3 Tea for Two
Her eighteenth summer had not yet ended and Felicita was already threatened of disinheritance if she weren't to marry; and, in her disgust, as though some machinations of the Divine made it so, her childhood enemy Gregorio, asked for her hand in marriage through a letter. The proposal was a blessing and ensured Felicita was to inherit a great portion of the family fortune, but she could not and would not accept it!
One lazy, summer afternoon, a visitor came to Felicita's house for tea; and Felicita, in great distress, poured her worries to him.
"You refused?" gasped Antonio. He put his cup of tea down with mouth agape.
"I had to," Felicita said matter-of-fact and sipped on her cup. "I would accept any man's proposal, even yours," she pointedly said, "but not Gregorio's. No, I shan't. That odious creature! Don't you remember the summers he spent here, when he stuck a dead frog in one of my boots?"
"My girl," Antonio said with a chuckle, "I must admit Gregorio was a cad, but we were children then! And it's been five years since you last saw each other. One must realize Gregorio has changed since."
"Five years and more hopefully, in Madrid," she simpered. "Why won't he just stay there, Antonio? I do not need him to come and hear me personally refuse his proposal."
"Is he coming here today?" He asked, and the lady nodded in answer. "He can be stubborn, you know that well."
Felicita downed her tea in a hurry. The swelling anger in her chest made her grit her teeth. Gregorio Salvador was indeed a cad. He was at least five years older than she, and he especially picked on her. He used to tie her to a tree in her family's garden, drop dead insects into her drink or meal, trip her over and say his legs were too long, and order her around as though she were his servant. She hated him.
"You should have asked for my hand, Tonio," Felicita sighed. "I would have said yes on the spot."
"But then we would have had a marriage of convenience," murmured Antonio.
"Then our marriage would have been perfect. I'd even allow you to have a querida or two, as long as you're discreet about them."
"Sita," Antonio softly said, "you would be perfect for any man, who wishes to dally around with many women. Believe me, m'dear. But that isn't a compliment, and you know very well I would never replace my Julia."
"Oh, yes"--Felicita rolled her eyes and poured herself another cup of tea--"Julia, the penniless beauty."
A servant came to the sala, bringing along with her Gregorio, who sported a crumpled shirt and trousers. He strutted towards his friends with a tilt of his mouth. The tousled dark hair and careless knot of his cravat made him akin to Lord Byron, but Gregorio paled against the poet.
Gregorio sat himself next to Felicita and shook hands with Antonio, "My friend, it has been a while."
"Five years to be exact," Antonio supplied with a smile. "How was Madrid?"
"Dreadful. I sorely missed Sita, you see," Gregorio said.
Felicita puffed her cheeks in annoyance. "I already rejected your offer."
"Ah," breathed Gregorio, and he fished out a folded sheet of paper from his shirt pocket and threw it across the table. "And I reject your rejection."
"You two get along famously," Antonio cheerfully said. He put his cup down and stood. "Well, this was a lovely visit, but I seem to have missed my wife sorely. It was nice seeing you again, Gregorio."
Alone in the sala, Gregorio transferred to Antonio's seat and stared at Felicita with a bemused grin. Five years, Felicita noticed, had changed Gregorio from a dirty brat into a snooty, handsome man. She poured herself another cup of tea and drank it all in one sip.
"You've become beautiful," Gregorio said, and Felicita, in shock, almost spat her tea. "Your letter," he whispered, "truthfully, your rejection came as an unpleasant surprise to me."
Felicita raised a brow. "We never agreed on anything and never gotten along well. How can my rejection be a surprise?"
"Well, I did kiss you that summer I went away to Madrid. I thought that would have left a lasting impression on you. I imagined you had sleepless nights thinking about me and that kiss."
"You thought wrong," Felicita gasped. "Y-you were a nightmare to me. You never showed me an ounce of kindness when you were still here. What you did--kissing me and leaving so suddenly--was cruel!"
Gregorio put his hand over Felicita's, and warmly he smiled. "Ah, but you were a dream to me. When I first met you in church with your black veil over your head, I thought you were a pretty little chit."
"A chit?" Felicita hotly gasped.
"And I did everything I could just to make you notice me. Childish games, I didn't realize, would hurt."
"How cliché!" Felicita huffed. "I read books, Gregorio. And th-this between us came from a book. Two childhood enemies realizing they were meant for each other."
"You've been reading dime novels?" he asked with a crooked smile. "And do these books usually end with the childhood enemies marrying one another?"
"Yes," Felicita stammered, and she hung her head low.
"Are we to have that ending then?" Gregorio whispered.
Felicita put her cup down. "That letter of rejection was our ending."
"And if I sincerely tell you I've been in love with you for more than a decade, would you reconsider your decision?"
"If I were penniless, just like Antonio's Julia, would you still want me to be your wife?" she challenged.
Gregorio grinned and barked a laughter. "Goodness woman! I'm far richer than you! Even if you were as poor as a mouse, I'd still have enough money to support twenty of you. D'you think money is the issue here?"
"No," Felicita sighed. She held her hands around her cup and softly said, "I accept your proposal."
"Would it be so hard for you to just swoon, even a little, over my proposal?"
Felicita smiled. She bent across the table and kissed Gregorio on the mouth. "You know well I don't swoon," she said, and she held Gregorio's hand as she sipped on her tea.