The kettle whistled on the kitchen stove. Alice took the tea towel that was hanging on the handle of the oven door and wrapped it loosely around her hand. She lifted the steaming kettle from the ring. On her mug were a dozen or so cat-faces. They stared up at her as she dropped a single tea bag into the mug; Lapsung Sencha Jade Nirvana. She poured the water. Usually, she preferred plain black tea, but she had run out. It had been several days since she had been to the store. She wasn’t ready to face the world. This was her first taste of the “special” green tea, purchased from the tea guy at the farmers’ market. He’d had a strangely conservative air about him, for a white guy in his fifties who wore his hair in dreadlocks and was draped in an old knitted rainbow sweater.
Alice lifted the mug of tea to her lips and sipped. She’d forgotten how much she enjoyed the taste of green tea; bitter, but with the addition of a little honey, delicious. The toaster popped and a charred slice of bread leapt in vain for the ceiling. It was the heel of the loaf, the last slice. Once again, honey seemed the answer. She had also run out of butter. She would have to venture out soon if she didn’t want to starve.
Alice placed her mug on the kitchen table. “Shit,” she said, as it spilt. The tea hadn’t burned her hand, but she winced and blew as if on autopilot. The green floral tablecloth had suffered worse. It was originally her mother’s. Alice was about to turn thirty-two; she figured the tablecloth had to be at least the same. One of the washed-out stains on the fabric reminded Alice that just five nights ago, she had cooked a beautiful homemade chicken curry, with garlic naan breads, yogurt, and a spicy lentil dahl. James had sat across from her smiling. They had spoken little, just laughing with full mouths as they watched each other stuff their face. The meal had been a great success. They had gone from the dining table straight to the bedroom; happy in the knowledge that they both smelled equally of garlic, and didn’t care one bit.
“Where the hell have you gone?” She bit into her burnt toast. It was sticky but dry, so she took another sip of tea before opening the pantry for the third time. She took a small bowl from the drying rack by the sink, filled it with dry cereal, and topped it with a handful of raisins.
At the other side of the room were an old sofa and a wood-burning stove. Nearest to the door of the stove was an armchair. When people entered the room, they would always gravitate towards that armchair. It wasn’t pretty, but it had personality. Alice had convinced James they should buy it from the thrift store when they first bought their house. It was the type of seat that gave you a warm hug when you sat in it. Meanwhile, it stole any loose contents from your pockets and consumed them. Alice went to the chair and sat. Her purple woolen tights prickled slightly with the heat. The crackle of the fire complimented the sound of the rain against the window. She nibbled at the dry cereal and toyed with the occasional raisin between her teeth. Soon, she’d run out of logs for the stove. She was scared of the axe.
Alice cradled the warm mug to her chest. She contemplated her newfound loneliness.
The small bowl on Alice’s lap slipped.
Dry cereal and raisins disappeared down the side of the cushion, into the gaping mouth of the chair. Alice instinctively thrust her hand in the gap and she spilt what was left of her green tea.
James’ wallet, containing his driver’s license and all of his credit cards sat in her hand.
“There is no reason to suspect that your husband hasn’t just left for a bit, perhaps due to some early mid-life crisis,” echoes the detective’s voice. Where could he have gone without money or I.D.?
Alice decided that she would leave the house today after all.