“Hey, you! Brat!”
Layke awoke to the sound of a female voice yelling.
“Get up, brat!”
His eyes instantly darted to the door, which was shaking on its hinges. In an attempt to pacify whoever it was yelling at him, Layke got up and went to the door.
“It’s alright. I’m up,” he said in the most gentle voice possible. The yelling stopped. Layke opened the door to see his sister there, panting and with a red face. Not so beautiful now, hey? Layke thought to himself, but kept his expression blank.
“You stupid, lazy, slug! It is not alright.” His sister was furious, hair flying in all directions. The scary thing was, she seemed to not care. Layke got nervous now, starting to fiddle with his button.
“What happened? What happened?” his sister screeched. “I woke up this morning, in a good mood, hoping to warm myself by having a cup of nothing.”
Layke went pale.
“You seem to now think that women don’t need tea in the morning, do they?”
Gasping, Layke ran past his sister and into the kitchen. There was an empty cup resting on the counter beside a smashed teapot. Layke sucked his breath in. No wonder his sister was so angry. How could he have forgotten?
Layke felt like smashing his head into a wall to get some sense into him, but there was no time for that. Rushing outside to the well, he collected water and started boiling it. He willed the water to heat up quickly, and funnily enough, it did. He didn’t pause to dwell on it, though. He could hear his sister banging about in his room, throwing things around at best. He grimaced when he thought of what the worst would be.
He poured the boiling water into a cup, putting a few tea leaves in. Then he blew on it to make it cool down faster. Maybe he could get it ready by the time his sister came in.
He remembered the look of pure delight on her face when she had drank her first cup of tea. When word of this new ‘tea’ product had arrived, his sister had instantly wanted to try some. She had gotten Layke’s father working extra hard to get a bit of the tea. Unfortunately, she had liked it, and from then on Layke had had to work harder, too, just to afford a few tea leaves.
He sighed, thinking of the blissful days of his youth when he still had time to play in the meadows with his young friends. He wondered what his friends were doing now. Would they still be playing in the meadow, oblivious to the working-class world that their parents lived in? Probably not. They’d probably have been forced to work like Layke had, toiling away so that their sisters could afford fancy dresses and tea. They might even have been forced to marry. Layke shivered at the thought.
Layke’s head snapped up, stopping his blowing for a moment. His mother had walked in, an imperious look upon her face. Layke nodded.
“Don’t stand there like a fool! Get back to whatever you were doing!”
Layke hurriedly began blowing again.
“In fact, boy, what are you doing?”
“Cooling the tea for Sister,” he said hurriedly.
“What did I tell you about not standing there like a fool?”
“Sorry Mother,” he said, before resuming his blowing. And what did you tell me about answering your questions? he thought to himself. His mother stared at him for a moment, before shaking her head.
“Whatever is my son coming to,” he caught her mutter as she swished away. “My only hope is to marry him off to a poor unsuspecting woman.”
Layke stared after her, feeling unwanted, which he probably was. What I would do to be one of those poor unsuspecting women, he thought, feeling a lump in his throat at the unfairness of it all. He swallowed it down quickly, else how would he continue to blow the tea?