It was a nice morning in November at the Butter and Biscuits Tea Shop, unseasonably warm for this time of year. Lorelei wanted to introduce a Christmas tea to the shop’s menu, rather than the standard Earl Grey that they served to all shop patrons. The shop only carried regular and decaf in order to stock the shop easier. She’d have to broach the subject with Victoria.

“Good morning, Victoria!” She called out to the kindly old woman who owned the shop.

“Good morning, love. Oh, we’re going to have a truck coming in, later today.”

A shipment always meant a good amount of hustle and bustle around the place as they made room in the retail area of the tea shop for all of the imported British goods that were ordered, from Christmas crackers to little chocolates that looked like lumps of coal.

How nice it must be to have someone to celebrate with, thought Lorelei. She’d bought a pack of Christmas crackers to take to last year’s family gathering only to have her sisters look at her like she was some kind of whacko.

An elderly customer walked in the door and Victoria greeted him warmly while Lorelei walked into the kitchen to prepare the electric kettle and get the deep fryers turned on and warmed up. She checked the fridge to make sure it was stocked with milk and set to work slicing bread into triangles, buttering them and then setting the slices into a neat row to be served with patrons’ tea.

As she went about the tasks of the kitchen, Lorelei couldn’t help but think about the Dickens-themed street fair that would be happening later that night and the lovely dress she’d ordered to wear to it. Perhaps I’ll meet some handsome, mysterious man in a top hat, she mused, picturing the kind of man that would have walked out of one of the hundreds of romance novels she’d read over the years.

“Two fish and mushy,” called Victoria and Lorelei got to work, mixing and stirring up the batter with malt vinegar to dip the chunks of Icelandic cod in. For the mushy peas, she fought the can opener to be able to open the massive can. She scooped it out and microwaved it for several minutes, and while it was going, took a handful of frozen fries and tossed them into the basket of the deep fryer. She watched with delight as the fish and chips were fried to a satisfying golden brown. The microwave announced the completion of its current task with three curt chimes and Lorelei retrieved the mushy peas.

When everything was done and plated and the tea was poured into one of the shop’s many decorative teapots, Victoria came in to retrieve the order and take it out to the waiting customer. No sooner had she done so than the door chimed again, so Lorelei took a handful of fries and dumped them into the fryer basket. That way she’d save herself some preparation time. She could already tell that it was shaping up to be a busy day. Still, being paid under the table was nice, and as she had no children to care for, it gave her something to do on the weekends.

Stay busy to keep your mind off of things—that had been her father’s advice, and she had done so. Despite her indefatigable optimism, the modern dating world had not been kind to Lorelei. Her ex-boyfriend was proof of that, wherever he was. She didn’t care as long as he was well away from her.

And ever since then, she’d considered that single life was far safer than being out in the dating world; it was certainly safer than the prospect of ending up with a psychopath. But surely if she looked hard enough, she might be able to find an available man who would treat her right, and it was that prospect that propelled her dreams forward.

“One banger, two fish, mushy, and light on the chips,” came the order. The bangers were deep fried just like the fish and chips, so Lorelei retrieved one of the sausages from the fridge and delicately dropped it into the smallest deep frying basket, watching as it was surrounded by sizzling bubbles. The order was ready and plated quickly, and Lorelei set the extra chips she’d prepared on a small plate off to the side. She hadn’t grabbed breakfast that morning and had become accustomed to eating some extra chips with a bit of malt vinegar or brown sauce in-between orders. Sometimes if she was feeling brave, she’d put the chips between two buttered slices of bread and create a thing that the British called a “chip butty” and eat it delightedly.

Victoria came in to take the next order. Lorelei walked over and took a peek out of the kitchen door. At that moment, she saw a handsome stranger walk in. The hanging bells on the door chimed out their report as he sauntered across the threshold. The first thing she noticed about him was his piercing green eyes, followed by his short brown hair and his green plaid shirt that clung to the contours of his muscled chest.

Ooh, dreamy, she thought as he walked around, perusing items and, every once in a while, stealing a glance in her direction. Victoria seemed to recognize the man, smiling and giving him a warm hug. She walked him over to the kitchen door. “Lorelei, this is my grandson, Trevor.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Lorelei. The door chimed a couple more times as a couple of large families walked in the door. Lorelei loaded the fryer basket with fries and began mixing up a fresh new bowl of batter. Undoubtedly by the time she finished with creating all of the required meals, Trevor would be gone to wherever the world had whisked him off to. Such was the way of things.


By the time Lorelei made it home, she was thoroughly and genuinely tired. It had been a quite busy day at the tea house—and the place certainly needed all the business it could get—but Lorelei’s muscles and feet cried out for relief from toil and kitchen work.

She opened the door and walked into the apartment she shared with Winter, who was already dressed up in costume, looking like she had walked straight out of a Dickens novel. Winter wore a ratty old coat with holes in it and matching fingerless gloves.

