about the author

Stephanie Thurrott’s fiction has been published in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Monkeybicycle, Bartleby Snopes, and Blink-Ink. Her novel in progress, “The Right Place,” is set in Dedham, Mass., where she lives with her family. She studies fiction at Grub Street in Boston.

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Afternoon Tea with the Ladies

Stephanie Thurrott

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Women know how to find me. Word gets around. Today I hear three knocks, strong and solid. Freyja is at my door. The sun shines through the elms behind her, silhouetting her slender frame. She is not far along. Good.

“I need your help.” Freyja stands straight and looks into my eyes. In her features, I recognize all the women who came before her. She is not afraid.

“Come in. I’ll brew the tea.”

I invite her to sit at my table and she watches me fill my kettle. When the water flows the tap shrieks like a cat. My aging hands struggle against the growing weight. I light the stove and as the water warms I blend licorice root, pennyroyal and anise with sassafras and yarrow. I steep the herbs in the hot water and blend in a spoonful of honey to hide the bitterness. I pass the mug to her.

Freyja lifts it with both hands. But she does not drink right away. “It’s only because...”

I interrupt her. “It’s not for me to know.”

The steam blurs her eyes as she sips from the cup. The gratitude in her face is masked by sorrow. She finishes the tea, sets the cup down in front of her, and thanks me. She leaves.

Tomorrow another woman will find me.

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