Hot Tea and Lemon
A casual conversation between two women, one engaged, one widowed. On marriage, college, and human relationships.
She was every man's dream bride-to-be: Classic blonde hair, blue eyes that bordered on grey, healthy-hued skin, wrists like a bird. She ate like a bird too. Though she'd ordered a salad and lemon water, the way she picked at it suggested she wasn't exactly passionate about leafy greens in general. The crinkle of her nose expressed how badly she itched for a bit of shredded chicken or bleu cheese dressing. The pitiful girl was probably fretting about fitting into her already ridiculously small wedding dress.
That was her first impression of Jordan Jenkins, soon-to-be Jenski. She was engaged to one of her cousins' cousins. Her aunt's husband's nephew or something on those lines, close family but not actually blood related.
What had been the boy's name again? James? Jason? Jeevan? Whatever his name was, he was another "J," anyway.
Jordan had noticed her, smoky blue eyes fixated on her face. She nodded in return, reaching out to shake the younger woman's hand.
"Loreena Dolores Beu." She corrected swiftly. "I go by Dolores, usually. Your aunt, Joy, is the only one who ever calls me Loreena."
"Oh, um, okay."
Dolores wasn't entirely sure just what she was doing here. She was only distant friends with Joy Jenski—they knew one another through the church, but didn't really socialize outside of that. So she had been suitably surprised when Joy gave her a call, asking her to talk to her niece who was marrying into the Jenski family (oh, happy day, joy! Already anticipating infants, no doubt; Joy really should have been a teacher instead of a stay-at-home mom). What was more intriguing—or really just irritating—was that Joy hadn't specified just what Dolores was supposed to talk about with the girl.
"Oh, you know, that thing. I think it'll be a good thing for her to know!"
Yeah, well, "that thing" could have been any number of things ranging from sex positions outside the bedroom (which she really doubted a nubile young girl like that was clueless about) to how to manage without a handyman. That was Joy for you: completely tactless. Dolores thought it came from raising seven children (no, not seven, she reminded herself, six. That Jedrek boy had been disowned).
"Is there anything I can get for you ladies today?" The waiter had returned to the little corner of the café, having spotted Dolores taking her seat.
Dolores wondered what kind of café served salads and hot sandwiches. Certainly no café she had heard of, well, save for this one.
"Tea, please," she told him stiffly.
"Hot or iced?"
"What blend would you like? We have several delicious varieties of mint, fruit—"
He seemed put off-balance. "Can I get you anything else to accompany your tea? Croissant, biscuit, Danish—"
She cut him off again. "No. Just the tea."
"Oh, alright then. I'll be back in a moment with your drink, ma'am." He nodded, stepping away.
"Ah!" Jordan spoke up suddenly, lifting her glass and shaking it at the waiter. "Can I get another glass of lemon water, please?"
"Right away, miss!" He said, visibly cheered by the blonde's demeanor, and quickly disappeared.
Dolores' lip twisted after him. It didn't matter that he was just doing his job; wait staff always irked her. Their squeaky-cheerful voices and toothy smiles grated on her nerves. She preferred that they just take notes, ask no questions, make no offers, and disappear.
It seemed that Jordan did not share that opinion, however. She was looking at Dolores with a queer expression and quickly glanced away when the brunette met her gaze. That was fine, few people thought about waiters the same way Dolores did. She had always preferred the perch of a wallflower instead of a social butterfly. Jordan was clearly more of a butterfly than a quiet bloom.
The waiter returned, served the two women their drinks and skittered off again. Dolores' eyes snapped at his heels.
Jordan nibbled on her salad, made a face, and tried eating again.
"So," Dolores began, warming her palms on the outside of her teacup. It was too hot to drink yet.
The younger woman sipped at her water, swished the taste of greens out of her mouth, and swallowed. "Um,"
They were off to such a fabulous start. "Do you know what you came here to talk to me about?" Dolores asked curtly.
The blonde looked abashed. "Ah, well… not really. Aunt Joy said there was something you wanted to talk to me about, so…"
Dolores sighed, feeling a twitch begin to form on her eyebrow. "I was afraid of that. Joy called me up asking me to talk to you about something, but she failed to specify just what it was."
Jordan's head rolled back. "Oh, boy, Aunt Joy. Why am I not surprised?"
"She's never been one for subtlety. She simply skips that step entirely." The older woman agreed, emptying a single sugar packet into her cup.
