“Would you like me to read your tea leaves, dearie?”

Anne looked up into the jolly face of an elderly woman; her wrinkled cheeks and nose pink from the warmth of the old tea room.

“Ah,… no thank you” said Anne distractedly, “I don’t believe in that stuff.”

“Be that as it may, but I can see you have something on your mind, perhaps allowing me to read your cup will help you make your decision?”

Anne thought about it for a moment. What harm could it do? Besides, the old lady looked like she just wanted to chat and Anne desperately needed a break from her thoughts. “Alright, what do I have to do?”

“It’s just as well they still make tea the old fashioned way here, without tea bags,” she said smiling and waving her hand around the Victorian style tearoom. “My name is Rose.”

“I’m Anne.”

“Now, Anne, be sure to leave a little bit of tea in the bottom of the cup, swirl it about and then turn it over into the saucer and give it to me to turn the cup back over.”

Anne dutifully did as what she was instructed and handed the cup and saucer to Rose.

Taking the fine teacup into her wrinkled hands, Rose turned it over carefully, revealing a haphazard pattern of tea leaves around the rim. Gazing intently into the teacup, she nodded knowingly and looked across at Anne. “Just as I thought,” she announced, “this is about a man.”

Anne smiled. Of course it was about a man. A bastard of a man.

“You’re trying to decide whether to leave him or not,” said Rose.

“I suppose you could say that,”

“The leaves tell me he has broken your heart. He’s cheated on you,” Rose whispered, as she leaned closer to Anne.

“It’s not something I care to be reminded of,” said Anne, her voice tight with pain and anger.

“Of course not, dearie, I am so sorry. I also see that you have a lot to lose if you leave him. Sometimes it’s not worth sacrificing one’s freedom for the sake of money.”

Anne sat silent, arms folded protectively over her chest. What could this old woman possibly know about her circumstances? Even though it was her husband who had cheated on her, Anne knew she would never see a penny of his vast fortune. He would make sure of it; he would flaunt his mistress out of spite. There was only one way to make sure she got what was due to her.

Rose continued, “This is a not a good man. Money has changed him and it seems that he enjoys humiliating and hurting you.”

Anne looked away. She didn’t want this strange woman to see her pain, but most of all she didn’t want Rose’s pale blue eyes probing her thoughts any further.

Rose gently touched her on her arm, “I think I’ve seen all I need to see to know what you’re going to do, dearie. Just be sure that you are very careful.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” said Anne.

“Oh, I think you do.” Rose poured the tea from the saucer back into the teacup, swirled it and placed the cup upside down on the saucer and left it on the table.

“Why have you stopped,” asked Anne. “Have the leaves nothing more to say?”

“Oh, there is much more in that cup to see, dearie. I think it’s better to leave it as it is,” Rose said with a knowing smile, “as a saucerful of secrets.”

J.J. Stevens