Archive for June, 2008

25
Jun
08

Foodie, Chapter 6

written by Backpacking Dad

On the drive back to “their” place that evening Malorie decided to send out some feelers. She was still a little embarrassed about the night before, and confused about whether or not she had actually been kissing Evan. It may have been a dream.

But if it was a dream, then why the drastic reaction to Celine “I Look Pretty Covered in Flour” Richelieu? Malorie recognized that she had grown a little attached and possessive of her partner and roommate. But if she had only dreamed the very vivid tongue-dancing episode then her opinion of Celine and her easy laughter with Evan was a little bit in the crazy end of the pool. Surely her friend could strike up friendships with whomever he liked. Even if she wished to be something more than a friend, if last night was all a dream then she had no reason to turn bitter.

But if it wasn’t a dream then they had already moved into a relationship that Celine “I Can Tell I’m Better Than You By the Way You Dress” Richelieu would be well-advised to steer clear of.

But if that’s where they were then why was Evan so clearly comfortable and excited about working side-by-side with Celine “You Couldn’t Fit Into These Pants” Richelieu? Maybe he wasn’t all that interested in making a deep connection with Malorie, no matter how strongly she felt he was. Despite their great friendship she may have been mis-reading him all along.

So many ‘buts’.

So, she decided that once she had him alone, in her car (where he couldn’t run away), she would gently prod the situation to see what came oozing out.

“I was so disappointed with my éclairs today. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I blame Tom.” She smiled over at Evan in the passenger seat.

Evan brought his attention back to interior of the vehicle from wherever it had been for the past few minutes. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I said that I wasn’t happy with my éclairs. Yours came out much better.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, I guess today was my day to be really ‘on’, you know?”

“I think you had more help too. Tom was a little ham-handed.”

“Was that his name? He was probably just nervous about switching partners.”

“Celine seemed to know what she was doing. And she looked really great the entire time. I can’t believe her hair stayed in place so well; mine was getting really ragged by the end. She’s really pretty.”

“Ok, you can stop now.” He looked up from his lap and held her gaze for a few seconds. “I get it. Celine and I were having a fun time while we were working today. You were having a miserable time. You think she is prettier than you are and you think I’m interested in her because she looks fabulous and knows how to cook really well already.”

Malorie was stunned. Evan seemed to be genuinely upset. Gone was his distracted look, and she hadn’t seen a smile on his face since he said goodbye to Celine after class. Now his face looked stern and tired.

“What are you talking about?” she blurted, before she could say what she was actually thinking: Damn. Too right.

“Look, Malorie. I like you, a lot. I think we’ve become really good friends, and I really do appreciate you helping me by staying with me. But…”

Malorie didn’t let him finish. They had arrived home and she needed to be out of his sight, and for him to be out of hers. So as she pulled into the driveway she jerked the parking brake up and threw open her door.

She forgot about her seat belt, of course, so as she leaped out of her chair she was quickly returned to it.

Too embarrassed to move she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could feel Evan’s eyes on her, and she imagined him sitting there with his mouth agape at her antics.

“I know. ‘But we aren’t anything except friends and I’m acting a little crazy about you and Celine and I really have no right to be in your business about it and maybe I should move out.’ Right?”

She opened her eyes and looked over at Evan. And instead of the shock and disappointment she expected to see he was stifling a laugh. His eyes were shining at her, and hints of crow’s feet played at the corners of his eyes.

“What?” She demanded. “Let me in on the joke.”

“I was going to say….but you’re crazy if you think that I’m going to be at all interested in anyone else the day after I spend the better part of a night kissing you. And really? You are acting a bit crazy. But that’s okay. I can handle all of your crazy.”

A slow, disbelieving smile started on the left side of Malorie’s mouth. Eventually it was mimicked by the right side. “I thought that was a dream.”

He touched the side of her face with the back of his fingers. “I’m glad it was so memorable.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” she stammered.

“I know. Will you do me a favor?”

“Sure?”

“Will you go in and see what Monterey Jack is doing?”

“Jack? Why?”

“Because I think I need him to stay out of my room tonight.”

“Hey now! Moving a little quickly aren’t you? I’m not sure I’m over you saying that Celine looks fabulous.”

“Just go lock the cat in the closet or something and I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

20
Jun
08

Foodie, Chapter 5

written by Erin

Evan, as it turned out, liked cats very much. And Monterey Jack, her 18-pound Maine Coon, liked Evan. So much so, Jack decided to make Evan his prisoner and guarded him through his recovery by curling up on the food of his bed.

Over time, Evan regained his strength and Malorie got used to her new home. Often she’d lie in bed and think of Evan asleep in next room. The thought of him half naked in a bed made her feel like she just finished a marathon, exhilarated and sweaty. Most nights, she found it impossible to fall asleep.

Their great partnership in the kitchen translated to a great partnership at home. They laughed, shopped, watched trash television and read the paper over breakfast on Sundays.

She was happy to be free of the often-debilitating self-doubt that had plagued her entire life. Evan accepted her and appreciated her. They were close. For the first time, she felt fully content.

One evening, as Malorie was stepping out of the shower, she heard the noises from the kitchen. Once she had slathered herself with lotion, stepped into her pajamas and combed her hair, she peeked into Evan’s room. He sprawled himself across the bed with Jack and two giant mugs of hot chocolate. He turned on The Philadelphia Story, her favorite old movie.

When he saw her, he smiled.

“You’re in your pajamas.” He said. “Have some hot chocolate in your pajamas.”

She couldn’t tell if he was just stating the obvious or if he was trying to flirt with her.