The girl failed to suppress a giggle. "Doesn't she just? Oh, I feel like I've just been Punk'd or something."
What the hell was "Punk'd?" Whatever; Dolores wasn't interested in knowing. She dipped her spoon into her tea, blew lightly and tasted the liquid.
She cringed, licking the bitterness from her lips. "Ugh, needs lemon."
Jordan reacted immediately. "Here, take one of my lemon slices. I haven't touched them and I'm not going to."
Take a lemon slice from a stranger's drink? Well, Jordan wasn't quite a complete stranger, but she was unfamiliar enough. Still, the lemon did appear completely untouched and Dolores wasn't interested in hailing the waiter again… her fingers curled with hesitation then she reached out and plucked the fruit from the glass edge.
"Thank you," she murmured, dropping the slice into her tea. She stirred it around with her spoon.
Jordan nodded and turned a portion of her attention back to picking at her dish. She had French manicured fingernails and held her fork as if she was paranoid about smudging the paint job. It was the same when she took a bite: her lips flared apart as she tried to keep her pretty pink lipstick pristine, teeth bared like an unhappy dog.
"For God's sake, stop picking at it. Let that salad alone." Dolores couldn't help but snip. Her bobbed hair bounced as if to emphasize her words.
The younger woman blushed. "Sorry."
"If you're interested in dissection you ought to take a biology class."
The girl snorted. "Yeah. I've never really liked lettuce. Carrots and radishes, okay, but lettuce…"
"If you don't like salad then why on earth did you order it?" Dolores asked, taking a sip of tea. Ah, much better. It streamed down her throat warmly.
Jordan sighed and finally pushed her plate away. "Pre-wedding jitters, I guess. Worried about fitting into my dress."
"You should pick a dress that fits you, not make yourself fit the dress." There was an irritating red lipstick print on the edge of her teacup. Darn that stuff.
"I know," the engaged girl said, scratching the bridge of her nose, "And I did, but a body can change a lot in half a year."
Dolores paused, cup halfway to her mouth. She narrowed her eyes. "You're not pregnant, are you?"
The bride-to-be blushed vibrant red. "N-no! Definitely not! No, James and I don't plan on having kids for… not for a while."
"That's good." The teacup continued and completed its journey.
"Are you married?"
Dolores was silent for a moment. Then, quietly, "Not anymore."
Jordan winced. "Ouch. Divorce, huh?"
"My husband was killed in a car accident."
The younger woman looked stricken. "Oh, I-I'm sorry. I just assumed… Wow, that was rude of me… I'm really sorry, that was… Sorry."
Dolores waved her off. "It's fine. You're not the first to make that assumption. It was eight years ago; it's not like I wake up crying every morning."
"Oh, um, o-okay."
They settled into a somewhat uncomfortable silence, or at least Jordan did. Dolores had long been immune to uncomfortable atmospheres and she drank her tea contently, legs crossed.
Jordan fidgeted, tearing her napkin into tiny squares to season her salad with. "There's not really any point to this meeting, is there?" She said. Dolores looked up. The blonde continued. "I mean, it's like Aunt Joy just threw us together for no reason. We don't know what she wanted us to talk about, so there's really no point to this at all."
The older woman raised one dark eyebrow. "On the contrary," she began, setting her tea down and folding her fingers together, "I know what this meeting about, whether we know the specific subject or not;" her peppermint green eyes met Jordan's unflinchingly, "Your upcoming marriage."
Just "oh." Dolores could already tell what kind of marriage this was shaping up to be. No wonder Joy wanted her to talk to the girl. What was with the dull, submissive attitude? Joy had described Jordan so differently; was it just from being in Dolores' presence or was the girl more of a wallflower than she seemed?
Dolores suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. "Tell me a little about your fiancée."
Jordan developed that distant, dreamy expression that seemed be so common in people under twenty-five. "James? He's wonderful. He's Joe's oldest son. Dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin, high eyebrows, you know, the typical Jenski look. The Greek really shows up in him, though, in his ears and chin."
Next time Dolores would have to specify. She didn't really care what the boy looked like; physical appearances were only superficial.
Thank goodness that Jordan didn't seem that shallow, despite describing her fiancée's looks first.
"He's kind, thoughtful, romantic, but, gee, does he love ESPN," the blonde continued, giggling, "He just got his bachelor's in Demonology."
