Palo Alto Weekly 17th Annual Short Story Contest
Time for Tea
by Hana Low
Mr. Edward Thomas was having tea with his wife, Diana, and an acquaintance, Sir Robert Collins, whom he hated. Sir Robert was snooty and inconsiderate-this came mostly from having too much his own way, for he was indescribably rich. So, Robert tended to invite people to tea almost twice a week, just to make it up to them.
Edward, on the other hand, was modest and poor, and also childless, thanks to Sir Collins, who had shot the boy a year before, mistaking him for a fox. Eight-year-old Matthew, had, in fact, been playing "Fox and Goose" with one of his good friends but they had been doing no harm. In any case, the boy died, and Edward, who loved his son more than life itself, furiously began to plot the downfall of his rival. He wanted revenge.
After being invited for tea, Edward decided that a poisoning would be the best, easiest way to kill Sir Robert. He noted, guiltily, that his good-hearted, peaceful wife would try to dissuade him, so he decided to leave her out of the evil plot. So, when she left their home to visit her sickly sister he slipped out to the stables and swiftly saddled his best horse, Comet, and galloped like he was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves.
As soon as he neared the town for which he was headed, he tied Comet to a post and stole into the apothecary. He bought a small, deadly, crystalline tablet, twisted a piece of yellowish paper around it, and thanked the misshapen shopkeeper, who gave him a mysterious smile.
Four days later, the Thomases visited Sir Robert in his "little cottage" for the promised tea. Edward approached the shiny, cushioned chair, trembling, and draped his deep-blue overcoat over its gracefully curving back. He quickly slipped his hand into the coat's velvety pocket, retrieving the little yellow bit of paper that was the poison. Face burning, he unwrapped the tablet and slipped it onto his saucer to deal with later. Then he went to rinse his hands.
Edward returned to the table five minutes later, trying not to look suspicious. Relax, he firmly told himself. Enjoy your cup of tea. He decided to distract his prey before the tablet found its way into the fateful cup.
The so-called murderer took a sip from his delicate cup, the hot liquid scalding his tongue. Was it his imagination, or was the tea bitter through all the sugar lumps that had been so obviously been added? His surprise must have showed in his face, because Diana suddenly commented, "You're like a bee, you know? You take your tea as sweet as nectar. I put three lumps in-two, actually, because that little one on your saucer ... "
Edward failed to hear the rest. He just looked at her in horror.