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Black Leaves

Inexplicably, he could read the future in tea leaves. It was no false claim. She’d tested him over a long period of time, asking questions he couldn’t possibly know the answers to, recording what he said and waiting to prove him wrong. The moment of jubilation never came, though, and she began to wonder whether he was somehow writing her life like a film script. It frightened her a little, but she knew that if she mentioned it to him, he would just laugh and deny everything.

He predicted a lottery win for her, and she felt a shameful compulsion to split the twenty five pounds with him. He advised her not to take the motorway one night, then smiled unnervingly as they watched the pile up on the late news. He told her she would be reunited with a long lost relative, and offered to drive her to the airport when her sister’s flight came in from Tokyo.

How many pots of tea would they share before his luck ran out? She tried different blends, bought a new teapot and cups, took him to cafes in unfamiliar areas, but his accuracy was unwavering. She tried to make out the pictures and shapes at the bottom of her brew, but saw only a smattering of damp leaves. He christened them journeys, romances, impending catastrophes. She asked him why she couldn’t see as he did, and he avoided her eyes, muttering something about the answers being in the spaces between the leaves.

And what if she walked away from this future he seemed to control? What if she wanted to drink tea with someone who, like her, saw only the waste at the bottom of the cup? Would he use the leaves to find her?

She waited until he was sleeping, crept downstairs to the kitchen and grabbed the boxes of Darjeeling, Earl Grey and Ceylon from the window sill, stuffing them into her bag. She drove to the pier and stood beneath the lemony light of a full moon, holding the open boxes at arm’s length and letting the tiny black leaves flutter into the sea.

Flash Fiction by Alicia Bakewell

Published in Summer 2017


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