Tea with Mrs Rees

Lowri Rees was standing with her back towards the gas stove. Outside, the inhospitable Welsh winter had frozen the field and threatened with misting up the windows. However, inside, the vapour of what Lowri was cooking warmed the kitchen.

“I’m so glad you are here, after all,” she said with a smile. “A long time has passed since I last had a guest for days.” Eirwen, a cat as white as snow, got in the room and walked between Lowri’s legs. She saw, with loving eyes, how Eirwen came closer to the guest. The cat, purring, stroked the sleeve of the jacket with her tail. “She likes you!” Lowri said chucklingly.

The teapot started whistling while the cups were being prepared on the kitchen table.

“Actually, it’s quite difficult for Eirwen to like someone,” she said serving the tea. “In that, she reminds me of myself. I usually don’t get along with people. But my animals...” She sighed, “Oh, my dear creatures! I don’t know what I’d be without them.” She finished serving and took a seat in front of the guest. “So, tell me, is there any worried wife wondering about your whereabouts?” She smiled and looked steadfastly at him, waiting for an answer that never came.

“I got married once,” a thoughtful Lowri finally said. She took a short sip of her drink. “It didn’t work. It turned out that he wasn’t made for me. Or I’m not made for anyone, most likely. In any case, my husband was uninspiring, anodyne. A conformist, just happy with a grey life, whereas I’ve always been a dreamer.”

Meanwhile, Eirwen jumped onto the table and drank from the man’s tea. Lowri seemed not to realize that. “I abandoned him. After two years of marriage, one day I simply left. I could be a widow and not know... Wait! he could think he’s the widower himself!” She giggled.

“Eventually, I bought this house,” she said cheerfully, opening out her arms. “Before my marriage, I went to university for one year, where I studied nursing. I never got to finish, but with that and books, I got by to learn veterinary rudiments. Since then, I’ve been taking care of all the animals I’ve found, trying to help them and giving them a home. I’ve been doing this for nearly fifty years.” At that moment, as if he could understand her, Merlin, an elderly Border Collie, entered hobbling. He looked tenderly at Lowri and placed his head on her lap, wagging his tail. “I provide them with food and shelter,” she said stroking the dog. “And here we are. Thirty minutes by car to the nearest house. Mine is a lonely life...” she whispered.

“Oh! I told you Merlin’s a sweetheart,” she said, absorbed in her thoughts. “I rescued him three months ago. He had been abandoned by a heartless bastard when he began to age. I found him in a terrible condition, with a nasty infection in his leg which ended up in a noticeable limp.” Lowri took Merlin’s head and looked into his eyes, smiling. The dog licked her cheek. “He’s still recovering. He didn’t want to bite our guest, did you, sweetie?” she asked Merlin. “Of course not,” she answered. “It was an accident. The normal reaction of a dog who has been stepped on. As for you... You shouldn’t have done that,” she said slowly and angrily, still holding the animal’s head. “You shouldn’t have hit him,” she said, more and more enraged. “I requested you to stop, and you continued and continued beating him up AND I REQUESTED YOU TO STOP!” Lowri yelled, punching the table, glaring at the man’s face. The cat, lying down on the table, got startled and hid behind the guest’s hand, near his cup of tea. Lowri was breathing heavily.

“Anyway,” she said, trying to calm down. “The meat must be cooked already.” Lowri gulped the rest of her tea, which, by then, was unpleasantly cold. “Let’s get this over with.”

She stood up and went to the gas stove, where there was a large saucepan. Lowri took the lid off. “Look at that! It seems delicious,” she exclaimed, stirring the meat. “Look how easily the meat detaches off the bone,” she said while carving the food, helped by a fork. “I’ll save it up. This will be good to feed my animals.” She offered Merlin a piece, who tasted it.

“You know what? You’re an awful talker,” she expounded while she grabbed the biggest cooking pot she could find. Lowri filled it up with water and put it to boil. “I am truly sorry for what happened. I don’t want you to think I am ungrateful,” she said honestly, moving her hand to her chest. She looked really sorry. Lowri got closer to the man and smiled tenderly.

“But cheer up! I appreciate your work here. The tap runs perfectly and, I promise, nothing will be wasted.” Lowri heard the water starting to boil. “But whoever abuses animals is no longer a human being.”

She took the man’s head, which had been shaved and had the sockets empty. “I haven’t talked this much to another person for years,” she said with her eyes fixed on the place where his eyes once were. “So, thank you,” she added solemnly. “If you hadn’t come,” Lowri carefully put the head down, “I would have lost my mind...” she said covering the pot, “sooner or later”.