Welcome to Tea Party Tuesday! It's lovely to share a cup with you. Please have a sandwich. Aren't these delightful? Oh and let's not forget a little fruit and cheese. We'll have cake later.
I love serving afternoon tea in my books. The ritual is such a nice way to share friendships, old and new. Jillian Bradley loves serving it not only to close friends but also to someone who needs someone to talk to - in this case a mother who lost her only son, one of the murder victims in Book 2 "The Ghost Orchid Murder.
Here's an excerpt -
"The Ghost Orchid Murder"
At precisely four o’clock, there was a knock on my door. When I answered, Yvette stood in the doorway and smiled. Room service was right behind her. I motioned for her to sit down on the sofa by the fire as the server placed the tea tray on the table in front of her. I signed the bill and thanked him.
Teddy was yipping, trying to guard me from whoever entered his territory.
Yvette’s face brightened.
She looked surprisingly young for her age, which I judged to be about forty-five to fifty. Her firm handshake confirmed that she was self-assured. She sat straight on the sofa with her ankles crossed. Although she was pretty in a country sort of way, the lines around her eyes told of a difficult life, not one of privilege.
High cheekbones spoke of her French ancestry. Like many Europeans, Yvette wore no makeup, only a little lipstick and yet her color looked quite healthy. She wore her shoulder-length blond hair straight and simple. Her clothes flattered her medium built figure. I wondered if Rene had been like her.
Teddy was yipping in the bedroom, trying to guard his territory from the present invader.
“Would you like some tea?”
“Thank you, I’d love some. Just plain, please.”
I took my time pouring the tea and stirring in the sugar for mine. I offered her a slice of decadent chocolate cake or a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. She took the cookie and white linen napkin. We sipped our tea and she told me again how much she appreciated the invitation.
“I would love to meet your dog, Jillian.” She placed her cookie on her saucer.
I walked over to Cecilia’s room and let Teddy out. He immediately ran over to Yvette and jumped into her lap.
She smiled and began to pet him.
“He’s adorable.” She rubbed his ears gently and stroked his fur. “I could never give Rene a dog because A.J. said we couldn’t afford one. Of course I regret it now, like so many things.”
“Is A.J. your husband?” I was glad Teddy was taking to her so.
“He was my husband. A.J. died when Rene was a teenager.”
“I’m so sorry. What did your husband do for a living?”
“He was a logger.” She sighed. “Six days a week he’d take logs from where they fell and load them onto trucks that took them to the mills. A.J. would work twelve hours a day and when he got home, all dirty and hungry, Rene would disappear into another room. The two didn’t really mix.
“A.J. and I would have a little time over dinner together where he recapped his day. Then to sleep…early…7 o’clock sharp every evening. The same routine started all over again the next morning.”
“He seems to have worked hard to provide for his family. I’m sure you miss him.”
Teddy licked her hand as if to say he was sorry she had suffered two deaths now.
“You’re a good dog, Teddy. Thank you.” She stroked his fur. “Please have your friend come in and have some tea. I feel like I’m encroaching.”
I stood. “I’ll ask her if she’d like to join us.”
I introduced Cecilia. Yvette seemed comfortable sharing her personal life in front of her. I think she sensed I had her welfare in mind and trusted me.
She was hungry to talk to someone, so Cecilia and I listened sympathetically.
Yvette talked for some time, unfolding her life story as we drank tea together. I made sure her cup stayed full.
“I was the daughter of a common shopkeeper who had emigrated from France when I was only three years old. We had moved to Ocala, Florida, where our family ran a small grocery store. After my parents could no longer keep up with the work of running the store, I took over.”
Cecilia sipped her tea. “So you run a family business. That must take a lot of work.”
“Yes. I rarely get a break. We added a couple of gas pumps and turned the grocery part into more of a convenience store. Since tourists stopped by frequently on their way to the Everglades or Disney World, I put in a small gift shop section, and it did quite well.”
I was curious. “What type of merchandise do you carry?”
“The usual things—greeting cards, souvenirs, stuffed animals, T-shirts, caps, and I even sell books, you know, travel books and books about Florida.”
“Do you carry souvenir bells, shot glasses, things like that?”
“Oh, yes. I even carry a few porcelain teacups. I remember my grandmother having quite a collection.”
“I collect them myself. I think I’m up to forty-four, last time I counted.”
“That’s quite a collection.” She sipped her tea and took a small bite of her cookie.
“Yvette, would you by any chance carry any porcelain flowers, like Capodimonte flowers?”
“I think I know the ones you’re talking about. They’re flowers on branches, right? I saw one my friend had sitting on an end table in her living room.”
“Yes. They’re beautiful and distinctive. Do you carry anything like that?”
“I do have a few flowers, but they’re mostly local for the tourists. I carry a few roses because they always seem to sell.”
I watched her face closely. “Would you have any orchids for instance?”
Her expression didn’t change and she seemed unaware of any significance.
“Orchids? Of course. Florida’s full of them. Why do you ask?”
“I collect all sorts of porcelain. I’m really a soft touch for anything out of the ordinary.” Careful. Don't reveal the evidence. I’d promised Detective Noble.
Let me refill your cup. Would you care for a powder puff?
I hope you enjoy the Jillian Bradley mystery series as much as I enjoy writing them. Now, back to work on number nine - "Murder at Mirror Lake."