For the second tale of Flashmas the Wildwood gave to me …

Tea and Love at Doves

Photo of a white christmassy mug with steam coming out of the top, sitting in snow with a branch of pine leaves and cones at its base.

The Village, situated as it was on the southern edge of the Wildwood, where the river swept out from under the trees and began a wide slow meander through the fields and hills, had absorbed plenty of the Wildwood’s power. For over a thousand years it has been either a way station or an end point for some of the fortunate souls (or unfortunate, depending on why the person caught the Wood’s attention) pulled into the web of tales that must forever play out if humans are to remain … well, human. 

Eleanor and Sarah, long-time owners of Doves Tea Shop with Rooms, had become used to the romances that played out in their establishment each festive period. These particular sorts of love stories had only really become “a thing” in the last twenty years (a vulgar American import, Sarah often said sniffly, even though she got just as invested in each one as every other Village resident) but that had not stopped anyone from taking bets on when the first half of the “couple” would arrive and how precisely they would be linked to their intended.

What no one had predicted was that the arrival of Meryl (corporate accountant who’d been working 18 hour days up until the CEO said something so egregiously sexist she snapped and thrown her triple esspresso all over him, the 50% off rooms at Doves promo email arriving only moments after HR had advised her to take all her PTO immediately and use it to “get away and reassess things”) would be preceded by the arrival of two of the Wildwood’s pigeons bearing between them a basket full of herbs and flowers and a note from the Witch. It advised Eleanor to prepare the room with the roll top bath and, at the appropriate juncture, strew the flowers liberally about it. Sarah was to use her judgement as to when best to deploy the herbs.

In due course Meryl arrived. She immediately experienced the sensation that every visitor to the Village had – namely that they’d stepped back into the past not as it really was but as everyone fondly imagined it, only your mobile phone still worked – and was immediately enfolded into the comforting embrace that was Doves. The next morning she was utterly blindsided to find Sadie, her best friend from High School who’d moved halfway across the country when they were fifteen (just before Meryl could find the courage to tell her she’d like to be more than friends), hustled into the breakfast room by Sarah, having arrived on the first train of the day.

Sadie had come to get away from the fall out of her divorce and work out what she was going to do with the unexpectedly substantial settlement she’d received from a sympathetic judge who had seen straight through her ex’s lawyer’s dirty tricks. Unfortunately for them both her ex turned up three days later in order to ‘reclaim what was his’.

After a rather hectic week that had involved the usual number of misunderstandings but a few more shenanigans than expected (who knew two people could even fit in that cupboard, Eleanor had muttered darkly, trying to unflatten her Christmas cake) Sadie and Meryl were ensconced in the roll top bath, making quite a lot of their Christmas wishes come true all at once.

As for the ex … well, Sarah had not forgotten the herbs and he’d been foolish enough not to consider that perhaps you shouldn’t accept a flask of tea for the journey home from the same person who, not twenty-four hours ago, you’d informed was an interfering old busybody who would regret standing in your way.

This story is the second of a twelve part series that was written at the start of December 2022 in response to daily prompt emails from Writer’s HQ for their 12 Days of Flashmas challenge. It is presented here pretty much just as it was originally written on the second day of the challenge. If you’d like to know more my explanatory post can be found here.

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