At the sound of the front door opening, Sophia looked up from the computer screen and cocked her head to one side.
“Daylene, is it Wednesday already?”
The young woman managed something that might have been a smile to some people. “No, Sophia, it’s only Tuesday. I, um, just needed to stop in. I thought I’d browse a bit, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not, dear.” Sophia waved a hand in the direction of the endless aisles of past knick knacks, treasures and memories. “The store is yours. Enjoy.”
Her friend started to walk down one of the aisles with only a cursory glance at the items on each side of her. Sophia turned to her husband, Chris, who sat almost out of sight behind a table stacked with items that needed cataloguing and pricing. His fingers were suspended over the keyboard of his laptop as he stared back at Sophia, his face a question mark.
Sophia stabbed at the keyboard and the spreadsheet she had been working on was replaced with the login screen. Picking up her feather duster as if it was a sword and she a knight setting off to slay a dragon, she began walking down an aisle several over from the one Daylene had taken. The first place the woman stopped would give Sophia a hint about the woman’s actual reason for visiting.
The back wall of the store was the logical place to start. The huge array of images there captivated everyone in some way. The people who stared longest and hardest at one image in particular were the ones most troubled by some memory from their past.
But Daylene was not there.
Instead she was one aisle over from the one she had started down after first entering the store. Upon seeing Sophia approach, she hurriedly replaced the 1960s blue princess phone she had been holding.
“Only people who are serious enough to look at the bottom of an item like you were, Daylene, are thinking about buying. Cute, isn’t it. Out of style long before you were born though. Even more than a decade before me, if that gives you any idea.”
Again, the same forced smile. “I know. I’ve been doing a little research on line. Western Electric. A wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. It’s existence was kind of a hodge podge from 84 until 95.”
“You have been doing your homework. But, I had no idea you were a keen student of the past.”
“Normally, I’m not.”
The young woman withdrew herself, unwilling to make any further comment. Sophia waited.
“This isn’t one of those things where tea is the cure, Sophia.”
Sophia arched an eyebrow. “If so, that would be a first.”
The smile was now more genuine. “Are you still trying various banchas?”
Sophia laughed. “No. That was so last week. I’m on a Ceylon kick now.”
“Doesn’t matter, Sophia, I’m not in the mood.”
“No problem. Let’s go have a sit in the book nook,” Sophia waved in the appropriate direction, “and have a chat.”
As Daylene walked away, Sophia quickly entered ceylon book nook into her phone then picked up the old and still shiny blue phone and followed.
Seating herself in the book nook, Sophia placed the phone on the table between them. “So, Daylene, how’s your love life.”
The other woman winced and her lips curled in disgust. “Why do you always have to cut right to the chase, Sophia? And what makes you think I would want to discuss it with you anyway?
“Well,” replied Sophia. “to answer your first question, it saves time. To answer your second question, you’re here.”
“I came to see the phone.”
“Right. So you noticed the phone during a prior visit?”
The young woman’s shoulders sagged. “Fine. Something’s been on my mind. But I’m sure I can handle it on my own.”
“I’m sure that’s true, hon. But wouldn’t it be easier to confide in a friend?”
Just then, Chris appeared with a tray holding a china pot and two matching tea cups. Daylene closed her eyes, sighed and slowly shook her head. After she was sure Chris was out of earshot, she said, “I might’ve known.”
“You did know, dear. But you are fiercely independent. Been making it just fine on your own haven’t you? College paid for by the time you got your masters. Waiting on tables, scrimping and saving and making the careful and wise investment here and there, you never needed anyone, right? You’ve never talked much of your past so let me guess.
“A child of divorce. One parent or the other was abused, probably physically and certainly emotionally and you were too. It’s always the safest bet that it was the woman who sacrificed so much of herself putting up with the wrong man as long as she could. Let’s see, after she dumped the louse, she bounced from man to man.” Sophia, her eyes fixed on the other woman, paused. ‘No, not that. She was intelligent wasn’t she? She was never going to let love put her at a disadvantage again. You learned the lessons with her. But, despite all that, it happened anyway, didn’t it?”
Daylene cut Sophia a look that was meant to make it clear that she had gone too far. Sophia stared back to make it equally clear the hint was wasted. Daylene sighed. “Fine. Yes, it happened. And not for the first time.” Glancing back to the main part of the store and craning her neck around to see if anyone might hear, she said, “Frankly, I’ve lost count.”
Sophia poured out a cup of tea for both of them. “We’re women. The worst thing that can ever happen to us is to give up any hope of the real deal.”
