He likes to sip tea by the fireplace.

Sometimes the draft seeps past his tweed coat and brushes up against him, its cold embrace dancing like a feather across his chest. His fingers turn white and then blue, and he can hardly turn the pages of his favorite novel. His fingers wrap around the teacup's handle and threaten to let it slip out of his grasp. Eventually he is eventually forced to abandon the plush recliner and retreat to a warmer climate. He leaves the book on the end table in the study, next to the fireplace, where it will stay for just another few days until he can return.

He likes to sip tea by the fireplace.

Sometimes he takes a vacation from school and jets over to some timeless city he's been to a thousand times before. There, he'll book a luxury hotel room and sit for hours on end in a silken armchair, basking in the sunlight pouring into the room through the balcony glass. He'll sit and watch the sunset fall down past the horizon while reading about some inane global crime. He drinks tea made from ready-made teabags as he reads the paper, but of course it doesn't taste as good as the tea he makes at home. After all, there are no fireplaces in these hotels.

He likes to sip tea by the fireplace.

Occasionally he'll watch the physical therapist work with his mother during their afternoon appointments. He claps his hands when she takes one or three wobbly steps. He puts a cool towel on her head when she's tired and back in bed. Then, he sits by her side with a book dangling over one knee, hesitant to pick it up and show his disinterest in her condition. He leaves and boils some water on the stove, and when he returns he pours her a cup of tea to soothe her dry, aching throat. They drink the tea together quietly, submerged in their own thoughts. His mother was never one for silly, pesky errands like conversations. He doesn't enjoy these afternoons.

He likes to sip tea by the fireplace, alone.

That girl from school keeps inviting herself over and asserting herself in the love seat across from the fireplace. She watches him silently as he reads. He feels her eyes boring into his down-turned head. He finds that he can't concentrate on the words he's read so many times before. Sighing, he picks his head up, and with a great deal of annoyance dripping through his tone (his mother would be so displeased with his impropriety), asks, "May I help you?"

"No," she says.

"Then, pray tell, why are you looking at me like that?"

She smiles and lets out a few tickled laughs. "I just like to watch you read that book!"

"This book?" He questions, turning the book over to look at it more closely. "Is there something wrong with it?"

"Not at all," she says, shaking her head, a soft expression on her face. "Go back to your reading."

He stares at her a little while longer. Curious thoughts float through his head, questioning, wondering, doubting -

Finally, he shrugs, and goes back to reading. In his periphery he sees her stand up and leave the room. He briefly wonders if something he said bothered her, or if perhaps she felt - dare he say? - ignored by his lack of interest in conversation. That was something that couldn't be helped, though. Just a little genetic gift from his mother.

He sinks into an almost prayerful reverie.

A shadow falls over him. He turns his head up to find that girl from school standing over him. She's holding a tea tray with two cups, already poured.

"Take it," she urges.

Blinking eyes.

He takes the cup, finally. "Thank you."

She puts the tea tray on the coffee table and takes her own cup back to her place on the loveseat. He watches her take a few sips.

She raises her eyes to him, and he catches a mischievous twinkle in them. She echoes back to him, "May I help you?"

He doesn't answer, but instead smiles back at her and lifts the cup up to her.

It's a nice day to sip tea by the fireplace, indeed.