The Tea for Everything – Chapter One – Madeline

Atop the library’s creaky ladder, with her knees shaking, Madeline felt that she might faint. She always felt she was going to stumble, and fall and die in the most stupid of ways, under a pile of expensive books.

She had to suck on a lot of chocolate mint candies to relax afterward. Mint chocolates are relaxing. But we know that candies aren’t recommended for a slender waist. Madeline wasn’t exactly slender. Carefully so that her clumsy feet won’t slip, down the ladder she went and she didn’t care if it looked graceful at all.  It took her around four minutes for the first four steps and downwards it was easier and with less adrenaline. With her hands trembling from the adventure she handed the heavy book to her customer, who was looking at his watch with eyebrows raised.

“I am sorry. That’s about all we have on the history of elves before the first human settlers on Belleterre.” – she said with her heart still fluttering and a timid voice.

The man looked through the book for less than a minute. “Thank you. You may have it back.” – and he headed towards the entrance very opinionated about the library.

Madeline had to climb the ladder again. She did it several times a day, and all though she did it every single day – it hadn’t become easier for her. On the last step of the ladder, she always felt awfully dizzy.

Even though the library was well arranged, it didn’t have enough light and looked like a maze in which only Madeline wouldn’t lose herself. She knew the place of every book in the library and read voraciously any love story that she could get her hands on. All the stories were about beautiful princesses and seductive witches, there was not a single story dedicated to a round librarian girl. The heroines were devastating beauties, petite and slender, and the heroes were handsome and irresistible men who swept them off their dainty feet. At the age of 36, Madeline still craved for true romance, while even her parents had lost hope and stopped nagging she should get married.

She dreamt she was a circus actress in love with a clown with a fancy chequered costume, who kissed her cheek behind the curtain, but the circus director always managed to interrupt them. She dreamt she got kissed under a snowfall, in the loveliest season in the year and the wind pinched her rosy cheeks – but it was the midst of summer. She dreamt she was a high-born lady with golden stripes on her sleeves and pearl earrings, hand in hand with a renowned gentleman, who looked like he would defend her from all the storms of life, but there was always someone who would enter the library and disrupt the dance.

So most of the time in the library, she was busy inventing scenarios of how love would come to her, based on the love stories she read. The other books she was interested were those about elven magick, which were locked, indeed.

There, she was trying to drown boredom into a cup of coffee next to the library’s only window, which looked at the street when she saw a strange thing passing by. It was an old woman; you know the regular white bun under a straw hat and a dress with floral motifs. She looked very decent apart from the crazy fact that she was riding a child’s scooter – one foot in the air. Madeline was not used to seeing old ladies riding scooter every day, so she felt the urge to step out of the library and follow her. Then she remembered she was at work – sigh. The good news was that the old woman again returned into her horizon. She approached humming merrily a popular tune.

“Hi, Lassie!” – she said. “Does the town library happen to be somewhere around here?”

“Yes, this is it, madame, come right in!”

The old woman leaned the scooter on a tree nearby and climbed the stairs to the building. Madeline opened the door, squinting at the sun.

“Thank you, lass. I would only like to gift the library a book.”

“Thank you very much, madame, donations are most appreciated.” – said Madeline, trying to look excited.

“Come to my place sometime, I will treat you something you will never forget. Better than a royal bathhouse…”– promised the old lady, handed her the book and left with the scooter. – “The Shrine Hill, Paradiso Lane. Look for Viviana Perla’s hut.”

The book was old, leather bound and had peculiar symbols on the cover. She placed it carefully next to the coffee on the table. It had such good energy, that she wanted to take it home. But it was a present for the library. She blew some dust from the cover, and then carefully as she was holding a baby opened the book.

The title was in runes, but when she browsed through the pages, she saw that it was clearly a book of instructions on how to make brews and other magical objects. It started with a list of poisonous herbs. In the amulets section, she read about an amulet to attract glory and honor – containing bay leaves and green emerald and lapis lazuli. Then in the sigil section, she saw a tattoo drawing of a sigil to protect you from theft. Lastly, in the brew section, she found a tea manifesting your most sincere desire.

Oh, I should try that…she thought. Let me check how many of the poisonous herbs are present in it. The tea contained petals from rose, clove, rue, myrrh, lotus, lavender and a secret ingredient.

What’s the secret ingredient? – she thought. I hope it is not a little animal. Or one of those huge insects who eat their husbands after they copulate.

It was time to close the library. She went home and took a bath. Then she watched the sunset from her veranda, having a glass of cognac and the beautiful white town spread in all its glory in front of her. That was the most meaningful moment of her daily round. She sighed. It was time to get in bed.

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