“I’m so excited!” said Winter.

“Me too,” Lorelei replied. “But I reek of fish and chips. I’d better take a bath first before we head out.”

“You’re perfect. You smell like suffering,” said Winter in a faux-British accent. Winter, who was shorter than Lorelei, looked enough like the Artful Dodger, or Oliver Twist himself. Winter gazed at the costume in the mirror, dusting some black makeup on her cheeks for soot and some purple under the eyes for bruising. “I look amazing,” she stated. “I mean, Blinky Widdershins looks amazing.”

“I’m not calling you that, Winter,” said Lorelei, grasping some towels from the shelf by the bathroom. Winter did not respond. Lorelei entered the bathroom and started the bathwater, plugging the drain and then adding in a couple drops of rose essential oil and a dollop of bubble bath.


“Winter, bathroom is all yours,” Lorelei called. Again, there was no response. She’s doing this on purpose, Lorelei surmised.

Lorelei gave in. “Blinky Widdershins,” she called.

“Yeah, mate?” Winter replied.

“The bathroom’s all yours, Blinky.”

“Much obliged, marm.”

Lorelei walked into her room, wearing only a towel, and opened her closet door to see the gorgeous red Victorian gown waiting for her. She took a pair of underwear and a bra from her top drawer and threw them onto the bed. Although she had considered period-appropriate undergarments, with all the work to be done at Butter and Biscuits, she hadn’t found the time. But she did order the long black gloves she’d wanted and the wide-brimmed, feathered hat that matched them. She hastily dressed and then joined her roommate in the livingroom.

“You look amazing!” Winter exclaimed. “What’s your Victorian name?”

“Lorelei,” said Lorelei.

“You can’t be Lorelei today. You’re Lorelei every day!”

“Alright, well, what should I call myself, then?”

“Missus Sorrow.”


“Missus Suffering?”

“Lorelei will work just fine.”

“Well you’re no fun,” said Winter, adopting a fake limp. Lorelei seized her purse and keys and they both made their way to the car.

They drove to the Dickens Street Fair as the sun set on the horizon. Lorelei parked at the government building on 21st, and she and Winter boarded the shuttle that would take them downtown to the heart of the fair itself. All of the buildings downtown had been decorated with wreaths and with strings of lights.

The city’s really gone all-out this year, thought Lorelei, gazing at the authentic gas lamps in awe. Lorelei hoped she’d get some inspiration here for the Christmas tea that she wanted to introduce to the shop. She wondered how she’d pitch the topic to Victoria. For now, the aroma of roasting chestnuts and the sound of Christmas carolers filled the air.

“Ooh, let’s find some roasted chestnuts!” Winter exclaimed. “They’re so good!”

“I’ve never had them before,” said Lorelei.

As they stepped off of the shuttle, Lorelei spied a familiar face. There was Trevor, dressed in black slacks, a green brocade vest with gold embroidery and, over-top of that, a long black coat. He wore a white silk cravat at his neck and a top hat on his head.

“Hey there,” said Lorelei, eating up the sight of him. “You look great!”

Winter gave Lorelei a knowing look and then came up to Trevor and said loudly, “HELLO!” and went to shake his hand. Trevor hesitated for a moment as Winter looked as grubby as any legitimate street bum, but shook her hand and issued her a winning smile, nonetheless.

“Please mum, might I have a coin?” Winter asked. The money was hers, but since she didn’t want to bring a purse, Lorelei was holding onto all the funds. She unloaded a few crisp dollar bills into Winter’s cupped palms.

“Bless yes, mum,” said Winter, happily disappearing into the crowd.

“Shall we?” Trevor asked, offering Lorelei his arm. She grasped on and the two of them strolled through the crowd, taking in the sight of the lights, Christmas trees, displays, and the sounds of caroling and of street vendors hocking their wares. There was an air of happiness and merriment all around, and to Lorelei, the street fair looked simply magical, with the buildings winding through a hilly landscape of streets, and all around, visitors sharing holiday cheer and good tidings.

They strode past shop windows all decorated for the occasion; in one, a group of elf mannequins struggled to keep a tower of presents upright, while another featured a Christmas cabin fashioned out of candy. The fenceposts were made of massive candy canes. Another shop window featured a gigantic teapot that poured actual tea into a basin, and looked like it was suspended in mid-air.

“I’ve always wondered how that trick works,” said Trevor.

“They do it with a clear plastic rod hidden under the flow of the liquid,” Lorelei explained. “It’s rather ingenious.”

“Like you,” said Trevor. Lorelei was taken aback.

“I have my moments,” said Lorelei, wanting to change the subject. “So I’ve been thinking that we should introduce a Christmas tea to the shop.”

“That’s a great idea,” said Trevor. “Do you have any specific flavors in mind?”

As it so happened, Lorelei had been researching the subject online extensively. “We could use the Earl Grey we already have and add sachets of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and dehydrated orange peel.”