Daylene quickly picked up her cup of tea. It rattled in the saucer and she quickly separated the two and hid her irritation behind the action of taking a sip. “This Ceylon is delicious. So smooth.”
Sophia never shifted her eyes from her friend as she stifled a smile. “Mm-hmm.’
“Fine,” admitted Daylene as she plunked her cup and saucer back onto the tray. “You got me, satisfied?”
“Of course not, dear. No woman wants to make another face the truth. We’ve all been there and to make you look it full in the face means that I have to face my past as well.”
“Really, Daylene? Do you think discussing my past now will help you face yours? No, we’re not going there. You only need to know that my past adequately equips me to empathize with your present.”
Daylene sighed, leaned forward and picked up the cup of tea. Her hands were steady. “You’re right. Let’s cut me open and excise the poisons, shall we? I did it again. And I’m sick at the thought that I’ll do it again.”
“Get it out, girl. Pick up the phone and get it out.”
Daylene scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous. It hasn’t worked in decades.”
“Still not ready, eh? Okay, fine. Tell me, why the color blue?”
Daylene replaced her tea on the table and retrieved a black cell phone from her bag. “I just got this. The cell phone before it was blue. I sat staring at that stupid phone like an idiot after he told me we were through. He just hung up. Didn’t even bother to wish me a nice day. I’m not sure how I got through work that day but on the way home I stopped and got a new phone. But it hasn’t helped. I still want to tell him all the things I should have but was too hurt to know how.”
“And there we are. It’s all come together now, hasn’t it? So let me tell you something. Yours is not the first torrent of pain that has been spoken into that old blue handset. Every woman who ever touched it had to pour her heart into it for one reason or another at some time. So, now it’s your turn. Pick it up, Daylene. Tell him. It will help.”
The young woman’s eyes glistened with pain and her brows furrowed. Then, her expression, one of fierce determination, she picked up the phone. With the cradle in her lap, she put the handset to her ear and said.
“Tyler? It’s me. Fine, fine. How are you? Uh huh. Tyler, I’ve been going through every day of our relationship and you need to know some things. See? Right there. We have this conversation every time. No, Tyler, no motel. Not this time. I just found out about her. No, don’t deny it, I know. I saw you. How? I followed you. Yes, Tyler, all the way to Vancouver. Why? Because I’m not an idiot, Tyler. This isn’t my first rodeo. No, you don’t get to browbeat me for my quaint expressions, as you call them. You with your PhD. in Philosophy. Philosophy, Tyler? I have a Masters for God’s sake, Tyler, and I use it to make an honest living. Did you miss the part about me not being an idiot? Why did I follow you? Because I had to know and, as it turns out, you are the idiot. You didn’t even look behind you, you jerk. A rented red Charger follows you all the way to Astoria and you don’t notice? You in your silver German car. Yes, Tyler, you are way over compensating.
“Up the coast to your meeting, Tyler, in Astoria. Really? There was no meeting in Astoria. You didn’t even stop at that coffee shop you said was your favorite on the coast. You just kept going all the way to Vancouver and your little bit on the side. Or should I say your other little bit on the side. Because now I know I was only part of your collection. Because, from there, you left the next morning, and, yes, I slept in the car, how pitiful is that, you left for Lake Oswego and you’re married. And what a nice place that is. How many bedrooms must that place have, huh? You are such a bastard, Tyler. You are so, so despicable. But you! You. Don’t. Care. You make your little junkets to give talks around the state and have a little fun on the wife’s dime. And why haven’t I called you on a real phone? Let me tell you, Tyler. The only reason I haven’t called you on a real phone is because a sick, bastard psychopath predator like you would only laugh knowing the pain you have caused me. What kind of a sicko needs that to make himself feel like a man?”
Daylene slammed the handset back into it’s cradle so violently that Sophia winced and thought that, if the phone might have worked had she found a phone jack somewhere, there was no chance of that now. “Better?” she asked.
“No,” replied Daylene. “But someday it will be, I hope.” She picked up her cup and drained it. “Right now, I think I’m into Ceylon. It’s called Sri Lanka now. Why do they still use the name Ceylon for the tea?”
“Quality control and marketing, dear.” Sophia said as she filled Daylene’s cup. “It’s all about the quality and marketing. The phone will be here anytime you need it.”
“Thank you for that, Sophia. But, maybe I should buy it.”
“Yes. The next guy I date, I’ll look at it on my way out the door and promise myself I’ll never need to use it again.”