassment and desire warring inside of her.

She didn’t want to think about it.

She’d spent the past six years exorcising that incident from her mind.

She’d never told her friends.

Never wrote it down in her diary.

Never told a living soul.

The only person who knew what happened on that stormy April night was Lucie, Sam, and Sam’s cat, Milo.

Milo is now dead.

Then there were two.

What’s past was past. No use conjuring up old ghosts and old mistakes.

Now Sam was here, two feet away from her, tall and lean as ever, though he’d filled out in the shoulders. Whereas he was nothing to write home about back in college, the years had erased his acne, smoothed out his too-sharp collarbone, and added a smoky smolder to his chocolate brown eyes and a confident swagger to his gawky gait.

Of course, Lucie always knew he had a ‘smoky smolder’ lurking behind his dopey gaze. She’d seen it during the ‘incident which shall not be named.’

Lucie gulped, her skin beginning to perspire, a bodily function she found revolting.

Perhaps renting the seafood restaurant directly across the street from Old Hollywood Cinema was a bad idea. She was inviting trouble—trouble in the form of awkward run-ins and cringeable memories brought upon by a bottle of cheap wine from Trader Joe’s.

She swore she’d never be alone with Sam Halladay again.

Stupid things happened when she was with Sam.

Now Sam was here.

In the flesh.

They hadn’t had a conversation in over six years.

What on earth could she possibly say to him now?