The Tea House

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Bella couldn’t believe that she was free from her military obligations. She joined the military when she was just seventeen years old. She had joined right out of high school to get away from her family and their religious strict rules. She did six years and worked her way up to being a chef.

She hid how she felt as well. She knew when she was just fifteen years old that she should have been born a girl, instead of a guy. The only person that knew the truth about her situation had been her grandmother down in Edenton, NC. She encouraged her to explore that side of her nature. Her grandmother has always encouraged her to follow how she felt and always supported her in whatever decision she made.

As for joining the military, she used that to run away from her home life. No matter what she did, it was never enough for her parents. They always compared her to her cousins or her two older brothers. One followed in their father’s footsteps and became a minister. The other was a successful investor for the investment firm he works at.

She took a chance and banked half the money she made in the military and some side jobs she would do. She had a plan when she was in the military and now that she was out. She was going to put that plan into action.

The first part of her plan had been to have gender reassignment surgery. She did that when she was on leave in Thailand for a month. All her records in North Carolina now said, female. She had an aunt that worked in the records office where she was born. So, now she had a brand-new birth certificate that said female and had her new name as well.

Now the second part of her plan included opening up an old fashion tea house. She has been to all sorts of different ones and has decided how she is going to have hers. She has established a company and suppliers for her teas and coffee. All she needs now is to find the perfect building to host her tea house.

Bella gets out of the cab at her grandmother’s old house in Edenton, NC. She felt sorry for all of her aunts, uncle, and parents. They all thought they would be getting their grandmother’s old house. They were going to modernize it and sell it for a lot of money. She looks at the two-story house and smiles. She has such fond memories of this place when she was younger and when she uses to come home on leave and visit her grandmother.

When she couldn’t come home on leave, she would call her grandmother and tell her everything going on in her life. She managed to show up for her grandmother’s funeral and couldn’t believe how all her relatives reacted.

Her grandmother knew how uncaring and greedy her children had become. Even some of her grandchildren acted like spoiled, entitled brats. If she had been their parents, she would punish them the way her grandmother did.

Her grandmother made sure she knew how to act as a proper young lady. She walks towards the house and takes her keys out. Her grandmother had set up a fund to take care of the taxes and upkeep of the house while she was in the military. She walks into the and saw that all the furniture was still covered up by white sheets and that it was going to need a good cleaning.

She walks upstairs to her grandmother’s bedroom and takes a breath before she walks into the room. It’s been so long since she has been in this room. She knew her grandmother passed away in her sleep here. She hopes the electricity has been turned on. She flicks the switch and the overhead fan starts moving. The lights flicker and finally come on.

“Thank goodness.” Bella puts her luggage in her grandmother’s old bedroom.

She starts unpacking after cleaning up some. She’ll need to hire someone to come in and help out around the house. The place was too big for her to clean by herself. After putting her clothes and shoes away. She walks out of the bedroom and downstairs towards the kitchen. She stops in the den and turns the air on. The house was a little hot and the air had a stale smell to it.

Once the air was on, she walks into the kitchen and look how the kitchen was set up. She had forgotten her grandmother had updated everything before she died. She locates the main circuit box and flips all the switches that were off, and on. She was glad that the A/C /heat pump hadn’t been turned off.

She walks into her grandmother’s home office and grabs the keys to her grandmother’s old car in the garage. The handyman came by to check on the house and kept the car in working order. She had talked with him just before she was discharged from the military.

The people she worked with were sorry to see her go. She was one of the best chefs they have ever worked with. She might have stayed longer, but she was ready to settle down and get her business going. She already had a business license from doing catering events.

She opens the garage door and starts the car. She slowly backs out of the garage and closes the garage door. Bella drives to the nearest grocery store, which happened to be an old Winn Dixie that has been around since she was little.

She grabs a grocery cart and walks inside the store and does some shopping. She gets the basics items, plus the spices she wanted and a few bottles of wine. She grabs some fresh produce and some meats. She was happy that the store still had a butcher on duty to slice the meats that she wanted.

