Tea with Frances Towers
I had tea with Frances Towers yesterday my darling. Her face bore the sadness of the world but one smile from her and the dark circles under her eyes would vanish for an instant. She talked to me about her women — a group of romantic and cynic women — but she did not have to. I could see them on the rails of clothes she had by her bedroom window, where pink dresses with white cuffs hung near lilac dresses and ribbed stockings.
I met her while I was walking down a street I had never passed from in the village. There were abandoned houses with their color fading with the passing of time and balconies held by intricately patterned stone corbels; half opened windows swayed with the weak summer breeze and there was grey all over the walls, as if the sun had not reached this street for a hundred years.
Her front door was left open and she was sitting there, reading in the front courtyard with petals of bougainvillea playing carpet under her naked feet and her curls held by bobby pins. She touched her lips with her coarse hands. Her thin, papery lips.
“Tea must brew for an immeasurable time Madeliene,” she said, while she poked the tea bag in the pot. “Look at you. You look like Auntie Essie. Yes, she was fond of grey, with cuffs and fichus and things of old lace.”
I had, admittedly, worn a grey knitted dress with a lace trim at the edge to remind myself of Aunt Essie. She was the woman whose jewelry all had stories attached to them. They were so much a part of her that they seemed to have absorbed something of her personality, as the woman in that courtyard was fond of saying.
I had fallen into a pattern of wearing the same dresses her women chose to wear. These women with their lace and brooches, their love of flowers and all things dainty were the perfect blend of romantic and cynic. I always thought this to be the perfect mix in this world of ours. Her women are so much like the women in my village — silhouettes roaming around the cobble stone streets, looking fragile but holding your gaze with those enigmatic eyes.
We spent some time together, Frances and I, talking about how we both came to meet Jane Eyre and our love for Gothic architecture. I left her sipping on a fresh cup of tea, when the sun was nowhere to be found and our bare feet had grown cold.
Story credits: Francis Towers’ book of short stories,”Tea with Mr Rochester” for the quotes (in italics) and the inspiration; dress via Asos; shoes sold out (similar HERE.)