Two-thirty AM; the candle was burning low, globets of wax spattered on its dish, and the flame wavered in the cold and damp draught. His fingers were numb and tired. Perhaps another hour and he could sleep a little... he could barely feel the pen any longer. Dip in ink, write, blot, dip in ink... he should feel fortunate to have enough copying to do, with funds so desperately needed, but he didn't know how much longer he could go on.
A bit of gaslight shone through the small window high up on the wall, but, save that and his nearly used candle, the warehouse was dark and chilly. It was an effort to hold himself erect on his stool... dip in ink, write, blot, dip in ink...
There was a faint tapping at the door. "Thomas? Thomas? Are you still here? I've brought you some tea..."
Ah, that must be Anabelle. What a pleasant surprise! "Anabelle? For goodness' sake, it's so late, and you're out alone?"
The door creaked open, closed. Light footsteps approached his table. "Thomas, whatever shall I do with you!" Her slender form was wrapped in an old sweater and tattered overcoat, the scarf round her head the only real color to frame her features. "I just thought a bit of that special blend would perk you up, what with you working so hard and so late nearly every night."
She placed the battered wooden tray on his table and poured tea into two cups. She had brought some sweet biscuits as well, and he eagerly bit into one of them and followed with gulps of hot tea. "Your father's special blend," he remarked, shrugging off his weariness and smiling for her.
"Yes, Thomas, but father is old now and is wanting someone to carry on for him... oh, Thomas, when shall we marry, and open our teashop, and sell father's tea?"
He grasped her thin hand gently. It was as chilled as his own. "Soon, Anabelle. I've a lot of copy work and you know I'm putting money aside. It won't be long and we'll have our teashop, and our home, and our children. Not long, now."
She sipped her tea and regarded him with moist eyes. The caramel flavour always soothed her. Father so wanted it sold in a proper tea shop, and Thomas was so eager to please.... "Oh, Thomas Jones, I do so love you."
He gazed back at her with obvious emotion. "You and I," he said quietly, "you and I.... we're a special blend too."
He lingered over his tea, savoring the richness of it, wanting the moment not to end, wanting her to be there for evermore.
(Within the year, Thomas had put aside enough to leave behind the world of dark and draughty warehouses and copy rooms. He and Anabelle did marry and open a tea shop in Wales, and Anabelle's father's special caramel toffee blend has been preserved and passed down through the generations. Today, Harrie's Toffee Cream can be obtained exclusively from Tea Trader.)
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