Sisters in Tea – Part VIII: A tea toast to good friends


Recap: Before attending their monthly tea meeting at St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque, Lupe considers if she should tell her friends Ramona and Felicia about a disagreeable incident - Carmen has vanished after stealing a dress from her shop. Lupe feels betrayed and embarrassed about the whole thing. Later, Lupe and Ramona feel a bit jealous of Felicia's love life and her relationship with a young and handsome man. But is all that glitters gold? The friends are talking about Ramona's new business idea when Felicia's phone rings. She decides not to answer but still, something about the call bugs her. On her way to the restroom, Felicia meets a gentleman man who prefers typewriters to computers. She finds him amusing, but the sudden discovery of a voicemail intended for Papacito makes her realize that her boyfriend is cheating on her.

Felicia returned to the nook holding Papacito's cell phone in her right hand. It hadn't occurred to her to put it back in her purse.

Lupe was still singing the praises of entrepreneurship.

"Having my own business has given me a freedom I never had before … " But she noticed something strange in her friend's expression and stopped in mid-sentence. "What's the matter?" she asked.

Felicia turned on the speakerphone and replayed the message without saying a word.

"That's Carmen!" Lupe gasped.

Ramona's hand flew to her mouth.

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely," Lupe said. "That's her high pitched, silly school-girl voice. I've been listening to it for over a month, remember?"

"This doesn't make any sense," Felicia muttered. "How did she and Papacito meet?"

No one knew what to answer. For the first time in 12 years, the dessert tray was left untouched.

A week later, Ramona started her consulting business. The principal of a new local charter school didn't have the money to hire a full-time accountant, but she offered just what Ramona wanted. It felt good to go back to work and be surrounded by cheerful faces. It felt good to have less free time! Who would have told her that when she decided to retire less than a year before?

Ramona had been busy. Besides working for the school, she had helped Felicia repaint the house after that rat of her boyfriend left -- after she kicked him out, as Ramona preferred to phrase it. She admitted he was seeing another woman he had met at the gym. "A babe," he had boasted, to Felicia's dismay.

Did Carmen know who Felicia was when she agreed to come to the tea meeting? Had she come to meet her rival in person or it all had been an unlucky coincidence? In any case, that didn't matter anymore. Good luck to her and good riddance to Papacito. Carmen was welcome to keep that moocher, Ramona thought, hoping that Felicia would share her feelings soon. But her friend had been depressed for the last month, and that was understandable.

"Be thankful that you found out the truth sooner than later," Lupe had said to her, repeating Felicia's comments about Carmen.

"You are so totally right," Felicia sighed.

Ramona patted her friend's hand.

"No hay mal que dure cien años," she said. "Pain never lasts one hundred years. Trust me on that one."

She knew that, eventually, Felicia's wounds would heal. But for now, she felt sad and betrayed. Their tea meeting that day would likely be devoted to talk Felicia out of her depression. That's what friends were for.

Ramona parked her Nissan and started walking toward the tearoom. The chilly December air made her quiver. There was a dusting of snow over the Sandia Mountains. She pictured a lively fire, cucumber sandwiches and the warm buttered scones. She had looked at the menu online and knew it was a "Dickens' event" that featured Ebenezer's cheddar chutney and Fezziwig's Fidget pie. The Christmas menu was always a notch above the usual fare. And the usual fare, as they all knew, was remarkable. She had skipped lunch that day.

It was 10 minutes before 4 p.m. Ramona figured that she would have time to browse The Marketplace shelves. She planned to buy a nice tapestry for Felicia's bathroom so the empty, freshly painted wall didn't remind her of the awful racecar poster, and, by association, Papacito.

The waitress told her that Pemberley would be ready before the appointed time. Ramona looked around and noticed that Felicia was already there, near the shelf where the old Royal typewriter stood like a tribute to bygone times. She was talking to an older guy that Ramona had seen there before. Wasn't he the same man that she and Lupe had nicknamed Mr. Mystery? Yes, he was!

Un clavo saca otro clavo, Ramona chuckled to herself. That was another old saying. A nail drives out another nail. The best cure for an old love is a new one. Would it be true for Felicia?

I hope so. Ramona thought. Ah, it seems that I'm full of sayings today!

At 4:15, the three friends were seated around a table with the first serving of tea in front of them.

"Do you realize, girls, that this is our last meeting of the year?" Lupe asked. "Time flies!"

Then they got ready to listen to Felicia's woe-is-me tales, but she took a sip of tea, winked and asked in a low, conspiratorial voice,

"Can you believe I have a date tonight?"

Lupe began to ask a million questions. Ramona didn't need to. She raised her teacup and said,

"Here is to the next year!"

"To decent men," Felicia added. "And to good friends as well!"

The clank of the porcelain cups reverberated across the room like silver bells heralding the new year.

The Spanish version of this story is here.