The kettle had only just finished boiling when Elizabeth Seedler poured the steaming water into her mug. Tea. She’d been so busy working at home all day she hadn’t even sat down for a cuppa. This was going to have to be a quick one. The clock on the wall told her it was almost time for the school run: she’d have to leave very soon to pick up her two loveable terrors. She hadn’t had a moment to herself yet. And to think, she’d given up her well-paid office job to become a domestic goddess who writes part-time. Well, she hadn’t written a thing and, to be honest, there had to be an easier way of attaining deity status. The house was spotless.
Elizabeth poured a quick splash of milk and fished the tea bag out with a spoon, dropping it in her sparkling and shiny sink. Wait. That was going to leave a stain. She picked the spent brown bag out and – to hell with recycling – dumped it in the bin. This would be the last moment of peace she’d have until the kids went to bed. She held the mug by its chunky handle, blew across the brew’s steaming surface and took a sip. She flinched. Not from the heat, something had touched her lips. The teabag… no. She opened the pedal bin: the used bag was sitting discarded and innocent on top of the latest rubbish. Elizabeth put the mug down on the worktop. Using the teaspoon she stirred her tea, dredging the bottom of the cup. Nothing surfaced. She was going mad.
She rinsed the spoon under the cold tap, flicked it once in the sink to dry and put it back in the drawer. She picked up the hot mug again and blew at the steam, watching the circular ripples she was making. When she stopped, the brew’s surface became still with only a twist of delicate steam rising. She took a sip and again recoiled.
Something had definitely touched her lips. Something solid, smooth. Boney and hard. Almost like a fish… Oh! this was stupid!
She put the mug down too heavily, spilling a ring of liquid on the work surface. She didn’t bother wiping it up. Elizabeth wrenched the cutlery drawer open, pulled out a tea strainer and grabbed a clean mug from the shelf. She decanted the tea into the smaller mug. Nothing appeared in the strainer. There was nothing at the bottom of the empty mug. She rinsed both in the sink and wiped the worktop clean. Elizabeth didn’t know what she was expecting to find but it wasn’t nothing.
The over-filled smaller mug sat brimming, its surface untroubled. Elizabeth stood at a distance, frowning as she tried to work out what the hell was going on. She remembered last summer when John, her husband, took a swig from an open coke can only to find a wasp had crawled in. John had let out a terrible scream and his lips looked like Mick Jagger’s for a week afterwards. But this wasn’t a wasp in her tea. It was something much bigger. She could still feel the tingle on her lips from whatever beast it was in the mug that had… oh, this was ridiculous! There was no such thing as monsters… the kids! She was late. She had to leave to collect the kids.
She grabbed her coat and bag. No keys, where were the car keys? She found them in her pocket just as she remembered she’d had to park the car round the corner. She was in a bad mood. With a headache. And thirsty. There was a perfectly good cup of tea sitting on the side. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. She was imagining idiotic things. Elizabeth bent over the full mug and took a gratifying slurp of delicious tea. That was when it swallowed her.
John opened the door to find the house neat and tidy and sparkling. He was impressed and to be honest, a little disappointed. He’d come home early in the hope of catching Elizabeth in the middle of her domestic duties so he could issue fake masterful commands and generally tease her about her new domestic role but, it seemed, she was on top of everything. Except she should’ve been back with the kids by now. Maybe she was last-minute food-shopping. She always forgot something.
As John wandered into the clean kitchen he realised what Elizabeth’s mistake was: she’d forgotten about the school run itself. John smiled at his own brilliance, he should’ve been a detective, the clues were obvious: no kids, no Elizabeth, a still hot cup of tea abandoned on the worktop. There was no point in wasting it. John carefully picked up the brimming mug just as his phone rang. It was the school, the kids were still waiting to be picked up and Elizabeth wasn’t answering her phone.
‘I’ll be there, quick as I can,’ John said. What the bloody hell was Liz playing at? He dialled her number and raised the cup to his lips. Then he noticed her car keys by his feet, and her bag where he heard her phone ring, just as the tea took a sip of him.
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Go on, it’s Christmas!