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Before the Tea Gets Cold

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Nestled in a small corner of one of the oldest parts of London is a small tea shop. This tea shop is so quiet and unassuming that many people are not even aware that it exists. That it has existed for over one hundred years. The shop seemingly has a mind of its own. Content to let the majority of people pass without ever calling attention to itself but for those who need it, the shop calls to them and welcomes them.

The shop has the somewhat bizarre name of 'Bad Wolf Brews.' It is owned and operated by a lovely blonde woman with a cheeky smile who is always ready with a cuppa and a willingness to listen to anyone who has a story or problem that they would like to share.

Sometimes if you catch the woman when she is in just the right mood she will share stories from her own life. Fantastical tales of a world weary soldier with a heart of gold, a somewhat manic man in a pin-stripe suit who was always running towards a new adventure, or another man who took her hand on windswept beach and never let go.

Of a magical blue box that is so much bigger on the inside and sings the song of the universe.

She will tell you that this man is the love of her life. If you ask her which one she will just laugh and shake her head as though you've somehow missed the joke.

You only know of the shop because your great-grandmother was a customer. As was your grandmother and your mother as well. Now, you suppose, it's your turn.

You aren't certain what makes this place so special. It is just a tea shop after all. Granted it is a very old and charming one but still – it's a tea shop.

It doesn't matter though as you find yourself walking inside on rainy afternoon. You are in need of some guidance and you are hoping to find some in a unique cup of tea.

The blonde woman looks up as you enter. She takes one look at you, smiles, and directs you to a small table near a window. She does not give you a menu nor does she ask you what you want. Instead she makes her way behind the counter and beings selecting some various leaves and herbs.

She brings over a teapot and two cups. She introduces herself. Her name is Rose and she really is as lovely as your great-grandmother had said. The logical part of you knows this must be the original Rose's great-grandaughter but some instinct, something in your belly is telling you that this is the same Rose. The very same Rose who has helped generations of women in your family. And even though she must be well over one hundred years old she does not look a day over nineteen.

She is kind. She listens. Even though you cannot explain it you find yourself pouring out your heart. All of your doubts and fears along with your hopes and desires find a voice as you enjoy what may honestly be the finest cup of tea that you have ever had.

Rose tells you not to worry. That you already have all the information that you need. That you already know what to do. That things will look better in the soft light of morning.

Somehow it doesn't sound trite when she says it.

She then goes to help another customer and you sit and take in the atmosphere of the shop.

The shop is small but cozy and perfect. There are two other customers and they are quietly enjoying their own tea whilst watching the city pass by outside.

The strangest thing in the strange little shop though is the small blue table in the center of the dining room. No one is sitting there so far as you can tell but there is a hot cup of tea resting near one of the chairs. As though whoever was sitting at the table has simply stepped out for a moment.

You know that can't be right though as you have been in the shop for nearly two hours and not one person has approached that table. Not even Rose but somehow the tea is still hot. You can see the steam rising from the cup but you cannot explain how that could be possible.

Rose sees you looking at the lonely teacup and for the first time her smile is dimmed. She looks impossibly sad and impossibly old. You know without a doubt that she is the very same girl who helped your great-grandmother.

She tells you that she is waiting for someone very dear to her to arrive. She tells you that they are absolutely terrible at keeping track of time but they always keep their promises. And they promised that they would see her again.

She just hopes that they arrive before the tea gets cold.

It is a grinding sound that wakes you in the middle of the night a few weeks later. You have not returned to 'Bad Wolf Brews' but as you look out your window you can see that the lights are still on in the shop as they always are. As they always have been.

The grinding noise pulls your attention from the tea shop and you watch in wonder as a blue police box materializes on the pavement outside the shop. There are lights shining from the windows of the box and you are certain that you must be dreaming.

The door of the police box opens and a woman with blonde hair steps out. She is dressed oddly. You've never seen anyone dressed quite like this woman is – long hooded coat, graphic print top, boots, and braces. It suits her in a way. Somehow you cannot imagine this woman dressed in anything else.

She seems to hesitate as though taking a deep breath whilst gathering her courage and finally she enters 'Bad Wolf Brews.'

You aren't certain what happened after that. You think you heard laughter and the grinding noise again but it was very late and you were very tired. The soft morning light filters through your bedroom window and you feel at peace. Your mind is clear and you realize exactly what it is you need to do. Exactly what it is that you want to do.

You dress quickly. You want to go to the tea shop, you want to thank Rose for letting you talk. You want to thank her for listening to you in a way that no one ever really has before. As you make your way toward the shop you realize something is different.

The lights are out. The lights are never out at the shop. Rose always leaves the lights on. But the lights are out and the door is locked. You look in through the window and the shop is empty and silent as though it has always been that way.

It is then that you see it.

The small blue table in the middle of the room. The one with the lonely cup of tea that was waiting for someone special to Rose. That table is still there as is the cup but it has now been joined by a second cup and from what you can tell they are both empty.

You remember the police box from your dream. You remember the woman that walked out of the box. You think you may also remember hearing laughter, joyous laughter, before the grinding sound started for the second time.

As you look around the street you know that the police box is missing. Somehow you know that the person Rose was waiting for, the one who is terrible at keeping track of time, you know you saw them last night.

You know that they finally arrived and somehow they managed it before their tea was cold.

Even if you don't quite understand everything that has happened you do know that Rose is gone and you hope that she is happy wherever she may be.

But in your heart, you know that she is.