By the time she got done getting everything she wanted. The total came to three hundred dollars. She grabbed enough food and supplies to last her a month. As she walks out of the store, she spots a teenager sitting against the front of the building holding a sign. The poor thing was begging for money and people just walked by them.

Bella walks over to the poor thing “what’s your name?”

“Charley.” Charley looks up at a woman dressed in blue jeans and a white short sleeve dress shirt. She was wearing a pair of white heels.

“Well, Charley. How about I hire you and in exchange, I’ll feed you and give you some pocket money? How does that sound?” Bella looks at the poorly dressed teenager.

“I don’t mind working.” Charley has been trying to get a job since she lost her job and has been living on the streets.

“Come on with me, Charley. I’m Bella by the way.” Bella extends her hand toward Charley.

“It’s nice to meet you, Bella.” Charley grabs Bella’s hand and lets her help her up off the sidewalk.

She grabs her backpack that has everything she kept. The rest of her stuff, she had to sell or pawn off. She didn’t get much money for the items she managed to pawn.

“So, Charley. Why are you homeless?” Bella walks with Charley towards her grandmother’s car.

“I lost my job and I haven’t been able to find another one. Plus, my landlord evicted me, since I couldn’t pay my rent.” What Charley wasn’t saying was that she punched the guy for calling her a freak.

“Well, if you need a place to stay, you can stay with me. I could use someone to help me clean my house.” Bella wonders if Charley knew
anything about cooking.

Charley looks at the brown hair woman and wonders what was in it for her. She looks at all the stuff the woman bought “why are you helping me?”

“Because I had a friend once who used to be in the exact situation you are in. She was a good person that had a string of bad luck. A kind couple took her in and gave her a place to live.”

“Was your friend you?” Charley was curious.

“Nope, she was someone I went through boot camp with. She came from a poor family and her parents mistreated her. She would have died if
the old couple hadn’t taken her in.”

“You were in the military?” Charley wonders what branch, Bella was in.

“Yep, I was in the Army as a chef. I cooked food for all the grunts and officers.”

“I didn’t know the army had cooked.” Bella didn’t know that.

“Well, someone has to feed all those men and women.” Bella stops behind the Lincoln Town Car she came in.

She unlocks the trunk and starts unloading the groceries. She looks at Charley “put your stuff in the back seat.”

“Yes ma’am.” Charley does as she was ordered.

Afterward, she comes walking back to help load everything into the trunk. She grabs the grocery cart to take it back to the store.

“Here, get yourself something to drink. You look like you could use it.” Bella gives Charley a dollar -n-half for a soda.

“Thank you, Bella.” Charley takes the grocery cart back to the store and grabs a soda from the machine.

She runs back to Bella’s car and gets in.

“Seat belt, Charley.” Bella watches her.

“Sorry.” Charley fastens the seat belt.

“It’s alright, just remember whenever you ride with me. You are required to wear a seat belt. Now, let's go home and put everything away and I’ll cook you a home cook meal.” Bella smiles as she heads back to her grandmother’s house.

When they arrive, Charley helps Bella with the groceries. Once they were in the house, she learns where everything is going to go. She is amazed at how Bella organizes everything.

“Now, let’s get you settled while you change clothes and toss everything into the washer. I’ll make us some lunch. Is there anything particular you would like?”

“Whatever you want. I’m not picky.” Charley knew she couldn’t be picky.

“Charley, I don’t mind cooking anything you want. I enjoy cooking, so what would you like?” Bella looks at the poor kid.

“Would a steak sandwich be, okay? I haven’t had one in a long time.” Charley missed having a steak sandwich.

“Do you like peppers, onions, and mushrooms on it?” Bella knew she had everything to make it.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Okay, go upstairs and to the first bedroom on the right. That’s my old bedroom. It’s a little dusty, but there should be some clean sheets,
blankets, and pillows in the hallway linen closet, in a vacuum-sealed bag.” When she came for her grandmother's funeral, she vacuumed sealed all the linen.

“Okay.” Charley heads upstairs to change and grab all her dirty stuff.

