On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. On this particular night, the shop might as well have been closed; nearly everyone had gone back to their own times, leaving Imlach alone with the Aihara brothers and Lillian.
And, of course, Rubén.
Rubén passed out the minute they arrived at the tea house. Aoto and Shoma were able to catch him before he landed face-first on the Persian carpet; Veer had warned them that this might happen. Imlach promptly carried the poor fellow to the back room and laid him on the couch. Lills helped him prepare a change of clothes and a smoking jacket for Rubén. His current suit and apron were dirty, singed, and completely unsuitable for tea time.
Lills pulled back her brown hair and returned to the main sitting room, only to find Aoto and Shoma engaged in a heated discussion. She watched them intently as if paying close enough attention would suddenly grant her the ability to understand Japanese. It didn't, but there was one phrase that stood out to her: jikan no dorobō.
Those three words had been the first thing out of the Aihara brothers' mouths when they heard of Rubén's abilities. Lills wanted to know more than anything what the phrase meant.
The rain began to pick up until it finally evolved into a violent thunderstorm. The lights went out, pitching them into a cold darkness. Thankfully, Imlach kept a box of matches and candles handy for such occasions, and soon the tea house was filled with a comforting golden glow. The rain continued to pour, and the wind rattled the glass, but the candles made it seem much less threatening. Imlach disappeared, only to return with tea. Lills and the others were three cups in when they heard movement in the other room. Rubén stumbled down the hall and, seeing the four time-travelers waiting with tea, took a seat. Silently, Imlach poured him a cup.
As the man held the fine china in his hands- still too stupefied to do much more than gape at the tea house in disbelief- Lills finally got a good look at their new friend.
He was a Spaniard, likely from the 1890s, with curly, slicked-back hair and large, heavy brown eyes. His tired appearance was not helped by the scraggly beard that covered the lower half of his face.
The color seemed to come back to his olive skin as he sipped his tea, yet the china cup and saucer clinked against each other incessantly as the man's hands continued to shake. The wind may still be howling, yet somehow this was the sound that filled the room.
The strange visitor finally remembered his manners and extended his hand across the table. "Excuse me, do forgive my rudeness. My name is Rubén Castillo. Please call me Rubén." His English, while accented, was posh and polished. No doubt he had spent a great portion of his life among the London elite.
They all took turns shaking his hands as Lills introduced them. When he shook Lills's hand, he stopped, holding on a moment longer. "You're the one who wanted to know what happened to me, aren't you?"
"I didn't think you could hear anything through that force-field," Lills said.
Rubén pulled his hand away. "Those in the cells can hear everything, Miss Holbright. It is only those on the outside that are spared the sound."
"That's pretty poetic," Lills said. "Are you are writer?"
Rubén shook his head. "I'm a chemist."
"Chemist? Interesting," Lills said. She adjusted her glasses and raised one eyebrow playfully. "And where are you from, Rubén the chemist?"
"Originally, Málaga- but I emigrated to London. And I suppose I should clarify that I'm not a chemist in a traditional sense. I was in London to study chemistry, but I soon found that the expenses were greater than anticipated." Rubén took his first sip of tea. "I thought for sure that my dream was dead... until he offered me a job." He spat out the final words like they were poison in his mouth.
YOU ARE READING
The Time Traveler's Tea HouseScience Fiction
(Watty "Wild Card" Winner 2018) In the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who j...