Put The Kettle On

Sleepy family, well-meaning colleagues, struggling clients – everyone feels better for a hot cuppa…

“Put the kettle on, would you, love?” I say, when Zoe and I arrive home.

“Yeah, yeah. In a sec, Mum!”

As I hang up my jacket, she races upstairs to charge her phone.

I sigh.

She leans over the banister, grinning.

“You must’ve had a thousand cups of tea today already.”

She’s not wrong. It might even be one thousand and one.

Seven-thirty this morning: I was the first one up, opening curtains to the still-dark sky.

I love the gentle start to the day, the houses hushed and the smell of tea leaves rising from our ancient tea caddy that used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen. It reminds me of her every time I thumb off the lid. And the murmuring of the water rising to a bubbling boil in the kettle.

The tea brewed while I pulled out cereal packets and milk. Zoe came down, as zombie-ish as I was, and sat dazed at the table.

I passed my mug of tea to her and put the kettle on to refresh for a new one, and she smiled gratefully.

Lewis was next, fresh from the shower, flipping the radio on so the quiet was broken by sports updates.

“Ooh, lovely,” he said, looking into my mug, then hopefully at me.

“Go on, have it,” I said, taking another mug down to make a third cup. Zoe and her dad munched on cereal while I refilled the kettle.

I don’t get many quiet moments in the day. As a debt advisor for a charity, my hours are pretty full.

My next chance for a cuppa was mid-morning, when Casey, the new girl, arrived by my desk holding two chipped mugs, steam rising from them.

“I thought you might like a brew.”

“That’s kind, thanks.”

I’d missed my tea break that morning.

“It’s the least I can do after all your help yesterday.”

She hovered by the desk. I dreaded her asking for more help. The truth was, I’d got behind yesterday and I was swamped.

I picked up the mug – a chunkier one than my usual – and lifted it halfway to my mouth before pausing in horror.

Milk – as I liked. One sugar – as I liked. The teabag still floating in the cup.

I set it down again.

“Bit hot,” I said, grimacing apologetically.

I mean, honestly. I’d thought we could be friends.

“You seem really busy,” she noted.

“Always.” But kindly, “Did you need something?”

“No, I was only in for a few hours. But I can stick around if there’s anything I can do for you?”

She’s a sweetheart, really.

Casey stayed an extra hour to help me with some filing and phone calls, and we worked in easy company. At the end of it I felt much more organised.

But of course I had to drink the tea.

I consoled myself there was always a full kettle. I made another cup after lunch.

I was barely back in the office when my phone rang. I held the mug in one hand, a pen in the other, and the phone in the crook of my neck. And of course by the time the long, involved call was finished, my tea was cold.

No time to make another – I had to go and see a new client.

Money problems are one of the most stressful issues in life, and though my client had taken a brave first step in coming to us, and invited me into her home with a kind of eager hopefulness, within minutes emotion had overwhelmed her.

“You take a minute, and I’ll put the kettle on, if that’s all right?” I said gently.

She nodded, sniffing, and sat at the kitchen table while I set about making tea. Her mug had hand-drawn ballet dancers all around it.

“That’s pretty,” I said.

“My niece made it for me,” she said. “Her dance class did Swan Lake last Christmas.” She smiled faintly at the memory, stuffing a tissue up her sleeve.

I set the tea down and sat across from her. Now we were just two women having a friendly chat.

“You’ve done the right thing,” I said. “It will get better now, I promise.”

She drew the mug towards her for comfort, and nodded.

“Oh,” she said, noticing, “you haven’t taken any milk.”

There had only been a tiny splash left in the carton.

“No,” I fibbed, “I don’t take any.”

By the time I’d left work, and picked up Zoe on the way home, I was gasping for a decent cuppa.

But as I move through the living room, turning on lights, I can’t help sinking into the inviting cushions of the sofa. I sit there, unmoving.

“Tough day?”

Before I can answer, Zoe’s passing me a mug of tea.

My favourite mug. Milk, one sugar.

“Perfect,” I say happily.

She squashes in next to me, cradling her own cup.

“Tea makes everything better,” she says.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of lovely feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
Don’t forget – you can find brand new, uplifting short stories every week in My Weekly magazine! Subscribe now for a great money-saving deal, or enjoy one of our Little Escapes short story collections.