Bella goes about chopping up the onions, peppers, and mushrooms. She takes some flat steak and cuts it into strips and chops it up some more. She takes her favorite cast iron skillet from under the counter and cleans it, before using it. It was well seasoned from her grandmother using it.

In no time she had the steak cooking and seasoned. She adds peppers, onions, and mushrooms. She watches as Charley comes rushing through the kitchen to the washer on the back porch. In no time, the washer was going.

“Just in time, kiddo. Your steak sandwich is ready.” Bella serves the sandwich up.

“Thank you, Bella.” Charley takes a bit from it and moans.

She has never tasted anything so good before. Not even Sammy’s and Diane’s diner could match this sandwich.

“I take it, you approve?” Bella heard the pleasure sounds coming from Charley.

Charley nods her head yes. She so loved this sandwich. The meat just melted in your mouth and the peppers and onions were so soft, but still had some crispiness to them.

Bella fixes herself a sandwich and sits down at the counter to eat it. She watches as Charley sits next to her on the stool next to her. She enjoys her sandwich and had to admit, she did a good job on this sandwich.

When Charley was done eating hers, she looks at Bella “you should open up a sandwich shop with how good that tasted.”

“I’m more interested in opening up a tea house. I’ve been to a lot of them and I love them. I think it would be a boost to this city.”

“What’s a tea house?” Charley has never heard of it before.

“Well, a tea house is where women can go and enjoy the company of other women. It was started in the 1880s, but it wasn’t called a tea house, but tea rooms and tea court. You serve either finger foods or sweets. You can also serve a light lunch as well.” Bella has been doing her research.

“How about men? Do they come to these tea houses?”

“Sometimes, what I was thinking is making it so men might enjoy the company of the women they are with by serving different types of coffee. Also, food that they might enjoy like some light sandwiches and pastries like coffee cake, bear claws, fritters, or donuts.”

“The cops will enjoy the fresh donuts. The local donut shop might be closing down. The woman who owns it is thinking about retiring and she’s thinking about selling it.”

“How do you know this?” Bella was curious.

“I overheard the woman talking to some people on her cellphone. She’s ready to leave North Carolina and move to Florida.”

“Hhmm, something to look into.” Bella takes a sip of her sweet tea.

After lunch, Charley and Bella clean the house. They turn the air off and open all the windows. The house was built back before they had A/C, so you could get a good cross breeze from the open windows.

For dinner, Bella makes them a pasta dish. She made the sauce from scratch using can tomatoes and such. She didn’t use fresh tomatoes. She added all the spices to give it a nice Italian flavor.

Charley was watching Bella as she cooked “how come you don’t just use premade sauce?”

“Sometimes I do if I’m in a hurry. However, normally I like to use fresh ingredients whenever I can. It tastes better and you can fix it to how you like it, not how some company thinks it should taste.” Bella stirs the sauce.

When dinner was ready, they eat in the dining room. Bella had made a salad and garlic bread to go with it. Whatever they don’t eat, Charley helps put away. She looks at Bella “thank you for everything you are doing for me.”

“You’re welcome. Tomorrow, why don’t you take me by this donut shop so I can see the owner.” Bella was thinking buying the donut shop owner might be a good idea.

“Okay.” Charley covers a yawn up. She has never felt this full before.

A smirk appears on Bella’s face “alright young lady. Off to bed with you. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

“But my clothes need to be moved to the dryer.” Charley still needed to finish her laundry.

“I got it. Do you need anything to sleep in?” Bella had a spare nightshirt and nightgown Charley could wear.

“I’m fine. I have some night clothes.”

“Then go to bed, young lady. I got your clothes.” Bella walks to the back porch and put Charley’s clothes into the dryer.

She cuts the lights off and arms the security system. She heads upstairs to her grandmother’s old bedroom and changes into her nightgown. She takes her Kindle out and starts reading a story she had started. It was a love story written by one of her favorite authors.

Celebrity Donuts & Pastries:
Bella stands in front of the donut shop with Charley by her side. She would have to change the name of the place. She opens the door and walks into the building. The place had a nice pleasant feel to it. She could see the people making donuts and the displays that made up the front of the counter were filled with different types of donuts and pastries.

