Tea by Phil Moore

Lila’s name had a musicality to it was memorable and posed no challenge to pronounce, thought Duffy, as she stood by her window, with the whole house in a conspicuous hush. More so, when coupled with Lila’s niceness, which some of the women thought excessive, insincere even, for it was routine to receive a cake made personally for each major holiday, it was prim and always a classic pink over white, but the consensus was that it tasted just alright.

Lately, Lila was seen looking weary and lost, in a sort of post-coital air of complete and shallow carelessness, she was too young for Alzheimer’s, remarked a concerned Angie, whose own mother had become a core and needed babysitting around the clock. She proceeded to remind everyone that it was merely two months ago that Lila organized a yoga class for them, during which Lila’s hair was said to be visibly brighter, her cheeks held a bit more fat, all this a stunning picture next to the present version of Lila, who left the house normally an hour before sundown, taking doubtful and shaky steps outward, but never stepping past her front yard.

Noone knew her exact age, but Orian, who felt obliged to mention that she was once a neurologist before moving out of the city, speculated that Lila was in her late 30s, adding that she regularly observed Lila consuming light spoonfuls at parties and was never known to engage in any form of unconventional behavior, a label for which Lila’s husband had been unofficially declared a mascot.

Thom took it upon himself to dominate conversations, although this was once considered inappropriate, the women eventually chose to bear with this, citing how his stories, some told for perhaps the twelfth or thirteenth time, sounded slightly better. His face had lovely, masculine angles to it and his eyes glowed youthful, and he was no doubt the best looking gentleman there, and here Sharon with no an unobvious irk wondered how he had ended up with Lila, whom she described in murderous spite as being “plain” and “inexcusably boring”.

Perhaps, said Duffy, who always took on the role of a mediator, allowing the most passive amongst them to voice their opinions; something had occurred between Thom and Lila. It was the first time that evening any of the women put the two names together, and some felt a certain warmth, reminiscent of when the couple first arrived, looking chic in their plaid, earthly colors, agreeable and to mostly everyone, perfectly compatible.

An affair was rare here, and a nervous Brune interjected politely, saying such rumors could be dangerous, clearly aware that speculation, once lit, could lead to a friendly fire or two. Plus, she went on, Thom seemed like a decent man, despite his overwhelming personality, and here a number of the women looked up, caught in a raw glee and relief, suddenly knowing that they weren’t the only ones who thought it: it was Lila who had been unfaithful.

June, who had been listening and seemed to have no valuable input of her own, noticed that the room had grown a few shades darker, and this meant two things. The husbands would soon depart for home, hungry for dinner, and also, it was time for Lila to come out. Normally one of the women would go first, traditionally the hostess, to peer out the window as the others sat in obedience, and in that moment Duffy searched for Lila, a door opened and out walked a barefoot, unkempt-looking Lila who seemed taken by a self-imposed blindness.

They would take turns to spot Lila by the window, and the dialogue took a hiatus, each woman clipped to thought as if excited to discover something new, a telling clue, a new route for their story to take.

It came for Brune to take her turn by the window, in all honesty she felt disinterested already, for Lila, troubled or not, never seemed to fascinate her much, it was a character who in all sense showcased the quality of a tired wallflower, and by the window she noted nothing different, just the same disheveled woman who was probably half-insane, what was supposed to be so bizarre about this?

This was when she felt the impulse, and knew to immediately disregard the other women. She ran from the window, to the front door and out onto the open porch, and started screaming for Lila.