“That’s a great idea,” said Trevor. “I’ll bring it up to Victoria on Monday.”

“Thanks,” Lorelei replied. She was about to say “you’re the best” when Winter came shuffling up toward her, approaching with palms upturned.

“Alms for the poor?” Winter begged.

“I don’t know this person,” Lorelei teased.

“Of course ye do, mum. It’s me, yer old pal Blinky Widdershins.”

So Lorelei reached into her purse and seized more dollar bills to fill Winter’s hands with. Winter shoved them into her pockets, took out a pair of dice, and disappeared once more into the crowd to go live it up.

Meanwhile, Lorelei and Trevor continued their pleasant stroll, drifting down the avenue to gaze at the rest of the display windows. Many had Christmas trees with moving display items and an array of colored lights. The window of the bakery displayed a giant cake with a toy train racing around it. The cake was in the shape of a giant tree and glistened with sprinkles of colored sugar. Hanging above it was the figure of a fairy, and in massive dishes were dazzling orbs meant to represent sugar plums. But the most exciting window of all was the one where a man in soldier garb battled against another, dressed as the rat king from The Nutcracker Ballet. Lorelei watched delightedly, clapping when the soldier struck the rat king down.

Then, the soldier struck off the rat king’s head, and although there had been a man in that costume, what rolled to the floor was only the costume rat head. Lorelei gasped.

“How did they do that?” she asked Trevor in something of a worried frenzy. She looked up into his dazzling green eyes, heart all aflutter.

“It’s magic,” he replied. And for that instant, all the world seemed to melt away on either side of them, and there was only this night and this moment, and endless happiness and starlight. Trevor drew closer to her, and she to him. For a moment, Lorelei was sure that he would kiss her. And then her ecstasy turned to annoyance as she felt a tap on her shoulder. She spun around to see Winter standing there with her hands out again.

“The dice have not been kind to me, but perhaps ye will, mum.”

Lorelei rolled her eyes, reaching into her purse as Winter continued.

“Please, mum, might I have a little more?” she asked, doing her best impression of Oliver Twist. And Lorelei dutifully dumped another handful of bills into Winter’s hands, where it disappeared into pockets. “I’ll leave you two alone now,” Winter whispered, winking in the most obvious manner possible. But she continued to follow along with Lorelei and Trevor for a bit.

Truthfully, it was a bit of a relief. Lorelei did like Trevor, but was not a fan of awkward moments. “Well, I still have some gift shopping to do; any chance you’d like to check out the market stalls with me?” Lorelei asked Trevor. He agreed, and they soon passed tables filled with goods to buy; breads made into the shapes of stars, bears, and wreaths, a man who hocked his homemade wooden trucks, and a cook pit where they stopped to watch the chestnuts being roasted in a cast iron pan on the embers of a fire. Little X marks had been scored into each of the nuts. Trevor pointed to one. “They have to do that so they don’t explode.”

Winter bought a few of the cooled chestnuts, handing one each to Lorelei and Trevor before popping one into her own mouth and disappearing once more into the crowd.

Lorelei never knew that chestnuts were so delicious. She made a mental note to come back and do this again next year—and to bring more money with her next time, as well.

A man dressed like Santa and carrying a megaphone announced that the annual tree-lighting ceremony was about to begin.

“Wait right here for just a moment, okay?” Trevor asked. “I’ll be right back.”

Lorelei did so, standing next to the chestnut seller’s booth and looking off into the direction of the giant tree that stood in the middle of the fair’s main street. She waited, listening to the sounds of caroling and then noticed a few white flakes drifting through the air.

“It’s snowing!” a young girl exclaimed, walking with her mother and trying to catch a snowflake on her tongue. There was something magical about snow and it reminded Lorelei of her favorite childhood book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In a moment, Trevor had returned, and he took his coat off, cloaking it around Lorelei’s shoulders with a flourish before offering her his arm, again.

“May I have your attention, please,” said Santa through the megaphone. “The annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony is about to begin.”

And so the Christmas caroling increased and then came the sounds of bells chiming in unison as the first set of lights turned on. These were bright white lights, and they lit up slowly, starting at the base of the tree and then reaching up toward the top. Lorelei looked up toward the enormous unlit star that stood at the top of the tree like a lonely sentinel. The tune of the caroling changed as the red lights were lit, and then the green and then the yellow. A team of reindeer pranced into view in the background, leading a sled laden with presents.

“With our toy drive this year, we were able to collect nearly 5,000 gifts to deliver to needy children!” A cheer arose from the gathered crowd. And then the star began to shine its light, a little at first, and then blazing bright. It was quite a sight to behold.

“We’d like to thank you all for being here, and we wish you all a Merry Christmas!” The carolers broke into a rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and it was then that Trevor took a small bundle of mistletoe from his pocket and hung it over Lorelei’s head. She needed no further provocation and kissed him passionately and without abandon.