“Welcome to Celebrity Donuts and Pastries. What can I do for you today?” Emily spotted a new customer that walked into the shop. She recognized Charley and saw that she was looking cleaned and better.

Bella walks up to the counter. She liked how the young woman behind the counter greeted her when she walked into the place. She notices the coffee urns out so, you could get refills on your coffee.

“Yes, I would like to talk to the owner of this place.” Bella was going to see if the owner was going to sell the place.

“She won’t be in for another hour. Can I help you?” Emily smiles at the woman.

“Yes, I’ll have an apple fritter and whatever my friend here would like.” Bella looks at Charley.

“Oh, I already know what she likes.” Emily knew what type of donuts Charley liked.

“Come here that often, Charley?” Bella looks at Charley.

“She’s like a little sister to me, ma’am.” Emily worried whenever she didn’t see Charley.

Charley just blushes. Emily has always tried to look after her whenever she came around. She knew Emily was barely getting by herself.

Bella smiles when she sees Charley blush. She just learned something about her young friend.

“Can you add large coffees to my order please?”

“Yes ma’am.” Emily was smiling at Charley.

“By the way miss, what type of coffee or brand do you use?” Bella was curious.

“We get our coffee from the coffee house. They supply most of the coffee to the restaurants around here and beyond Edenton.” Emily goes about fixing the coffee first and then grabbing the donuts. She turns around to look at the woman “ma’am, is this for here or to go?”

“For here.” Bella was going to wait around and see how business was.

Emily puts the donuts on the specialty paper plates they have made for them. She catches the woman looking around the place and behind the counter as several of the cooks make the donuts. She, Rose, and Tammy have been saving their money to buy the donut shop from Angela. The three of them knew she wanted to sell the place and leave North Carolina.

Between the three of them, they had about thirty thousand dollars, but they knew Angela wanted sixty thousand dollars for the shop. She didn’t know what Angela wanted to do with the money, but the store was worth it. She walks back over to the counter and hands the two donuts and coffees to the woman.

“That will be eight dollars, ma’am.” Emily knew how much everything cost.

Bella pulls a ten-dollar bill out of her purse. She hands it to Emily “keep the change.”

“Thank you.” Emily rings the order up. Just like she said, the total was eight dollars even.

Bella and Charley walk over to a nearby table and sit down. Bella notices the young lady added some creamers and sugar packets to their order.

“I guess we’re supposed to sweeten our coffee ourselves.” Bella looks at Charley when she says those words.

“Mrs. Moore tried doing things the way Starbucks does their coffee, but it just caused a line to form and people got cranky.” Charley heard how Mrs. Moore improved the service around the shop.

“I think we can do better. It’s a matter of training people the right way.” Bella fixes her coffee the way she liked it and takes a taste.

The coffee wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t something she wanted to serve. It was too bland, like the coffee you buy at the grocery store. She wanted to serve the type of coffee you could only get if you went to different countries or states. She had a list of suppliers she could get the coffee from, but maybe she should check out the coffee shop to see what they carried.

Charley could tell that Bella wasn’t too thrilled about the coffee. She watched as Bella observed everything going on around the store. She looks at Bella “are you serious about buying this place?”

“Yes, I ma’am. It has potential. I would want to see what the back looked like and maybe expend this area more.” Bella thinks the inside could be better.

“Look, I don’t know how wealthy you are, but I know three people who work here who want to buy this place. They’ve been working here since they were in high school and know everything about this place.”

Bella looks at Charley “go on.”

“I think it might be nice if you took them on as partners. They know the customers and all the recipes for the pastries and donuts they serve here.
Also, they know the suppliers as well. It might be to your advantage to take them on as partners.” Charley knew Emily has been saving up her money. Rose and Tammy have been doing the same. Tammy was willing to put the money her grandmother left her towards the place.

Bella listens and thinks about what Charley was suggesting. Having partners wouldn’t be a bad idea. It would cut down on how much money she would have to give, but the cost of upgrading the place would be coming out of her pocket.

