Bitter Tea and Sour Lemonade

Abigail Shepherd
“Why can’t Neville ever just bring me his mug?” wondered Alison, drying her soapy hands and going to look for it herself. “He must have heard me washing up. You’d think he’d just come and give it to me. It’s not like I’m far away.” But instead she’d only known he’d finished his tea-break from the noise of the back door opening and closing as he headed back to his gardening. “Not even a ‘thanks for the tea’,” she fumed. And why was it always her job to brew it anyway? It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been working all week too. Being a nurse was at least as hard as being an accountant. Probably harder.

Alison eventually located the cup perched on top of the living room windowsill. Neville had evidently been deciding on his next gardening chore. He’d obviously noticed that the back hedge could do with a tidy, for just then she heard the electric hedge trimmers start up. She went back to her cooling washing up water. Grease was starting to float on the surface, dotted with the brown flecks of toast crumbs. She sighed, tipped it away and began running another bowl.

“Alison!” She heard her husband shout. No doubt he wanted her to fetch something, or tell him if the hedge was level. She glanced down at her newly run bowl of water. “I always have to help him with his chores, then get on with mine alone,” she thought. Well, today she wasn’t in the mood. She had a tonne of things to do before she could relax and it was Saturday after all. If she went to help it would just add an hours work onto her day, at least. Neville could just assume she hadn’t heard him.

She went on washing dishes. It was a warm, sunny day and she opened a window, enjoying the smell of freshly mowed grass and lulled by the chirping of blackbirds and the drone of the hedge clippers. She began to feel that perhaps she was being a bit petty. Poor Neville. He really had no idea that any of these things irritated her. Well, they didn’t usually. She’d just had a long, difficult week at work and she was tired. She rinsed the last dish and poured two glasses of icy lemonade. Neville was probably hot. The hedge clippers had been going for well over half an hour. She wouldn’t have thought the hedge needed that much trimming herself.

As she walked across the back garden she imagined the nice smile she would give Neville as she handed him the lemonade. And she would stay with him to drink hers and they would chat pleasantly. She’d been rather short with him lately.

Only, when she rounded the corner of the hedge, the charming smile pinned to her lips, she first saw just the clippers, lying abandoned on the ground, still whirling faithfully away. She looked down and there at her feet was Neville, in red trousers she didn’t recognise. But she knew it wasn’t really the trousers that were red and that her kindness had come too late.

***

Currently living in the Highlands of Scotland, Abigail Shepherd has had numerous short stories published, most recently in Drabble, The Flash Fiction Press and Mystery Weekly. Her first teen novel, Victoria’s Victorian Victory, is available on Amazon. She blogs at bewritingblog.wordpress.com.