British Bachelor by K.K. Allen

1





Chelsea





The bell above the door chimed as I pushed my way into the quaint Victorian building in Wayland Square, a historic area on the east side of Providence, Rhode Island. One look at the corner establishment with a hanging sign that read Spill the Tea could easily trick a person into thinking it was owned by an actual Brit. The truth was, my parents had just traveled to Europe one too many times.

The locals didn’t mind who ran their favorite gossip joint. They came for the social hour, gathering at round tables while the mounted televisions around the room played delayed British news and drama shows. Guests loved their afternoon tea and the array of fancy finger foods offered, and my parents loved the guests right back.

“Oh, it’s Chelsea,” greeted a bubbly brunette named Gwen. She sat at a round table by the window with a few other women, all frequent visitors to the small tearoom and all around my mother’s age. They loved to adopt English accents while they chatted, and with seemingly nothing better to do, they were also oddly curious about my personal life.

Groaning internally, I forced a friendly smile while slowing my walk toward the front counter. Since my mom was helping a customer, it would be obvious if I avoided the woman like I wanted to.

“Hi, Gwen. How’s the tea today?”

She raised her cup, pinky out, and nodded her approval. “Absolutely delicious.” She looked past me to the door that had just closed behind me. “Where are those little rascals who usually accompany you?”

Gwen was referencing the three kids I nannied for full-time—three-year-old twin girls and a twelve-year-old boy. Their parents worked at the hospital, Simon as a doctor and Bridget as a nurse. Two months ago they’d hired me to live in their pool house and watch the kids while they worked. Conveniently, their house was within walking distance from Spill the Tea, so we often strolled around the nearby park before stopping in for treats on our way back home.

When I didn’t answer her quickly enough, Gwen’s face fell into exaggerated sympathy. “Oh no. You are still employed, aren’t you, dear?”

I let out an awkward laugh. “Yup. Still employed. They’re just on a family holiday in Europe visiting their grandparents.” I decided to leave my response vague. I always felt like the woman was fishing for something to elaborate on.

“Oh, that sounds splendid.” Gwen set her tea down and placed her hands in her lap. “I do hope you’re making the most of your days off.” She eyed my hot-pink leggings and fitted black tank top with a frown. “I’m sure, with a bit of sprucing up, a pretty girl like you could easily attract a nice young lad around town. Maybe work on getting a few rascals of your own soon.”

I groaned inwardly, regretting my decision to allow the conversation as I walked in. There was no hope of this going anywhere good. Gwen was as old-fashioned as they came, and I was certain that, in her eyes, being single in my late twenties was some sort of sin. Not that she was the only one in the joint who would have loved to see me hitched by then. I threw a sharp accusing glance at my mother, who was still helping a guest from behind the counter.

My mother had been talking about her future grandbabies since the day I’d graduated high school. It was like she’d had it all mapped out for me. I would go to college, meet a man, graduate, get married, then have a litter of babies. Nearly twelve years later, and my life hadn’t panned out that way at all. I just wished my mother wouldn’t be so open with her customers about my situation.

“For sure.” I broadened my smile at Gwen to appease her after her rascal comment.

“Well, good. I’d hate to see a pretty girl like you wind up alone.”

I’d had my share of boyfriends over the years, but after my most recent breakup, I knew the last thing I needed was another man in my life. It was time to focus on me, on dreams, my journey, my happiness. I felt stronger than I had in years, and I wanted to enjoy that time until the right man came along. Unfortunately, my mom and her old-fashioned friends would never understand. A woman like Gwen wouldn’t want to hear that. She only wanted the juicy gossip, even if it was as fake as the jewelry she wore.

It took all my energy to keep the smile on my face. “Oh, I’m not alone. I just stopped by to get my tea and scone fix before the big night.”

Gwen’s eyes brightened, and she clapped her hands excitedly. “The big night, eh? Oh, do tell. Do you have a date? Is he as handsome as Dean?”