When the time for the Summer Solstice Celebration came, a corner of the tea parlour had been transformed for the occasion. Walter had enlisted his officers to transport a fainting couch and velvet carved armchair from Penelope’s home to the shop, and Zara draped one of the tea tables with scarves and hung a festooned mosquito net over the table from the ceiling. She’d even acquired a tasseography cup for use in her divinations. All in all, the setup looked suitably mysterious and bohemian.
Zara herself was decked out in layers of shawls and scarves, with belled anklets jingling above her bare feet, and gold hoop earrings that kept getting stuck on her heavy jeweled necklace. She begged to black out one of her teeth to appear like a wise old crone, but Penelope forbade it.
By the time the pupils of Pacific Grove Elementary had assembled at the Jewell Park Gazebo and shown off their commemorative choreography, Zara was stationed in her fortune-telling corner, seasonal treats had been assembled on the buffet table, Stella was pouring the last bit of bubbling hot water into her waiting teapots, and Penelope was all smiles, standing at the tearoom’s entrance, ready to greet the guests. She’d even printed up small How to Read Tea Leaves leaflets for the visitors, bursting with zealous anticipation at the thought of mentioning the leaflet pun when the time came to hand out the pamphlets.
That was to be the last time she would smile on that unforgettable day.
[Excerpt from Reading Between the Leaves, book 2 in the Tea Cozy Mysteries series]