"Willow's Tail" 16
Perfidia walked down the stairs but hearing voices coming from the kitchen she stopped to listen.One of those voices had her hovering in indecision because it was Gloria’s. But why should she feel uncomfortable? Gloria should be the one to feel discomfort, not her.
She squared her shoulders, held her head high and with her arrogance in tact, turned towards the kitchen.
“Good afternoon Martha,” Perfidia said a shade too brightly as she entered the room. Then she gave a noncommittal grunt of hello to Gloria, a miniscule gesture of social etiquette to appease Martha, not Gloria.
Gloria’s expression, sunny a moment before, darkened as she gave Perfidia a perfunctory nod of acknowledgment.
“Good Morning Perfidia,” Martha returned her greeting with a welcoming smile, “Come and join us.”
Perfidia noticed they were having tea and what appeared to be lemon chiffon pie. It was Perfidia’s favorite pie and she was happy to accept Martha’s invite, even if she had to suffer that other person’s company.
“Thank you, I will,” she said as she sat down and scooted her chair as far from Gloria as possible.
Gloria shifted her line of vision away from Perfidia.
Perfidia did the same, turning to stare out the window but Martha placed a piece of pie in front of her and drew back her attention.
“This looks delicious,” she said with an honest sigh of delight.
“Thank you.” Martha accepted the praise as she poured tea into Perfidia’s cup.
The initial exchange of pleasantries over, the silence grew uncomfortable with two of the table’s occupants avoiding eye contact and conversation.
Martha shook her head at their childishness. She knew they both needed to battle this out and decided to give them a push in that conversational direction.
“Gloria, I’m sure Roger will be down soon, so I hope you won’t mind if I leave you to wait for him; I have so much to do today; I really must get started,” she said, picking up her cup and plate to bring to the sink.
“Oh?” Gloria’s eyes went ‘deer in headlights’ wide. She didn’t want to be left alone with Perfidia, not without Martha’s protection; she didn’t trust her.
On the opposite end of reactions, Perfidia’s eyes, when she turned them to Martha, were accusatory; she knew exactly what Martha was up to, and she wasn’t going to be led into a confrontation.
“You know what?” Perfidia said with challenge as she stood up, “I too have a great deal to do today, so I’ll take my tea and pie upstairs too. I’m sure you don’t mind waiting alone Gloria, do you?”
“No, not at all,” Gloria’s tone was grateful and filled with relief, for once she and Perfidia were in complete agreement.
Martha frowned at their juvenile resistance to clearing the air but if they didn’t want to, she couldn’t force them.
She gave them both a disappointed look as she acquiesced.
“Then I’ll see you at the festival Gloria, have a safe trip home.”
Martha placed her dishes in the sink before leaving the room.
Perfidia picked up her tea and pie, said nothing more to the other occupant, and followed Martha out of the kitchen.
Gloria was happy to be left alone to enjoy the lovely cup of tea and delicious pie without the miserable presence of Perfidia to ruin her contented solitude.
It truly is a lovely morning, she thought as she took another bite of the delicious pie and listened to the birds singing in the trees outside.
Roger walked into the kitchen a short while later and spied Gloria washing dishes and placing them on the drain board. He walked over and his heart picked up a faster beat when she turned to him.
“Gloria you are brighter than the sunshine filtering into this room,” he complimented, stepping closer to give her a warm hug and because she returned his hug so enthusiastically, he felt emboldened to bestow a kiss upon her lips.
The kiss was eye opening and Gloria stared at him, she had to, his eyes were so sparkly, and his smile so very…intriguing, sexy even. She realized he’d transformed while convalescing at Martha’s home. He’d lost weight and, in place of the bits of flab, weaker arms and torso, appeared to have formed a muscular overlay, which begged her to touch him, which was why she’d hugged him rather tightly before.
She gazed now into his very interested eyes and wondered too, if he’d always had that cleft in his chin? She’d never noticed it before, but his face had been rounder. The changes to his appearance were impressive. He was still Roger of course, just a slightly upgraded version and of that version, she definitely approved.
“Thank you Roger and you’re rivaling the sun a bit today too,” she replied with a giggle
Roger wanted to kiss her again and thought her eyes were inviting him to but she stepped back.
“Would you like some tea?” She asked, charging the course of the charged moment with the question and a shy retreat, “Martha made a potent brew and there is pie too, if you like.”
“Perhaps I’ll take that cup of tea to go, as should you, we do have a long drive ahead.”
“You’re right and Martha had said we could use a couple of the travel cups she’d bought for her own travel to the festival.”
“Ah, the festival will be amazing this year,” Roger breathed the words with a sigh and it intoned more than the festival would be the reason for his enjoyment.
Gloria blushed and turned away to pour the tea into two travel cups, taking her time placing the lids tightly on them before finding her voice strong enough to reply to him, because he was taking her breath away.