Well, that was interesting.
"What about you?" Dolores asked. "Are you going to college; planning on going?"
Jordan seemed to be at a loss for words. "Oh, well, I was thinking about going to study psychology and becoming, like, a children's psychiatrist, but with the wedding and all…"
The widow's brows rose. "Why should getting married keep you from going to college?"
She began to stumble through her words. "Well, I'm going to be really busy, you know? Taking care of the house we're moving into after the honeymoon and… and stuff."
"Are you two planning on starting a family right away?"
She shook her blonde head. "No, we're not even going to dip into those waters for a few years."
Dolores didn't like where this conversation was going. "So you and your fiancée, after you're married, you're both just going to head straight for work and house care?"
"Oh, no, James is going back to get his Masters Degree."
The brunette drank her tea, swallowing her words before they could spring out like vomit. "If he can go back to college, why can't you? Does he not want you to?"
"Oh no, not at all! James loves education and books and things like that. If I went I know he'd be very supportive. It's my own decision."
Again Jordan faltered. "I just… think I'll be really busy. It's-it's not like going to college is a requirement for everyone. I can study on my own time or take online classes or something."
"And the rest of the time you'll be doing… what? Washing dishes?"
The little tart had to be joking. If she wasn't Dolores wasn't sure she could restrain herself from dumping the remains of her tea on the girl's sunshine-colored head. Ridiculous!
And suddenly she saw why she was here, what Joy called her up to do. Joy Jenski was a perky, happy little housewife. Jordan was well on her way to becoming a baby machine like Joy but that wasn't what was good for Jordan. The Jenkins-Jenski families may have been large, but that did not mean that Jordan had to shove out half a dozen kids like Joy and Jim did. Joy did not want her niece to shove out a half dozen children. Jordan was not being forced into that position, but she was falling into it.
She held that traditional, disgustingly fairy-tale point of view that the woman in the household should be submissive to the man. Jordan had been a strong girl, was still a strong girl, but she was losing herself in white lace, pale lilies, and a gold band. She was already thinking ahead of the honeymoon to dishwashing and cooking dinner without truly realizing that she didn't have to stop going out and having fun like an unmarried young couple the same age. Thinking that being past the dating stage meant that they wouldn't go on dates.
This was not the 1950's, this was the modern world, and neither the Jenskis nor the Jenkins were old-era, stubborn, Southern folk with outdated ideals. If they were, Dolores wouldn't know them at all.
This had to be fixed.
Dolores had never had the chance to have children; fate had stolen her husband from her before they decided it was something they wanted to consider. When they'd met she'd been outcast and quiet but very opinionated and he encouraged her to be bold and honest and outspoken and dominant. He'd brought her to her full potential and never let her stop halfway.
Jordan's fiancée was no Franklin, though, and he didn't push Jordan the same way Frank had pushed 'Lo. Jordan needed persuasion from someone else, and Joy had felt that the right person to do that was Dolores.
'Lo took another drink of tea, gathering her thoughts. "I think that's a big mistake."
Jordan blinked rapidly, startled. "You do?"
"Yes. Yes, I do. If you want to become a child psychiatrist you should take the opportunity while you have it. You have no reason to be a housewife yet. When you have your first child, maybe, but you said yourself that won't be for a few years.
"Besides, if you don't do it now, you might never get a second chance. A lot of people don't."
The girl paled. "Yeah. I… I don't really want that. I mean, I like kids, and I like helping people…"
"So why hold back? Your fiancée isn't incapable of putting a TV dinner in the microwave, is he?"
"You wanted to be a child psychiatrist. You should go to school and become one. Worry about washing dishes when you have toddlers to take care of." Dolores took a final swallow of tea, emptying her cup. The lemon slice lied on the bottom like a pretty stamp.
Jordan looked thoughtful. "Yeah, you're right. I should go." She tilted her head. "By the way, what do you do to make a living?"
"Me?" 'Lo looked up and winked at her. She had the feeling that this was the beginning of a good friendship. "I'm a psychiatrist."
I can't remember what inspired this. Urk! Oh, well. Again I dip into the Jenski family tree; hopefully I'll be able to make it into a routine, because I just love that imaginary family of mine. I'm starting to use them in all my original stories; how strange is that?
I intended this to be deeper and more philosophical, but as stories usually do, it developed a mind of its own. I still like it anyway.
Read, review, and all that jazz,