The contractor she wanted to use wouldn’t charge her that much. She already had everything she needed line up. All she needed now was the place.

“Are these people you know working here right now?”

“Yes ma’am. Rose is one of the cooks in the back. Emily you already met and Tammy is the pastry chef. She’s really good and has been wanting
to do cakes and pies, but Mrs. Moore doesn’t want to do them.”

“Hhhmmm?” Bella thinks about it. She liked how Emily treats the customers that come into the store. The apple fritter she was eating tasted better than even her own. As for Tammy, if she wants to make cakes and pies. She could see how that would open a few opportunities.

Charley watches as Bella thinks about her words. She had a feeling that she might take her suggestion.

“Here comes Mrs. Moore, Bella.” Charley spotted Mrs. Moore walking into the shop.

Mrs. Moore stops to talk to Emily. Emily points over toward Charley and Bella. She walks over to Charley and the other woman.

“Hi, I’m Angela Moore, the owner of this place.” She extends her hand toward Bella.

Bella smiles and accepts Mrs. Moore’s hand. “Hi, I’m Bella Rosewood and this is my companion, Charley Watson.”

“It’s nice to meet you Mrs. Rosewood. Emily informed me that you wanted to talk with me. Is there a problem?” Angela was wondering why this woman wanted to talk with her.

“No problem, but an opportunity.” Bella smiles at Angela.

“Oh? Why don’t we go to my office and talk? Charley, tell Emily to give you another eclair and put it on the house.”

“Yes ma’am,” Charley smirks as she watches Bella and Angela walk away.

Bella follows Angela to her office. She sits down in an uncomfortable chair. The chair had to be from an old school or something.

Charley gets up and walks over to the counter to talk with Emily. Who in turn gets Tammy and Rose in on the conversation as well. All three ladies hope Mrs. Moore takes the offer and likes what Charley was telling them about Bella’s plans as well.

Four Months Later:
Bella, Rose, Tammy, and Emily stand outside of their new place. They couldn’t believe the addition and the upgrades Bella made to the place. Not only were they going to serve fifty different types of tea, but they were going to serve different types of coffee as well. Plus, Tammy had her area to do pies and cakes. Plus, specialty ice cream as well.

Tammy had come across a vendor selling ice cream machines and you could make any type of ice cream. She brought the idea to the others and they all liked the idea. Between the four of them, they had come up with twelve different flavors, besides the ordinary ones. To entice people to buy ordinary flavors, they came up with ingredients that enhanced the flavors in them.

“Well, ladies I have to say our new venture should increase our business.” Bella had come up with other finger foods for the tea and coffee house.

She learned that you could offer finger foods and pastries for the tea party. The finger foods she came up with were a combination of different types.

“And we have you Charley for arranging this.” Emily places a kiss on Charley’s cheek.

Bella looks at Charley and was proud of her as well. While the donut shop was being renovated. Charley helped out on the construction while working for Bella’s friend. Afterward, she was going to work for Bella and the others as a server.

They had tables and chairs set up out front for customers to enjoy the sidewalk traffic on main street. The back had been enclosed and new concrete had been laid down and smooth. Tables and small privacy fences had been erected to give the occupants some privacy.

The coffee house side sold different types of coffee. The coffee house that the donut shop used was able to different blends of coffee for Bella. She had shared her list of coffee bean providers and in return. The coffee house gave her a discount on the coffee she bought from them.

They were going to start by offering six different types of coffee. If one didn’t sell well, they would switch the coffee up with a different one. They had one main kitchen that made all the pastries, donuts, and appetizers for both the tea house side and coffee side.

You could get a nice breakfast or brunch item on the coffee house side. On the tea house side, you could get special appetizers like egg rolls, spring rolls, dumplings, steamed pork, or beef buns. As well, as Hirata buns. Shrimp on a stick, meatballs, sauce covered little wieners and three different types of soups that changed each day.

Emily and Tammy thought it was too much. But Rose and Bella thought it was great, because not only could the women having their tea party could have something different, but they could have a little snack or light lunch until dinner time.