She gave him a coquettish look as she agreed.
“Yes, it will be amazing…and I’m hoping my orchid will do us proud too.”
“I’m sure it will be the best one there. Perfidia’s will not hold a petal to yours, of that I’m certain,” Roger gave the compliment as he leaned down, angling to kiss those lips he could not resist, but found Gloria backing away from him. He was perplexed at her retreat until she spoke.
“Perfidia’s orchid? Perfidia is entering the contest?”
Gloria questioned in a high pitched voice of dismay; her dreamy expression gone. That information overshadowed her joy at Roger’s riveting transformation. All her attention was lost to the knowledge she’d have to compete with Perfidia.
Roger’s shinning eyes lost their sparkle as he realized what he’d done; he’d ruined the moment. He stuttered trying to take back his troubling news and make Gloria confident in her chances.
“Glor…Gloria, don’t worry, I know your orchid will…it will be perfection, like you.”
Gloria rolled her eyes, she wasn’t buying his compliment.
“Have you seen her Orchid?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Then how could you possibly know if mine will be better?”
“I…I…?” He’d wanted to reassure her but he had no honest response to give.
Gloria shoved one of the travel cups into his hand.
“We’d better get going, it’s a long drive,” she said over her shoulder and walked to the back door.
Roger sighed, berating himself again for talking about that contest. He picked up his suitcase, clutched his warm cup of tea and followed her out the door.
It was going to be a long, and probably silent, drive.
Three days of gathering all they’d need to take with them and making sure they were mentally prepared to meet the challenge their nemesis had thrown at them; Martha, Perfidia and Willow met the day of travel with a strong conviction to win this game.
Perfidia placed the rare, black orchid gently into the box in the back seat of Martha’s compact car and looked without longing at the passenger seat in front.
“I can still rent us a luxury car,” she offered with hope.
Martha gave her an amused look.
“No need, my car is capable of taking us to the festival, Perfidia,” she defended, dropping her travel case and Willow’s cat bed into the trunk before closing it.
“Capable maybe, but definitely not comfortable,” Perfidia mumbled under her breath as she contorted her tall form to fit in the limited space.
Willow jumped through the open car window into the back seat and nearly upset the boxed plant.
“Hey, watch out.” Perfidia warned her.
Willow backed up staring at the unwanted companion encroaching on her space. She wasn’t pleased with its intrusion and pushed the box with her paw as far away as she could then tried to settle into the smaller area, but it was not acceptable, a quick flick of her tail resolved the situation to her satisfaction.
The boxed orchid hovered just above the seat allowing Willow’s feline form to stretch out beneath it.
“How about some help up here?” Perfidia whispered.
Willow apathetically flicked her tail and the car’s front end grew a few inches.
Martha didn’t think the car needed the adjustment but Perfidia’s longer legs were grateful for it.
“Thank you,” Perfidia said, dropping her sunglasses down over her eyes.
Martha lowered the convertible’s roof and pulled out of the garage into the morning’s bright sunshine.
“Well, we’re on our way,” Martha stated with a resigned sigh.
“Yes, we are,” Perfidia echoed with little cheer.
The drive was pleasant enough as the weather accommodated them with a lovely summer breeze and little humidity.
“It’ll be nice to have you as my houseguest Martha even though I don’t have as mysterious a garden as yours.”
“I’m sure it’s lovely,” Martha reassured her, but the thought of homes and gardens made her think of the home she still had in the village. She hadn’t sold it when she’d left; she’d closed it up. Willow ensured that it remained well kept, but she had never gone back. Perfidia’s house was just outside the village limits, and that proximity was comforting to Martha. She was not ready to revisit all of her past.
Two hours later they pulled into Perfidia’s driveway.
Perfidia’s home was more than comfortable. One might say luxuriously welcoming but it did lack one accommodation; there was no cat door for Willow.
Willow corrected that omission immediately and ensured her bed was placed in the kitchen near her food.
After a delicious dinner Perfidia and Martha cooked together they decided to turn in early, the first day of the festival was tomorrow.
Willow had surveyed her temporary home from top to bottom and now she stepped out into the garden to explore the grounds outside. It was well shaded, filled with interesting plants and flowers but it lacked delphiniums and that was not to be tolerated.
Willow flicked her tail and a tall cluster of beautiful sapphire blue spires now adorned the perfect spot in the garden. She purred at the sight and deemed Perfidia’s home acceptable. Then she jumped back thru the cat door and wandered into the kitchen for a long cat nap on her soft pillowed bed.
Martha settled into the guest bedroom on the first floor; it had sliding doors that led to a large, well planted garden. She stepped out into the garden and breathed in the night air; enjoying the proximity to nature. The moonlight hit on a patch of color and Martha saw the delphiniums that had not been there earlier. She smiled, knowing the identity of the landscaper, and thought they were strategically placed. “Nice planting Willow,” she whispered and heard a soft confident meow in reply.
