November 10, 2022

In Search of Tea

By aarondkey

“I’ll try Joseph’s room first,” she said and veered off after passing through the archway.

Timonthy pushed his hair from his face and watched her for just a second longer than he would have done if he was not worried.

“Who is Joseph?”

“He’s a old man, a teacher to some of the younger children,” Gerard explained and then they were silent for a while.

“The likeness is quite distinctive,” Gerard said with a hint of hesitation.

“Do you think so?” Timonthy asked although now he saw that it was true. He didn’t understand how it could be though. Gerard didn’t answer. He was walking away already making for the central tower. Timonthy hurried to catch him up and was rewarded with a smile that almost made up for everything else.

They made their way up the central staircase without meeting anyone, and paused for a little while on the third floor landing.

“Stolid’s room or Elena’s living area?” Gerard said.

“I’ll try Stolid’s room,” Timonthy suggested. “You try Elena’s living area. You’re almost a local so she’s more likely to forgive you intruding. I want to see if Koa’s hanging around as I need to talk to him, anyway.”

Gerard didn’t say anything but turned around and made his way upstairs. Timonthy resisted the urge to follow him and apologise: for something, he wasn’t sure what.

He was trying to remember what Elena had said when she first showed them their rooms. Stolid was three doors along from Lizzie and Paris’s room. He counted and the first two doors were open showing bare rooms with just an unmade bed in each and the third door was shut.

He knocked on it lightly and then as there was no reply he pushed the door open gently. There was a strong smell of beer but no movement. He came further into the room and looked around. It had the look of a temporary abode, not a room in which two men or even one man had lived for months.

There were a few clothes on the back of a chair and some on the bed. Actually when he moved further in the room he could see that the clothes on the bed were a man lying ragged and limp: one arm hanging over the edge and face pressed down into the mattress.

There was a kettle on the side, a teapot, cups and supplies like in a hotel room. Timonthy wondered how long he had before Gerard came back triumphant or empty handed. Still the craving called. He grabbed the kettle, filled it, warmed the tea pot, sat down on the edge of the bed and waited.

The man, he assumed it was Koa, stirred. He supposed that he was intruding but after the events of the past few hours he assumed that impossible things could happen and that this man was Johnathon. Johnathon would forgive him for the intrusion.

The kettle boiled and he made himself a tea and a coffee for Koa. Putting the coffee on a bedside table he sat down again and sipped at the tea. He stared moodily out of the window and considered the strange events that had changed his view of the world.

Gerard was from the middle ages: that explained a lot of things about him. He remembered Gerard commenting about the magic jug and thought it a fair comment in context.

Koa sat up and looked around blearily. “I smell coffee,” he croaked.

Timonthy grunted and nodded at the cup. Koa reached out a hand that scrabbled for the cup and sipped it with gratitude it seemed. “It’s nice to see a friendly face,” he said. “At least I hope you’re friendly. Do you believe that I am Johnathon yet?”

“I think I do,” Timonthy said. “You may be lying but it doesn’t seem to gain you anything apart from my sympathy. I don’t think that’s worth lying for. So how did it happen, Johnathon? How did you end up here?”

Koa sat on the edge of the bed, hands cradling the warmth of his cup and looked thoughtful.

“I knew Damon Ich before I was Johnathon. He was a beautiful young man who rescued me from an unbearable life and I followed him back to his home. An enemy tried to kill him and Damon Ich ended up banished. I decided that I would spend that time with him on your planet, fed up of the way our paths had refused to cross and determined to make it happen. So I became Johnathon after he died prematurely. I was suddenly dropped into his life, into your life and after a month or two of confusion I think I fitted in very well.”

Timonthy got up and poured himself another cup of tea from the tea pot and looked at Koa, or Johnathon whatever the man’s name was: hunched over the coffee cup. Somehow he was a shrunken relic of the man he had been yesterday.

“It was a reckless impulse, I realise that now. What would I have done if we had not suited? Lived alone for years, hoping they would honour their part of the bargain so I could return to my friends eventually a chastened and more humble man. But we did get on and I was happy until I died, when they brought me back to Damon Ich’s time. Our reunion was happy but odd because now I was young and he was older.”

“I suppose dumping the son of your hosts, the only people who have the power to return you to where you belong, was a political blunder. Did you have to do it?”

“I didn’t dump him. I think he dumped me,” Johnathon eyed him with dislike.

“Stolid said ‘Johnathon wants to leave me’,” Timonthy thought back.