There was an odd sense of peace that came with drinking a warm brew with a complete stranger. Jamie might have to do this more often, if the company was always this good.
“I didn’t realise tea could be so nice. I haven’t quite mastered it yet.”
From where she was perched - cross-legged on a wonky dining chair - Jamie smiled into her tea.
“You can’t just toss a teabag in and pray, there is a science to it.”
Dani returned the smile, eyes twinkling. Unlike Jamie, she was draped over her tea like it was some sort of nest egg.
“Does that make you a scientist?”
“No, it just makes you American.”
Dani’s smile turned wry, a soft challenge curled in her lips.
“There’s more to me than being American.”
“Yeah, you’re also blonde,” Jamie began to stand up, scraping her chair against the floor, “I’ll make some breakfast and you can tell me all about the multitudes you contain.”
“Breakfast would be nice,” Dani said shyly, “you’re very kind, even if are a little prejudiced against Americans.”
“Yeah, a real bloody philanthropist, me. And believe me, you would be too if you offered breakfast to every stray, ungrateful American that happened to find themselves in my garden.”
“Wow, so this happens often, huh?”
Masking her unruly glee, Jamie turned her back in favour of rustling through her chaotic kitchen cabinets for a cheese grater and a chopping board, both thoroughly used.
“Oh, every bloody day it is. God, can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to fight a yank over the hydrangeas. It’s like I run a café but instead of getting paid, I get to listen to Americans gawk over my tea,” Jamie whirled back around with flare, offering a single raised eyebrow and a small smirk, “Anyway enough about me, how do you like Cheese Beanos?”
Jamie counted two seconds before she heard the muffled splutter, her little American choking on her British tea in the face of such a British breakfast. Her smirk grew, proudly.
“Oh, um, I’ve not quite mastered that yet either. Could you remind me what it is?”
Jamie’s features transformed into a priceless look of exaggerated shock - where was her academy award?
“What? I should have known really, a poor American like you. I can’t believe I invited a ghost into my house,” Jamie shook her head and tutted, looking down to hide the grin stretching into life.
There was a matching grin on Dani’s face, no hiding it’s radiance.
“Okay, okay. Because I’m dead, right? Since I haven’t lived until I’ve tried your Cheese Beanos, I’m guessing,” Her deadpan deliverance on par with Jamie’s.
Jamie was beaming now, rivalling the sun, really. She was sharp as a rose thorn, was this one.
“Couldn’t let me have my fun, could you?” Tutting, Jamie scoured the fridge for cheese - a mature cheddar - then, perhaps accentuating her movements a little much, reached up to the cupboard for a tin of beans, “A Cheese Beano is a wondrous creation, a blessing from a higher power. If you can’t do tea, I wouldn’t dare let you near my grill.”
“You talk a big game, please put me out of my misery.”
“Alright, alright you scoundrel. Probing me for British intelligence. I’m on to you.”
Dani raised a single, perfect American eyebrow. A half smile played on her lips. Jamie thought it was a glorious sight.
“Here we have some bread,” Jamie held up the loaf of bread theatrically, “and here we have a toaster. The bread goes into the toaster but only for a minute, until it looks like it’s gotten a sad tan during a weekend in Blackpool.”
“You really don’t want to know,” she reached for her tea and took a refreshing sip, “When your toast is fresh from it’s little trip, stick it on a plate and shove some beans in the microwave for two minutes. No more and certainly no less,” Complementing her instructions, Jamie followed her recipe with great flare, “Then you want to carefully, carefully distribute the beans over the slice and sprinkle a healthy portion of cheese on top. Now, top tip here, make sure you get the edges. Turn the grill on, stick the slice on there and wait patiently - though many would make a cuppa - for five minutes.”
"If you can't get your head around these, you'll never be a true Brit."
"I'm not sure I want to be a true Brit."
"Don't be like that, one taste of this and you'll be running down the council offices begging them for citizenship."
“Oh, you innocent little yank. Pray you never find out”
Dani looked pleasantly puzzled as Jamie drifted back towards the kettle. One cup was common courtesy, but Jamie was perilously close to flirting with two. Hell, offering her Cheese Beanos was basically a marriage proposal. Jamie couldn’t remember the last time she extended an invitation long enough to enjoy two cups, and here she was, blindly plopping an earl grey teabag into her favourite mug; for a stranger no less. For an American. There was something about her though, the little twitches on her lips when a smile was threatening to break loose, the kindness in her beautiful blue eyes, the lilt of humour in her voice exchanging banter with Jamie.
Being brazen enough to trip into Jamie’s garden, eyes blazing with wonder - well it was enough to light a dangerous spark within her.
Jamie cleared her smitten little throat.
“I’m still nursing the first one.”
“I suppose it’s true what they say about Americans being lightweights, then?”
“I’m not even going to deny it, I’ll be bouncing around all day.”
A warm silence enveloped the pair, Jamie leant against the counter, caught in Dani’s soft gaze. Lost without her bravado, Jamie’s smile turned hesitant and shy. Gorgeous women made her shamefully weak.
“I think the uh, Cheese Beano is ready.”
There was no time for pitifully romantic reveries in Jamie’s kitchen.
“Right then,” Jamie wrapped her hand around a heavily stained kitchen towel and gracefully removed the Cheese Beano from the grill. In Jamie’s humble opinion, it looked like a house on fire, but Dani was an American and therefore had no concept of how a Cheese Beano should look like. Small blessings, and that.
“Are you not having some?”
To hell with it, honesty was important after all.
“Oh no, my Cheese Beanos are pure shite. I’m having eggs.”
Jamie wasn’t the best at eggs either, but at least they were edible. She was a gardener after all, not a bloody chef. She wasn’t offended then, when Dani left her Beano with only the tiniest of bites missing from the toast. It helped that in way of eating, Dani indeed filled Jamie in on the many, many multitudes she contained.
It had well since past the socially acceptable amount of time for having a strange, American trespasser in your house, but still Dani lingered by the front door, drifting ever closer to Jamie.
“I don’t have any money, except dollars, and I think you’d never let that go. But here, have these tomato seeds.”
Jamie didn’t hide her smile, this time.
“I don’t know how to break it to you but tomatoes are best planted in spring. It’s October.”
“I know that.”
“I’m sure you do.”
The seeds remained in Dani’s hand, floating in the gap between their bodies. A rush of words came flooding from Dani’s mouth, a broken dam.
“To be honest with you, I pass your garden everyday and it’s really, really beautiful, and well, I got inspired because it can’t be that hard can it? But it clearly is if I don’t even know the right season for tomatoes.”
“Aw, come on. You had the right idea. Start small, work your way up. Here, take this.”
Jamie strode back into her kitchen and returned with a tiny, green gift; accompanied by a small smile.
“This guy’s very low maintenance and a lovely addition to any kitchen.”
Dani - sheepish - stood a little higher. Who knew happiness could be relied upon by the kindness of strange, British gardeners?
“I couldn’t possibly, I literally broke into your garden.”
“Finally, a confession.”
Jamie thrusted the cactus into Dani’s arms.
“Think of it as a trade. I get the tomato seeds and you get this little man. You’ll just have to come back and check up on these cheeky buggers.”
“Spring is a-ways away,” Dani countered, wry but tinged with a question.
Jamie shrugged, tugged at her lip with her teeth.
“One day at a time, then.”