Teresa poured two cups of tea. “How do you take it?” she asked. “Cream and sugar or are you a lemon person?”
Cyrus grinned goofily at the thought of a lemon person. “Straight up,” he said. “Um, if you please.” His drink of preference was grog. He accepted the proffered cup with clumsy fingers and it rattled uncontrollably atop the saucer until he managed to place it on the table.
Teresa pretended not to notice.
Cyrus risked taking a sip of tea, fearing he would chip the cup if his hands shook any worse. The hot liquid burned his tongue and tasted, he thought, bitter and acidic.
“I hope the tea is to your liking,” Teresa said. She lifted her cup, little finger extended, and gently blew across the surface before taking a sip.
Cyrus was mesmerized by her lips. How full and red they were. What a pleasant shape as they directed her breath over the steaming liquid. How supple they appeared when she spoke…. She spoke! “Um, it’s lovely,” he replied.
They sat in silence. Cyrus glanced furtively around the garden, his gaze finally coming to rest on a patch of pink and white flowers.
“Nematodes,” Teresa said.
What kind of toads? wondered Cyrus, finally turning his attention back to his host.
“The poor roses,” she continued, “haven’t done well all season and now it seems they have nematodes. The gardener wanted to rip them all out last week, but I just couldn’t give up on them yet. I noticed you staring at them.”
“Oh. I, um… they’re lovely.” Cyrus didn’t know anything about flowers.
“Of course, the cut flowers here on the table are in your honor.”
Cyrus watched a bee crawling over the bright red and yellow blossoms. “They’re….”
“They’re called snapdragons,” Teresa explained. “And after all the battles you’ve fought against the dragons, it seemed a fitting choice.”
Where’s a dragon when you really need one? Cyrus thought. Fighting them is easy compared to navigating a tea party. “They’re lovely.” He waved the bee away.
Cyrus ventured another sip of tea. It had cooled enough that it no longer burned his tongue. And it tasted even worse than before.
The silence dragged on for several more minutes.
“You see, the blooms are said to resemble the face of a dragon,” Teresa explained while plucking a large yellow one from the vase. “Although, I suppose you would know better than anyone whether that’s really true. I suspect that not a lot of botanists have gotten up close to a real dragon like you have. Anyway, it snaps open and closed when you squeeze it like so.”
She manipulated the flower to demonstrate. Cyrus had never seen fingers so nimble and delicate. He wondered what the touch of them would feel like on his skin. Imagined them intertwined with his sausage-thick fingers while holding his rough and callused hands. She stopped and put the flower on the table.
“Lovely,” Cyrus murmured.
Teresa fidgeted. At length she asked, “Would you like some more tea?”
Cyrus cast a guilty eye over his still full cup. “No, thank you. I, um, I should really be going. Get back to defending the realm and all that.”
“Of course. Well, I do hope we can do this again.”
“Oh, yes. I’d like that very much. This was all so, um… lovely.”
Moments later he rode away and willed his breathing to return to normal. She must think I’m a simpleton, he brooded. Lovely… bloody lovely!
Teresa watched until he rode out of sight, more sure than ever that Cyrus was the man she would marry one day.
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