Martha returned to the room and the moonlight filtering in though the gossamer drapes was a perfect nightlight. She enjoyed a peaceful night’s slumber; exactly what she needed on her first night back in her old life.
Perfidia’s room was on the second floor of her home and had a balcony with a perfect view of the acres of land she owned, acres of beautiful, untamed, land. It was the reason she’d bought this property; that feeling of affinity she’d felt at first sight. Her home was isolated, self sufficient and lacked no amenities; it was perfect for someone who shared their life with no one.
It was perfect for her.
Perfidia walked into her kitchen the next morning surprised to see the modification made to her back door and looked at the architect of it, contentedly lounging on a feather filled cat bed.
“Just be sure to take this with you when you leave,” she said to Willow as she walked across the room.
Willow’s cat laugh carried to Perfidia and she had distinct feeling she was going to be stuck with that cat door and said rather snidely, “I suppose I can always get a small dog to make use of it.”
Willow’s eyes slanted in annoyance as Perfidia placed the water filled tea kettle on the stove.
The water began to bubble up and out of the kettle and Perfidia hadn’t even turned on the stove. She quickly pickup the kettle and put it in the sink as it continued to spill out its content, unheeded.
Willow’s happy meow only infuriated Perfidia more.
“I’m getting a Chihuahua tomorrow!” She threatened.
“Good morning,” Martha said breezing into the kitchen but stopped in the middle of the room when she realized she was walking into the middle of combatants.
“Can you two call a truce?”
Willow and Perfidia both turned to Martha with mutinous expressions.
“Please try,” she said again.
Perfidia shrugged. “Willow gave me a cat door and I was just letting her know how happy I’d be to make use of it.”
Willow gave another low threatening meow and Martha gave an exasperated sigh.
“I said truce you two; we have bigger worries and we need to say united.”
Perfidia and Willow gave grudging nods and dropped the argument, for now.
Martha sat down at the long trestle table set for breakfast and admired the large kitchen.
"This could be a palace’s kitchen. Do you entertain a lot?”
Perfidia looked up with unease, caught off guard by the question and made a project of refilling the kettle and placing it back on the stove, before giving an answer.
Willow amended her earlier behavior by bringing the kettle to a quick boil and Perfidia thanked her as she poured out two cups of tea and placed one in front of Martha.
“No, I don’t entertain; I just like space.”
Martha gave her an assessing look.
”You certainly have space; it’s a lovely home.”
“Thank you,” Perfidia mumbled self consciously. She never had guests here before and hadn’t thought about the questions one might ask.
“I think we should head to the festival early so we can sign you both into the contests,” Martha changed the subject, knowing her questions made Perfidia uncomfortable, and she hadn’t meant to.
“Yes, we should head over there this afternoon,” Perfidia agreed, glad for the change of topic.
“This tea has a very pleasant aroma,” Martha complimented closing her eyes trying to decipher the aromatic tea leaves in it.
“Thank you, it’s my special blend,” Perfidia said with pride, placing a platter of French Toast along side an assortment of jams and syrups already on the table.
“There’s a hint of cardamom and cloves, am I right?”
“Yes, do you like it?”
Martha took a sip of the tea and smiled with satisfaction. “Yes, it’s very pleasing.”
Perfidia beamed at such high praise from Martha, the most accomplished tea connoisseur she knew.
The hungry meow in the corner alerted Martha to Willow's desire to be fed and she walked over to fill her feline’s bowl. She filled it with Willow's breakfast and added a side of treats Then filled another bowl of fresh water with a twist of lemon, just the way Willow liked it.
They all settled in, content to enjoy their breakfast while discussing the day’s itinerary.
“You may have had to read all those letters Martha and to no avail but you must admit, it is nice not to have to compete in a contest.”
“I know it's not easy for you or Willow and yes, I admit-”
The melodious sound of the door bell chiming stopped Martha in mid-sentence.
“Are you expecting someone?”
Perfidia’s eyes grew concerned.
Martha and Perfidia stepped into the hallway and stared at the solid, oak entry door as the doorbell chimed again, playing Beethoven’s Für Elise.
“I must say, I do like your doorbell’s ring tone,” Martha chuckled.
“What? I classical but I can change it to hard rock if the mood strikes me.”
“No, leave it, this is lovely,” Martha smiled and hummed along with the tune.
“Happy to please you Martha, but at the moment, we should find out who's here. If I hadn’t left my cell phone upstairs I could see who it is, I have a video door bell."
“Of course you do.” Martha nodded,” but why don’t you just do this the old fashioned away, and open the door?”
Perfidia gave her a withering look but she did open it, and when she did, she was shocked to see that strange delivery man on her doorstep.