Where is everybody?
This thought struck Ebin as he made his way across the recently ruined kitchen. Have they left already? His sister and her partner usually stayed on to the next evening (at least- usually even longer than that!). And their surprise guests had been quite vocal about what a good time they were having.
Guess they had somewhere to be after all. Opening the corner cubbard with a resigned shrug, he timidly retrieved the container of green, crumpled leaves that smelled of far-off flowers. Clutching it closely to his chest, he spoke his next thought aloud, “They could have cleaned up a bit, first.”
Carrying his quarry over to the long meeting table that dominated the center of the adjoining room, he gingerly stepped through the rubble of the past night: Crumpled bags and forgotten bottles littered his sand colored carpet; spilled and snapped chips and pretzels mingled with now-dry spilt wine and soda; Abandoned blankets and articles of clothing covered a minefield of charges both fragile and expensive.
Setting the container on the table, he briefly opened it, allowing the scent of the tea to calm his increasingly troubled mind. Carrying that borrowed serenity with him, he set the kettle on the gunk-encrusted stove to boil. Perhaps they’ll return. Maybe they left me a message?
Darting over the minefields with the newfound ease of not carrying an expensive and important passenger, he made his way back to his room, where some makeshift beddings still crowded the floor. I should probably get changed, anyway. Shucking yesterday’s clothes from his still-tired body was a chore in itself, and when he was just barely starting to seek out the new day’s clothes, the kettle began to sing.
Rolling the dice in his head, he quickly darted out of his room, all too aware of his transgressive exposure. Luckily, he was able to move the kettle off of the flame and make it back to the safe seclusion of his room with no incident. Either the fates are on my side today, He thought as he pulled a long shirt over his jackhammering heart, Or I really am the only one in the house right now.
Now fully dressed, he let out a sigh of relief. From that sigh came a thought, cast aside once his momentary nudity had become a problem: “I forgot about my phone!”
He dove onto his bed, scooping his phone into his waiting hands. They had indeed left him a message:
Gone out for coffee and donuts. Be back shortly. We’ll get Your usual! - Becca
“Awesome.” The smile was evident even in Ebin’s hushed voice. “I don’t have to start rushing around to clean up this mess yet, then.”
He sent a short reply and went back out to the table to fix his morning pot of tea. Into the sachet went the leaves, packed tightly with a spoon and covered with the flap that almost stayed closed when it was in hot water. The kettle’s off boil water soon joined the sachet in his brown earthenware pot, causing an invisible dance of currents as the flavorful leaves bled out into their newfound surroundings.
While waiting out the three minutes needed to properly brew the oolong tea, Ebin heard his phone begin to ring. Strange. He made his way over to the phone. “I hate when people call me back after I text them. Obviously I don’t want to talk, or I’d have called them myself, right?” His hushed, sighing voice changed tone completely as he picked up the phone and answered it.
“Hey You. What’s up?”
“Uh, Hi Ebin.” The voice on the other end of the phone was surprisingly masculine. It took Ebin a moment to realize who it might be. Luckily, they’d met each other at the get together last night.
“Darrel? Why are You calling me from Becca’s phone?”
Darrel’s voice caught as he tried to say something, and he lapsed into a coughing fit. Smoker. Ebin remembered, and gave him a moment to get through it. “Sorry. Ebin, I dunno what to say. There’s been a huge accident at the circle downtown.”
Like a lead weight, Ebin’s stomach sank through his balls and to the floor in a wave of shock and dread. “An …accident?” His voice sounded far away, but it asked the question anyway.
“Some kind of explosion happened, right underneath our car. We’re en route to the hospital now, but Becca… She’s not awake enough to call anyone.”
Silence was the only response Ebin could offer.
“Uh, did I lose You?” Darrel’s strange sounding voice faded out at the end of the sentence as he checked to make sure the call hadn’t been dropped.
“Which hospital are they taking You to?” Ebin finally found some kind of response as his hand found the doorway’s trim, and both grasped as tightly as they could to what little solace had come upon them.
Murmurring on the other side of the phone.
“Lord’s Hospital, on Vine street.” Came the belated reply.
“Alright. I’ll get there as soon as I can. I’m leaving now.” Without waiting for a confirmation from this man he’d only met yesterday, Ebin ended the call. He rushed over to the doorway, grabbing his coat and his shoes in the process, and headed out the door, slamming (and then, moments later, locking) it behind him.
On the table, above the mountain of trash that currently was the dining room, sat the little earthenware pot: still filled with leaves slowly bleeding their essence into rapidly cooling water, and tumbling out of their not quite secure enough sachet into the bitter brew they created. Steam rose, for now, from the pot in a little cloud above it.
But that would soon end, too.