Addie sipped her cup of hot green tea. She asked, “Emeline, did you get your hair done?”
Emeline reached her hand up and fluffed her pewter hair. “No, not recently.” Soft waves framed her pale face. Makeup caked in her crow’s feet. Her cheeks blushed like ripened peaches. Emeline reached for her cup of steaming chamomile tea. Her right hand trembled. She placed her left hand on her right hand to steady it. Clink. Her cup sat askew on the saucer.
“Are you all right?” asked Addie. She had asked Emeline that question many times over the years. At age twelve, both girls signed up for horseback riding while attending a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. On one trail ride, a shiny piece of aluminum foil at the base of a tree, probably blown there from a nearby campsite, spooked Emeline’s horse. Her horse reared, and she tumbled off. Thud—she hit the dry ground hard. “Are you all right?” asked Addie.
“I’m fine,” Emeline said. She dusted herself off and insisted on remounting her horse, but Addie saw her grimace as she slipped her left foot in the stirrup and hoisted herself up into the western saddle. The camp counselor shortened the ride. When they returned to camp, she asked Addie to escort Emeline to the camp nurse. Emeline held her left arm close to her body. From the swelling and pain, the girls figured she had broken her arm.
Addie had taken another sip of tea. “Are you sure you’re all right? Maybe I should call 911.”
“Really, I’m fine, just like the night you stayed up with me after my Charles passed away.”
“You nodded off several times when we were telling stories and looking at old photos,” said Addie.
“Well, Dr. Reynolds did give me some medication to help me sleep,” Emeline said. She rubbed her hands. “Last night I worried…” Her voice faded.
Not wanting to stare at Emeline’s hands, Addie looked out the window of the café on the corner of 4th Street and Independence Boulevard. A siren blared. Addie hugged the porcelain cup with her twisted, arthritic fingers. The warmth eased her pain. “Emeline, what’s wrong?”
Her voice quavered, “I have Parkinson’s Disease.”
Addie touched Emeline’s hand. “I’m here for you.”
“I know. You always have been,” said Emeline.
Emeline nodded and smiled. “My doctor told me about a boxing program…”
“I’ve heard about that,” Addie said.
“To help me with my coordination and balance,” said Emeline.
“Emeline, remember when we took tap dance lessons?” Addie tapped her spoon on the saucer. “You were right on the beat, and I was always one step behind.” Their eyes twinkled, and they giggled.
The bells on the café door jingled. A young woman wearing a navy blue suit approached their table and asked, “Excuse me. May I join you? This seems to be a very popular place.” The woman scanned the cafe to make sure she hadn’t missed an empty seat somewhere.
Addie said, “Why yes, dear. My best friend Emeline and I meet here every Tuesday afternoon for tea. The owners reserve this table for us.”
As the woman pulled out the wooden chair across from Addie, she explained, “I’m here on business. My two-hour meeting was rather intense with discussions of upcoming deadlines, so I thought a nice, hot cup of tea would help me relax before catching my return flight to Chicago.”
Addie nodded. “I find hot tea soothing.”
“How long have you and Emeline been friends?”
“We met in second grade.” Addie dug around in her oversized, leather handbag.
“That’s a long time,” replied the woman. Addie looked up. “Today’s special. See.” She held out a photograph of a baby. Addie grinned. “My first great-grandchild; her name is Emma.”
“She’s adorable,” said the woman, “that’s exciting news. Will Emeline be joining you soon?”
“What, dear?” asked Addie. She stared at the photograph for a moment and pointed to her great-granddaughter’s smile before she placed it back in her handbag. Then Addie took another sip of tea.
“Will your friend be joining you soon?” She repeated.
Addie took a silk handkerchief from her pocket and patted her eyes. Then she took another sip of tea. “I come here every Tuesday afternoon for tea. I talk. Emeline listens, somewhere.”