Wednesday 28 May 2014
‘Do we have time for another pot of tea?’ Emily’s question was greeted with robust agreement from everyone present.
‘As long as we can be a little bit naughty and have another piece of cake as well.’ A girlish giggle escaped the lips of Alice Walker, whose naïveté sometimes irritated her friends.
‘Yes, Alice, I believe there is enough cake for all of us to have another piece. Would you be mother while I refresh the pot?’ Emily instructed the younger woman. The hostess left her guests and the cosy sitting room, teapot in hand, and headed into her equally tiny kitchen to make more tea. The remaining four guests – three women and a solitary man – made small talk until Emily returned.
With the fresh brew poured, Emily Bainbridge took her seat, retrieved her plate, and nibbled at the edge of her piece of teacake. Along with her guests, Emily had been skirting around the real issue that they had all been drawn together this particular Friday. There were only so many cups of tea that anyone could stomach in an attempt to avoid the elephant in the room. The woman to Emily’s left was the first to broach the subject.
‘So, who thinks Teddy is responsible for it?’
The gasps from Emily’s other guests were the giveaway that it was still an inappropriate moment to discuss Teddy and Poppy Sumner.
‘Bunny Mortimer! How could you?’ Alice asked.
‘Oh really, Alice, I’ve not asked anything that any of you wasn’t already thinking. You were simply pretending to be too coy to say it,’ Bunny snapped in reply.
Silence momentarily weighed heavily upon the room. Whilst Bunny Mortimer, vicar’s daughter, had always been forward, Alice, Lizzie, and Tom chose to sit back and allow others to do their bidding. Emily smiled as she sipped her tea, gazing from one guest to the next.
‘Well, do you?’ Emily asked. The faux shock of her visitors gave way to focussed chatter, theories espousing from everyone about the involvement of Teddy in his wife’s sudden hospitalisation.
‘Of course he had something to do with it,’ Tom Hardy stated gruffly. ‘He’s a bloody menace – excuse my language, ladies. The man is a brute, and he’s pushed poor Poppy around on more than one occasion. Last time, Dr. Evans let slip that Poppy had been covered in bruises. Teddy had arrived home from the Badger and Crow utterly legless, and used Poppy for sparring practice. He should have been locked away years ago.’
Normally reserved and calm, Tom was transformed into a warrior where Poppy Sumner was concerned. He hated that she’d chosen to marry Teddy instead of him, hated that Teddy took out his anger and frustration on her, hated Teddy for winning the hand of the only woman in the village that Tom had ever loved.
‘Still have a soft spot for Poppy, do you, Tom?’ Lizzie goaded.
‘My feelings for Poppy are no secret, however,’ Tom said, ‘they are not currently up for discussion during tea and scandal.’
Emily smiled at Tom, reassuring him that there was at least one other person in the group who did not wish to discuss his private life.
‘Indeed, ladies. Let us return to the true purpose of tea and scandal, and the mystery at hand,’ said Emily.
‘What happened to Poppy Sumner?’ Bunny asked.
‘Or rather, where is Poppy Sumner?’ added the hostess. ‘And I think it has very little what-so-ever to do with Teddy.’
. . . To be continued . . .