What’s up at 44 Cherry Street?
Last week when I asked Lorraine about Frederick, she burst into tears and told me between sobs that he was gone!
“Gone???” I asked. “What in the world happened?”
She was crying hard and couldn’t speak, so I offered to fix her a cup of tea. She nodded her head vigorously, so I got up and went into the little kitchen of her top floor apartment at 44 Cherry Street. As usual, the kitchen was spotless and beautiful. It looked like a picture from a magazine. Her open shelves held antique blue and white china mixed with handmade pottery, perfectly arranged. A blue Roseville cookie jar on the counter held a selection of old, hand-carved wooden spoons. An antique Chinese tea canister was piled with white linen napkins.
I found a canister of Earl Grey tea and added a couple of teaspoons of the loose tea into an antique blue and white tea pot and found some cups and saucers on a shelf. A small crystal tumbler held polished sterling spoons, and I put it all with a pretty sugar bowl (neither of us puts cream in our tea) onto a tray and carried it into the living room where Lorraine was loudly blowing her nose. I pored some tea into both cups using an silver tea strainer and handed a cup to Lorraine. I settled into a chair across from hers and asked again, “What happened?”
She took a sip of the tea and began. “Do you remember what happened last year? Or was it two years ago? I ran away from Frederick because the holidays were coming up and I couldn’t face spending time with his horrible family. He had even invited his ex-wife to our Thanksgiving dinner, and she eats with her mouth open. I was trying to visit my sister in Mexico, but was kidnapped at the airport by drug lords, and I was taken to the jungle hide-out of El Chappo.”
“Yes, of course I remember!” I said. “Then you had a crazy romantic fling with El Chappo, right?”
“Right. But then I ran away from him because I was getting fat and the lazy life I led there was not conducive to weight loss. I couldn’t even get to a Pilates class!! I struggled to get home and swore to Frederick that nothing had happened between Chappie and me. It was a lie, of course, but Frederick was so pure and squeaky clean, that he believed me.
“Everything was going fine. Frederick and I were getting on well. We would take walks at the Biltmore Estate and sometimes in nice weather we brought along a little picnic lunch. He did his best, considering he had so little money. You know I was raised in luxury, and it’s hard to get used to being lower middle class.
“Then Christmas rolled around and with a little snooping, I found Frederick’s gift to me. A book. Can you imagine? One book. And not even a book I wanted to read! I was so disappointed
Then one afternoon a florist delivered a huge arrangement of flowers. They were absolutely gorgeous: roses, lilies, and my favorite, freesia. It was fragrant and expensive! I assumed that Frederick had sent them.”
“Had he sent them? I asked.
“I thought so and didn’t see a card, so when he came in I hugged and kissed him and thanked him. He looked puzzled and when he saw the bouquet, he pawed at it and discovered the card. It was from Chappie! He had written,”My bed is so cold without you, my little hot tamale! Come back!”
“Mild-mannered Frederick turned into a tiger! “You lied to me! I cannot live with a liar and a hot tamale.” He threw a few of his old clothes (polyester short-sleeved dress shirts and pull-on pants) into a paper shopping bag and left. He even took the crummy book with him.
And now here I am alone.