Damn it! That’s the curfew claxon.
Boil fresh water in a copper kettle. Place precisely 5g of leaves into a lidded white ceramic cup. Add 280 mls of the boiled water and allow to infuse for exactly six minutes. Strain into a bowl.
“Contestants, you have 90 minutes. Let’s cook.”
Steam billowed behind her through the open bathroom door. She tightened the towel across her chest and padded to the bedroom. The scent of furniture polish and Airwick mingled with the lingering scent of her bubble bath. She dabbed her pink skin gently with the towel and reached for the jar of La Mer on the thrift store dressing table she’d bought that morning. She breathed in it’s soft aroma. Half the jar was gone already, she’d have to use it sparingly in future. But tonight warranted something special. She massaged the lotion into her skin in slow circular motions. Her hands were tight and red, her shoulders ached, but every surface of the apartment gleamed. She closed her eyes and sighed with satisfaction. She wrapped herself in her cashmere robe and went into the living room, taking time to drink in the freshly vacuumed carpet and battered pine coffee table. Her eyes fell on the bottle - the only dusty thing left in her new home. She smirked as she remembered the day it was bought. The vendor in his white gloves guiding them through the maze of oak casks to the “special selection”- rows of dark dusty bottles lying in cushioned racks, and the crown jewel, resting in it’s own lined casket. The vendor hovered his hand over the bottle. He spoke with her husband in reverential tones about tannins and bouquets. She had stifled a yawn. This wasn’t how she had expected their honeymoon in Venice to be. The Vendor had explained that they could import specific dust to adorn the bottle. Her snort of laughter had been silenced by their glares. When they spoke of the price, she baulked.
At 2:55 on his third night in the house, John sat bolt upright in bed. His ears strained to make out any noise. The light bulb seared his tired eyes but he didn’t dare switch it off. He wrung his hands as he scanned the room for something solid to hold. His golf clubs were still in a crate downstairs, yet to be unpacked.