by Gratia Serpento

The yelling echoes from the living room, matching the yelling of yesterday's argument. Same sounds, different reasons. No one knows why they're fighting, but everyone can hear it. 

I stay in my little room on the second floor, surrounded by my toys and blankets and a paint-stained coffee table my grandpa found at a garage sale. I had taken some of Mom's wine glasses and Dad's coffee mugs and placed them in a circle on my coffee table—we didn't have any fancy teacups, after all, and a girl had to make do with what she had. 

I use my Uno! cards as coasters. I pour a little bit of milk into each glass and mug, all six of them, and add drops of blue food dye. With a gentle swirl, white turns to my favorite color, matching the color of the rainstorm outside.

I put on the pink dress I once wore for my cousin's wedding, and I stack my stuffed animals around the table, putting boas and hair ties on their wrists and on their heads. 

To my guests, I whisper, "Welcome to Lady Lemon's Annual Tea Party!" I grab my coffee cup and stick my pinky out. "Let's eat!" 

I dip an Oreo into my glass of milk and watch as the chocolate chunks disappear into the blue liquid. I know, once I drink down to the bottom, I'll get a mouthful of chocolate.

"Miss Hallie, would you pass the sugar lumps?" I reach over and use the stuffed bear’s paw to push the cheese cubes closer to me. "Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate it." 

I focus on the sounds of my own giggles and pretend that I don’t hear the yelling and shouting and door slamming coming from downstairs. I munch on the Oreos and cheese cubes instead of watching the ways the walls shake from the blistering storm.

I try to focus on my own slice of paradise. It's not much, but it's everything. It's a paradise I find with a mismatched tea party. 


Featured in our April 2022 issue, "Snack Time"