"Willow's Tail" 14
The tea was poured and Willow had her treat.
“Okay Martha you’ve stalled long enough.” Perfidia nodded to the letter lying on the kitchen counter.
“I suppose I have.”
Martha picked up her silver letter opener and slit the top of the envelope removing a folded paper from within. She hesitated for a second and then opened it.
“What does it say?” Perfidia asked with impatience.
Martha looked up from the paper with an odd expression and Perfidia felt a shiver of concern.
“Nothing's wrong; it’s just a flyer for the Summer Solstice festival,” Martha told her turning the paper around to show her.
“Why would that need to be so mysteriously delivered, is a joke?”
“I don’t think so. There has to be more we're not seeing,” Martha cautioned turning the flyer back around and looked it over again. This time she noticed three areas marked with tiny arrows.
Martha placed the flyer down on the counter to face Perfidia and Willow jumped up on the stool next her to see it too.
“What do you see?” Martha asked her.
Perfidia studied the flyer for a moment before her eyes lit on the arrows.
“I see they’ve noted the cat contest,” Perfidia said with a teasing lilt and received a sour meow from Willow.
“And what else?” Martha prompted.
Perfidia looked back at the flyer and her mocking expression soured.
“They’ve also highlighted the Orchid Contest; how nice of them, but they shouldn’t have bothered Martha; I don’t have an Orchid to enter anymore thanks to that intruder, but I'd love to give them a stink weed.”
“I do have a solution for that Orchid Perfidia but right now, do you see the third area they’ve marked?”
Perfidia looked down again and she did notice one more arrow. “They’ve put an arrow by the Lemons of Life Café but why?”
“That’s meant for me,” Martha said with certainty.
“How do you know?”
“It's obvious; the first two arrows depict the contests you and Willow are entered in, so that leaves me. This is where I meet our puppeteer.”
“So if that's true then…have you read all the letters?”
“No, I have the last one to read but I’ll read it before the festival and so far none of the letters have had any code I could find.”
“That’s interesting…if you didn’t have to break a code then it has to be about the content of the letters, so…what did Percival write?” Perfidia wiggled her brows and leaned closer for the details.
“Not need to know Perfidia,” Martha responded, refolding the flyer.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Perfidia cajoled, “I think Willow and I do need to know. Don’t we?” she tuned to the cat.
Willow flattened her ears; her cat’s eyes projected a scornful look.
“Ok, so just me,” Perfidia clarified.
“Never mind my letters,” Martha said flatly, “You need to be sure you don’t over do your helpful therapy with Roger; he needs to be healthy in four days not relapsed.”
“He’ll be ready,” Perfidia said with confidence, “his therapist said he’s improving and he can walk a short distance without his cane. The extra hour of exercise and the boost of energy I’ve added to his warm milk at night are working wonders on him.”
“What exactly have you added?”
“It’s just a strength building potion.”
“Perfidia, I agree he needs to do the exercise program but his life doesn’t need more interference from potions.”
“Why condemn my methods? I don’t condemn your methods Martha. You brew your tea with its restorative qualities; why don’t you think my potions can do the same?”
“It’s not the potions it’s the intent in which you give them Perfidia.”
”What? I intend for him to heal quick enough to go to the festival.”
“But is your intent in Roger’s best interest?”
“Fiddle poof, I’m sure you’ve brewed with intent for yourself once or twice,” Perfidia accused picking up her tea cup, “In fact, this tea is a perfect blend of invigorating and yet,” she lifted the cup closer and sniffed the tea’s fragrant aroma, “is that a hint of introspective examination I whiff? I’m feeling a tad manipulated Martha.”
“You are never manipulated Perfidia but you’re right; I did brew a tea that we both needed, shame on me.”
“Okay, you’re right; I do not often…or perhaps ever, think of the other person’s feelings,” Perfidia gave a resigned smirk then took a small sip of her tea. The stupid introspection blend must be working, she scoffed.
“I'm glad you can admit your short comings but you’re wrong in your assumption of my tea Perfidia; this is not my blend for introspective insight.”
“No, because the insight we need tonight isn’t internal; it’s an outward illumination we seek.”
Perfidia’s eyes lit with understanding.
“You think we’re missing something?”
“I do,” “Martha said lifting her cup and sipping the mind sharpening brew.
Perfidia smiled with relief that her conscience wouldn't be stirred and she took a deeper sip of the tea.
“Where do you want to start?”
“At the beginning is always best,” Martha advised.
“My showing up here started it.”
“No, that was all you Perfidia.”
Perfidia gave her an annoyed look.
“Fine then Roger showing up was all me too, right?’
“That’s true, in a way, but you didn’t send for him,”
“No I didn’t, so we begin with Roger’s appearance.”
“Whoever sent him that invite in my name had to have a purpose,” Perfidia stated the fact.
“Its obvious purpose was that Roger needed to heal and you needed to be selfless and help him.”
“Okay, so that's points for me.”
“Not yet; you’re still a few shades away from humility.”
“Thank you for the assessment of my virtues but beyond that, do you truly think it’s about my karma?"
“Not that I agree, but who would have known that I did that, or even cared?”
“I don’t know, do you know of anyone?"
"then let’s keep connecting the events and see if we can discern who it is.”
Perfidia was happy to comply and she galdly reminded Martha of the next mischief that had occurred.
“That would be Percival bringing you those love letters. So maybe you do need to tell me what’s in them i,f we’re going to find the connection.”
Martha’s eyes darkened.
“Very well, Percival needed me to read his letters; it helped him to know I gave his feelings consideration and it helped me too. The letters took the edge off the anger I’d been carrying around. That may not have been intended by the mischief maker but it was an interesting result.”
“So that’s a good outcome for you?”
Martha nodded, “It appears so.”
