A tea party with a difference.
"Do have a good time, darling?"
The faux accent grated on her slightly, but Jade smiled politely at her cheerful, middle class mother in her lemon yellow skirt suit and severely cut, meticulously dyed blond hair.
Something seemed slightly off, but she cast away that thought and replied,"I will, Mum."
"Mummy," she corrected, adjusting her wispy white scarf as it fluttered through the air due to the attentions of the gentle summer breeze.
Stepping out of the convertible car, she was greeted with a sky coloured a high, boundless blue that invited her to remain outside under the golden glow of the shining sun, rather than enter the undoubtedly stuffy, probably far too warm cafe.
Turning, Jade motioned to lean on the roof of the car - which was a profoundly foolish as it most certainly didn't have one. The action had seemed so natural until her mind caught up with her body. Frowning slightly, she attempted to disguise her misstep.
Her mother gave her a sidelong, cautionary glance, "You will make a good impression, I hope."
"Yes, I promise. You'll be back at two?"
"On the dot."
The car engine began to growl warningly as her mother pressed her sandaled foot lightly against the accelerater and Jade took the hint. Turning on her heel, she pushed open the glass door and ascended the slightly rickety, sun soaked stairs that lead to the Tea Room.
The only occupant of the room was the person she was supposed to be meeting. The girl had the look of a distant cousin - a face that was vaguely familiar in an intangible, liquid way that slipped further and further from the conscious mind the harder she tried to grasp it.
One of mother's friend's friend's daughters - a social butterfly that she was supposed to attach herself to.
"I hope I didn't keep you waiting," Jade said, taking her seat as gracefully as possible. Which was not very graceful at all.
On the other side of the smooth, circular table, the girl in a ridiculously frilly, sunshine yellow summer dress sat still and calm - seemingly as tranquil as a undisturbed pool. By the side of her chair was propped a plain straw sunhat; the likes of which could be cheaply purchased at any of the numerous run-down seaside towns along the cost.
Her only reaction to Jade taking a seat was to give a single flutter of her eyes. Not quite a blink. Almost reminiscent of an overenthusiastic actress attempting to play a Victorian lady taking a dramatic faint.
Awkward pervasive silence - so thick, hot and cloying it felt as though it could be sliced through - followed until Jade spoke again.
"Anaranjado. Or, Ana for short."
She smiled a Mona Lisa smile that was infuriating for some unknown reason, to which Jade returned a grin with teeth grating together like broken shards of porcelain.
"That's unusual," Jade commented, clearing her throat and glancing towards the clock hanging on the otherwise plain blue wall - the pale, sickly yellow hands seemingly unmoved although the pendulum swung rhythmically.
"Do you think so?"
She rose from her seat in a flutter of yellow silk and turned to the table beside them where a tray cluttered with tea cups, saucers, spoons, cupcakes, napkins, sugar bowls, milk and a single orange teapot sat still.
It had not been there when Jade had entered the room and no one else had entered since then, she was sure, but here it was. The teapot steamed slightly as though to prove how recently it had been prepared. She started when Ana began to serve - placing a bright teal teacup on Jade's side and a burnt orange coloured one on her own - and quickly offered to help.
"Sit still," Ana murmured, flicking her hand in a dismissive gesture - her bright tangerine nails like a warning signal.
In the sunlight, the bright dress splayed dappled yellow splatters of light across her pale skin making Jade feel dark and morbid in her own royal blue skirt and crisp lacy white shirt.
The tea was a jaundiced yellow colour - watery and probably very expensive. Jade watched it swirl unappetisingly in her teal cup, clicking her teal nails against the high quality china.
Ana place a small beautifully decorated cake in front of them both before sitting down to stir copious amounts of sugar into her own watery tea. For a second, Jade thought the tiny crystals of sugar reminded her of frost - clenched between fingers to make a snowball on a winter's day.
It was almost silent in the room save for the ticking of the pendulum and two sets of breathing. No cars sounded from the busy road outside.
Her eyes trailed to Ana's tangerine painted fingers; palm pressed flat to the table and she watched the faint, body heat generated condensation form around the fingers as though to prove definitively that the girl across from her was alive and well. Despite the warmth in the room, and the hot cup of tea that she was holding, her own hands began to feel cold.
A dark shadow passed across the table as though a bird had flew in front of the sun.
Seemingly for no reason at all, Jade shuddered so violently that the tea cup in her hand rattled.
"Whatever is the matter?" Ana asked, the faintest hint of amusement in her voice.
Jade stared as her fingers made a fairly decent imitation of her namesake colour, shaking so hard that the tea sloshed in her cup like vicious waves caught up in storm.
The girl across from her smiled beneath her sunshine coloured fringe, cut thick and heavy across her forehead like a smear of yellow paint. Heavily fringed blond lashes surrounded the palest icy blue eyes Jade had ever seen - staring directly at her with the faintest glacial glitter. Her smooth, rounded tangerine fingernails cut slightly into Jade's hand as she leaned forward, far more animated than before.
"I said: whatever is the matter?"