The tea house side closed at sunset, but the coffee house side stayed open until late, so people could come in and read poetry, play music, or do standup comedy. Of course, the jokes had to be clean and non-offensive.

Each of the ladies took a turn during the day helping prepare and serve tea. There was also a dress code for the tea house side. The only exceptions were on Friday, which was casual dress day. All the other times, you had to dress appropriately as if you were going to church and such.

The same was for the coffee house during the day, but at night the dress restrictions were relaxed. You could also order tea on the coffee house side as well, but not the fancy teas reserved for the tea house side.

Tammy and two other people she hired to help with making cakes and pies made birthday cakes and specialty cakes as well. They also made ice cream cakes and giant cookies. The good thing about what they were doing, no one else around them or down on main street did what they did.

After being reopened for business after a month or so. The local newspaper wrote a beautiful review of the place. A lot of women and young people like the place as well. Some of the men found the dress code a little restricted, but in the afternoon or evening, they liked it.

Six Months Later:
Bella looks at Rose, Emily, and Tammy “we are finally out of the red. Everything we make now is pure profit.”

“How about our normal operating expensive?” Rose and Tammy were concerned about that.

“Between the donuts we sell, and the cakes and pies you make Tammy. They cover the cost of our bills. The tea house and coffee house cover our supplies. Right now, we have a surplus of money. Since all of us take normal wages and nothing too high. We are doing good.” Bella couldn’t believe the numbers she was getting from the accounting software. She even had an accountant double-check her numbers.

“I don’t feel so bad now taking a day off.” Rose has been taking one day a week off, while Bella covered her.

“If things keep going like they are. We should be able to hire two more part-time people. That way all of us can at least take two days a week off.”

“That will be nice.” Emily was hoping to take some time off.

“Speak for yourself, Emily. I have cake and pie orders I need to get done.” Tammy was swamped with orders.

“I’ll help you with that, Tammy. Between Rose and the two other cooks we hired. They can handle the kitchen while I help you.” Bella was hoping Tammy would have enough help.

“Thanks. I’m just behind right now.” Tammy was staying late to do everything.

After the office meeting. Everyone gets back to work. Bella helps Tammy out. So does Rose, while her assistants handle the donuts and pastries.

A Few Months Later:
They get another review by a famous foodie reviewer and the review was so good that business increased. They hire more help for Tammy and Emily. Some of the local restaurants come down to buy cakes and pies from them.

The appetizers Bella makes, are in big demand, especially the steamed buns and spring rolls. She gets a lot of people who order them and take them home.

By the end of their first year, the tea house and coffee shop was a hit.

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Military Obligation

US Military rules for enlisted is 8 Years in any combination of active or reserve. An individual can be recalled at anytime in that 8 year time. You have to Provide and maintain a valid address to the military and are still subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). Those that complete 20 are still on call until 30 Yrs. After 30 recall with your approval.

Changing Times

BarbieLee's picture

Military enlistment was six years total. Four active, two reserve or any combination there of. Of course a lifetime of call up in case of national emergency. Not hard to believe times and rules change. Any thing government is a moving target. Unbelievable how many places I had to re register with a legal name change. The data base of active and inactive military personnel has to be in the tens of millions.

If, one does a name and gender marker change do NOT trust the VA to know all the forms one must fill out. Getting lost in the system may mean lost benefits. Gov recently passed a free service to all active and non active military. National parks and reservations, look it up or DM me if you like. One more ID to carry as if I didn't have enough already.
Remember when all we needed was a driver's license and very seldom carried that.

Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl

New business

Samantha Heart's picture

Sometimes a new idea helps & Charlie helped provide a good idea to Bella. With out the other 3 ladies the donut shop changed into a tea & coffee house. Which is booming now

Love Samantha Renée Heart.

That was a nice little story

Julia Miller's picture

Bella was able to turn her life around and made a success for herself. The only person in Bella's family that believed in her was her grandmother, and she helped Bella in the end by receiving her estate. Bella had a plan and found new friends to help her obtain the goal of creating the Tea House. Again, it was a nice story.