“Do you think it’s Percival behind this? He could be the one walking into the café.”
“No, it doesn’t feel like Percival, even though this points to him. I think it’s a red herring.”
“Good spy word Martha,” Perfidia grinned.
“Thank you but keep focused Perfidia. What was next?”
“Next was that stink weed Roger did not send to Gloria and there is nothing good about that.”
“No that stink weed wasn’t good but it did serve a purpose, bringing Gloria here.”
“It did indeed bring an unwelcome guest.”
“I disagree she was unwelcome,” Martha said it kindly because she understood Perfidia’s dislike of Gloria was an unhealed wound.
“Really Martha, you’d side with her?”
“I’m not siding with anyone Perfidia, merely observing.”
“Okay then give me your observation on how her coming here all upset and angry at Roger, was welcome to anyone?”
“It was to Roger.”
“She accused him of sending her stink weeds and she walked out.”
“Yes, it was brief but it was an encounter. The roses Roger had sent wouldn’t have done what that stink weed did. Gloria would have ignored them as a gesture of guilt and would have no need to contact him, but the stink weed made her angry; angry enough to seek him out and confront him. That opened the door for a true apology.”
Perfidia wanted to disagree because anything with Gloria in it had to be deceitful, only she did see the transparency of the event because of Martha’s insightful tea. She didn’t want to see it, but she had to admit the stink weed opened the path for their reconciliation.
“You’re right. Gloria was forced to confront him,” Perfidia gave a gagging sound before adding,” and Cinderella found she still cared for her Prince Roger, how lovely.”
Martha grinned at Perfidia’s sarcasm.
“That’s how I see it,” Martha agreed with a slight chuckle.
“Great! So moving past that…it brings us to the contests we’ve been entered in. Why enter us in the festival?"
"Maybe it was to force us to attend."
Perfidia scoffed at the idea.
"Then send tickets not contest applications. Who cares if Willow can play housecat or I can win an Orchid contest?"
"I don’t know." Martha was still troubled by the reasoning; why make them participate?
"And why are you being forced to read Percival’s letters, even if they're a balm to your pain, I don’t understand why it would be important to anyone other than you and Percival?”
“You have as much of an answer to that question as I do.” Martha groused, “Or even why I have to meet them alone at a café after the festival ends?”
“Exactly, do you see a clear reason for that?” Perfidia inquired, hoping Martha had more tea insight than she did.
Martha sipped her tea waiting for a thread of that reasoning; she wanted answers to all of those questions, but none came.
“The only thing I see Perfidia is that until we go to the festival and complete the last tasks asked of us, there is no insight. I have no idea what it will bring to us.”
“Great, so this was a waste of a good cup of tea.”
Martha chuckled at Perfidia’s disappointment.
“Not truly a waste; we can take heart that so far it appears the mischief has had good outcomes.”
“Really, you think it’s all been good?”
“So far,” Martha qualified.
“Then what about my poor Orchid; how was taking it from me a sign of this meddling soul’s good intentions, how is it good for the Orchid or me?”
“It brought us to that house and closer to the one involved.”
“Really that’s what you get out of it? We saw a house we couldn’t fully see, found a letter in the mailbox that was not a clue. Received a festival flyer that revealed no secrets. In other words Martha…taking my Orchid led us to another dead end and only lost me my prize Orchid and someone is still manipulating our days.”
Martha agreed with her assessment; she felt as unsettled as Perfidia.
“You'e right and until the contest is done Perfidia, I’m not sure what it portends for us either.”
“So your tea has its limits.”
“As does everything.”
“Sure be cryptic now when it’s about me…Why am I’m not hearing any happy outcomes for my Orchid turned stink weed?”
“Maybe I’m not seeing it because this one is about you…what do you see?”
Perfidia did not want to talk about what insights may have come to her; it was too uncomfortable to analyze yourself.
“I saw nothing and I think your tea has gone flat Martha. I’m ready to call this night over,” Perfidia sighed and stood up, “See you in the morning.”
Martha doubted it but she wouldn’t challenge her and responded with a quiet, “Good night” as Perfidia breezed out of the kitchen.
Willow placed a dainty paw on the flyer and lowered her head catching a scent of the bothersome cat and its kindred spirit. She tilted her head to her human and gave a low annoyed meow.
"Yes Willow; I know this intrusion by unseen opponents is most uncomfortable and like you, I am ready for it to end,” Martha said frowning at the final destination marked on the flyer, The Lemons of Life Café.
The loud roar of a well tuned engine racing past her house caused a prickle of awareness to race up Martha's spine. She quickly turned towards the sound just as the back door to the garden flew open and the festival flyer fluttered to the floor. The engine raced on into the night becoming quieter with its distance, but Martha knew it was not a random driver that had passed her house.
That car’s route was on purpose.
Willow’s eyes narrowed to glowing slits of light, her ears flattened back tracking the sound then she flicked her tail with precision in the direction of that fading hum and settled back comfortably on the stool.
Perfidia walked into the kitchen; her face devoid of color.
“Did you hear that car?”
“And did you…did you see a face?”
“No, only a shadow, a profile of the driver but nothing defined except for the cat’s eyes shinning from the passenger seat.”
“That’s exactly what I saw, a cat and a man’s profile.”
“He’s still hidden in the peripheral Perfidia, but he's taunting.”
"Is he?" Perfidia’s voice deepened to a purr and havoc lit up her eyes like brilliant gems of mischief,
“He is,” Martha nodded, her eyes glittering with a fierce determination to best this intruding spirit.
"You do have an Orchid I can enter?"
"Then let's taunt him back."
Martha agreed and Willow’s low meow conferred her agreement as well but Willow's eyes were lit by pure satisfaction, she'd already sent her taunt.
That perfect car now sported four flat tires.