K and the Totoro go to Tea Pt. 1

The embers were soft peaches, excess from last night’s flame, as she sat on the edge to smoke, adding her ash, in one of the many tepees that stitched the lining of the hippy fields. He tried to explain, straining over steaming green tea in floral china, from a mismatched teapot and saucer, torn with mud cracks, his voice chipping the air, as she ate her shortbread, toast and butter pancakes. It was her favourite place to stop in the morning, always selling to the raver boys and wide-eyed dancing girls that hit up the EDM quarter in the small hours and passed out when it was light, none of them ever made it this far up. Except the odd muddy face or dozing soul that had been softly gagged in a corner by an old hippy with a blanket.

Sometimes, she felt, this was more her speed, hungry after peak time, when the sun was climbing and yawning across the pimpled earth of twenty thousand fabric points, the air white and cool and different, with only the crazed and the tripping-balls. She counted her coins as he apologised, agonised, pouring out his too-clean heart, Natalie, Natalie, Natalie, as if once he’d started he couldn’t stop and she knew she should never have gotten him high. Aha. Hmm. Oh. Ah. She was listening to the birds tune up their vocal strings behind his words, enjoying the steady sleepy onset of warmth, the rippling murmur and background delirium, it felt like she’d been up for a very long time.

“We’ve been broken up for ages now… really… but when we bought the tickets…I just didn’t know she’d react like that… it wasn’t exactly a clean break up… we were such good friends… maybe I was a dick… it was unfair…. I don’t know if I ever loved her…”

She closed her eyes, willing the peace, but all she saw was the girl with the caved in face, deflated cheeks as if they had been holding all her colour, hollow eyes, tearing herself apart from the inside, Natalie, Natalie, Natalie, making her shudder. She felt it, the tiny prickle of agitation and she hated the sensation, the little movement of darkness creeping across the corners and he wasn’t stopping, refilling the tea, dissecting his grief, pulling apart her heartbreak. She forced her mind somewhere else, anywhere else, and it fell, unexpectedly, across the girl she’d met that day, Claire. Claire, Claire, that girl in the crowd, “you’ve got nice hair” girl, she had no idea what had made her think of Claire. The girl who had looked like she had wanted to eat her.

“Anyway,” William seemed to be catching himself, slipping suddenly into lucidity, snagging sharply on awareness, “I’m just talking and talking, am I talking too much? I don’t know why I’m talking so much, I never talk, I’m not a talker…” He was back in his Totoro skin but visibly aching, and she didn’t know why he kept apologising, “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry K,” unsure why he cared what she thought. “I’m so sorry K,” he tried to steady his pupils inside his eyes, “K. That’s so funny. K, why? Why… are you called K? Is it because…”

“It’s Katherine, with a K,” she interrupted with a sigh, “I was always very particular about that so I guess at some point my name got dropped and I became a letter.”

“I became a letter,” William whispered with meaning, quiet for a moment. But she couldn’t look at him, the air was peaceful now but his features were not. They fought against each other and, as he forced his turmoil inward they twitched and tried to jump out his face. All those thoughts running up around his skull and out of his control and she couldn’t bear it any longer, just wanted to stop it.

She leant forward and kissed him, rendering him immobile, tranquil, silent and so she couldn’t see his face, wiping it clear, shutting down his mind. Surprised by how pleasant it was she sank into it and imagined that she was kissing Claire.