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  • Writer's pictureSam Palmer

Lydia's Tea Party

"Sugar with your tea, Mommy?"

She nodded, smiling as she watched her little hand hold the spoon as the girl pretended to pour sugar into her teacup.

"Perfect. Thank you." She brought the tiny white cup covered in little pink roses to her mouth, blowing the imaginary steam from its opening before sipping down the tepid water inside. "Mmmmm, that's delicious."

Her daughter beamed with pride, bringing her own cup to her mouth and taking a long sip. As the girl drank, she looked around the pale yellow room. Admiring the sheer ivory curtains filtering the golden sunlight streaming in through the windows. The fluffy pale blue comforter and crisp white pillows on the bed. She counted four stuffed animals lined across them, with shiny beaded eyes and embroidered smiles. She peered up at the white framed watercolored paintings of small brown ponies in a green meadow on the wall above the table where they sat. The room was perfect and she sighed in satisfaction as she turned back to the curly-haired little girl still drinking her imaginary tea.

"Do you like your room, Ms. Lydia?" She asked, the cup poised at her lips. Holding it gingerly, pinky extended, the tiny matching saucer in her other hand.

"Oh yes!" The girl set her cup back on the table and pivoted her body in her wooden chair, her large eyes scanning the room. "I love it."

"Hey, you know what I don't see?" The teacup clattered against the saucer as the two met.

The girl turned to her mother, brows furrowed. "What?"

"I don't see Mister Cotton-Bottom!" She turned her head in an exaggerated search of the room for the small, brown velvet stuffed rabbit that her daughter had had since she was a baby.

"Oh." Lydia's gaze fell to the floor as she turned her body, tucking her legs back under the table. "I don't have him anymore."

"Oh?" She adjusted in the small chair. "May I have more of your delicious tea please?"

The little girl's eyes sparked back to life as she happily picked up the teapot and poured more water into her cup.

"Careful, it's hot." Her small voice warned.

"Oh yes. Thank you!" She picked it up and blew more pretend steam away before drinking the water. Lydia smiled.

"So, where did Mister Cotton-Bottom go?" Her voice was light and eyes focused on her cup as she set it down, waiting for Lydia's response.

"He stayed behind at the old house." Lydia's said quietly.

"Don't you think he would've liked it here with you, though? In this beautiful room?" She smiled and leaned in slightly, trying to get Lydia to meet her gaze.

The little girl sighed, fidgeting with the hem of her green linen dress. "He couldn't come."

She felt her brows pinch together in confusion, her expression changed to one of concern. "Why not?"

"The policeman said he needed to hold on to him for awhile. And then Aunt Susan said Mister Cotton-Bottom decided to stay behind and watch over the house."

"The policeman?" She reached her hand across the table, navigating through the small china tea set, her fingers reaching for Lydia's hand. "Sweetie, what policeman?"

Lydia ignored her mother's outstretched hand, and instead kept her eyes focused on the fabric of her dress, now balled up in her tiny fist. "The one that took you and Daddy away."

"Well, that's silly. I'm right here, honey. See?" She lifted her eyebrows and smiled at her daughter. Lydia looked up briefly, meeting her eyes, before returning them to the bunched material in her lap.

"Do you feel all better now, Mommy?" Her eyes fluttered back up, looking at her mother with concern.

"I feel fine, baby. Why?"

"You were asleep so long under that white sheet. Sometimes I sleep a long time when I get sick. Were you very sick, Mommy? Is that why they took you away in the ambu-... amboolants?" The little girl's mouth formed a little pink circle as she focused on pronouncing the word.

"Lydia, who are you talking to, sweetie?" Aunt Susan opened the door to the little girl's bedroom. One hand resting on the brass doorknob as she looked down at her niece sitting in the corner at the children's sized table, her play tea set covering its top.

"Mommy!" The little girl smiled up at her aunt as she stuck out one chubby pink finger, pointing at the empty seat across from her.

The woman looked at the teacup resting on its saucer in front of the empty chair and then back at the little girl. Her mouth turned at the corner in a weak smile as she entered the room.

"How about we go pick up cousin Benny from school and stop to get some ice cream on the way home?" She bent down next to the girl. A wide, excited smile on her face.

"Yeah!" Lydia squealed with delight.

"Okay, let's go!" She stood up, lifting the girl from her chair. Cradling her in her arms, they exited the room.

As she turned down the hallway, the girl's head resting on her shoulder, she heard Lydia whisper. "Bye, Mommy."

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