Mom took a tiny sip and said, “It’s a little bitter.”
“Well, try taking another sip, and keep in mind that it will probably pair well with food.”
Carol set a small dish on the table between us. Employing the silver tongs used for plucking sugar cubes, Mom selected one of the yellow packets. She dropped the packet into her other hand and laughed at her lark as she tore off the corner and shook a bit of the white powder into her cup. She sipped her adjusted brew, smiled with satisfaction, set the cup down, and then startled me by breaking into hysterical laughter. In answer to my baffled expression, Mom said, “My finger is stuck,” and indeed it was, as she’d somehow gotten the tip of her index all the way through the narrow end of the handle.
When she’d finally wriggled free, Mom giggled her relief. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she said, her laughter tapering off and then regaining its momentum. “I think the tea is making me high. Ah! Get it? High tea? Tea high?”
A sucker for puns, I chuckled and added, “You better watch it, you could become a teahead. Take it from me, you may be all tingly scalped now, but the comedown sucks.”
Mom’s perma-grin grew wider and she relaxed into her chair. She cut a cucumber finger sandwich in half and used the fork to taste it. “What would these people think if they could see us eating at home? Because it’s not like this,” she said.
“Who cares?” I answered.
I refilled Mom’s cup and then raised mine to her before taking a sip. A brief moment passed during which no words were spoken as we applied a dollop of fresh cream and rose-petal jam to our scones. “Oh my God, this is amazing,” Mom said after taking a bite.
“Yeah, pretty tasty,” I agreed.
“I really like this, Barb,” said Mom.
“The scone? Yeah, great stuff, huh?”
“Is that what this is? I’ve never had one before. It’s delicious. But no, I mean this. Being alone, just talking. Nobody yelling or arguing with each other. I really like this.”
I set my cup down and dabbed at the corners of my mouth with the linen napkin. I swept the room with my eyes, taking in the English country decor, the curios displayed on shelves, and, returning my gaze to my mother’s face, I said, “I had a feeling you would.”