She decided it was probably the former. “I’m kind of tired, and don’t forget, we have our first pastry class in the morning.”

“C’mon, when was the last time you saw this movie? Watch with me.”

“No, Ev, really. You know pastries aren’t my thing. I’m really nervous.”

“Well then, this’ll help. Plus, I’m a cripple who needs company. Indulge me. You won’t be able to sleep anyway.”

She gave in easily. The idea of watching a romantic old movie with Evan was more appealing than fighting sleep alone, so she sat down and got comfortable. She didn’t imagine that she’d fall asleep.

She dreamed that Evan kissed her. He put his hands on her face and kissed her lightly on each cheek before planting a firm, yet gentle kiss right on her mouth. His tongue searched for hers. He tasted like chocolate. In her dream, they kissed for an eternity and when they were done, they entwined their bodies together and slept peacefully as if in a hammock in the summer breeze.

She awoke the next morning with the feeling that someone was watching her. She opened one eye; half expecting to see Jack and his “give me some breakfast” stare. To her surprise, it was Evan.

Mortified, she threw her hand to her mouth and tried to speak “I must’ve fallen asleep.”

“Yeah, no shit, you snored all night.” Evan’s eyes glistened as the morning sunlight that lit the room softened his features.

Oh my god.

“Mal, I’m just kidding. You crashed about halfway through the movie. You looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I told you I was tired. I’m so sorry, Evan. Did you sleep at all?”

She didn’t know what to say. It was one thing to watch a movie. But this was something more personal. What if I wasn’t been dreaming? Were we really ready for this? I don’t want to ruin our friendship. What if he smelled my breath? This isn’t happening.

“Um, yeah. I slept a little. It was nice. We should do it again sometime.” The slight lilt in his voice suggested she hadn’t been dreaming, but she couldn’t be certain.

The moment hung between them like a piñata full of potential. A braver woman would’ve taken the swing. Instead, Malorie got up and quickly left his room, embarrassment crawling across her skin.

The drive to class seemed to take forever. He made jokes like he always did and she tried to respond as if things were normal. Inside she was reeling. The shift in their interaction was slight and imperceptible to the naked eye. But Malorie felt it.

They walked into class and took their positions together at their station.

A tall woman in a long flowing skirt breezed into the room. “All right, everyone. Settle down. I am Madame Brouchard. We’re going to start with éclairs. I’ll be picking your partners today.”

As she ran down the list of students, pairing them off, Malorie felt her stomach flip. To her shock and horror, Evan was paired with Celine Richelieu.

Celine was the daughter of John Pierre Richelieu, local celebrity chef and owner of the most expensive French restaurant in town. She was petite, with big green eyes and good posture. She was the type who probably leapt from the womb whisking a Béchamel. She had a natural talent for complicated dishes and even knew her way around a wine menu. With all the suddenness of a stomach virus, Malorie hated Celine and her perky soufflés.

She was so distracted she didn’t notice it was time to start until her new partner, Tom, sauntered over to her. He was capable, but his torso was too big for his skinny legs. She feared he would topple over himself.

Tom tackled the choux pastry while Malorie tried her hand at making the pastry cream from scratch. It was a disaster.

First, she scorched the milk. Then she added the eggs too quickly to the hot milk and scrambled them. Her mind was only on Evan. I may have ruined the best relationship I’ve ever had. She certainly wasn’t thinking of pastry cream and she forgot to add vanilla to the next otherwise perfect batch. After four attempts, she nailed it. By then, it was too late. Everyone else had finished.

Madame Brouchard went around the room and surveyed the outcome. She praised the shape of Evan and Celine’s perfectly piped éclairs and creamy filling. Malorie and Tom got nothing more than a cursory nod.

She looked at Evan, who wore a sheepish, if somewhat guilty, grin. Her eyes moved to Celine. She winked, shrugged her shoulders, and then beamed at Evan.

Malorie’s blood simmered and her head pounded. She had a new mortal enemy and it ignited the competitive drive that had lain dormant inside her for far too long.

19
Jun
08

pardon the interruption

Hi Everyone! Catnip here!

While we’re waiting for the next chapter I thought it would be a good time to address a few things.

First off, I’m so pleased so many of you are enjoying both our story as well as the format! I’ve been happily surprised at the positive response this site has had. Of course, that means I’d love to keep it going even after Foodie is over. I want to thank everyone who has been coming here faithfully and if this is your first time here, I encourage you to click on the Foodie category and catch up on the storyline so far!

Second, if you think you’d like to be an author and you’re wondering if there is still room, yes, I am continuing to accept writers. Email me at chapterbytes at gmail dot com.

So here’s what I need from you, both authors and readers; feedback. Lots and lots of feedback. Specifically, here is what I want to know:

  • What do you want to see for the genre of the next book? We have a huge range of possibilities. I won’t tell you what I’m leaning toward!
  • How would you feel about a second book starting before the first is finished? We could alternate posts, but you would always be able to find the all the chapters of whichever book you wanted by clicking on the category for that book. I think it could be really fun, but I want to know if you think it would be confusing.
  • Suggestions on finding new/more authors for upcoming books. We won’t do Chick Lit again next, and I don’t want to scare anyone away because that’s not their thing. Spread the word!!
  • How do you like the length of the posts so far? They’ve been averaging about 900 words. Would you prefer more or less or is it just about right?
  • For those of you who are avid readers, would you be interested in having a button for your blog’s sidebar similar to the button the authors have? If there’s enough of you who would like it, we (meaning my husband!) can make one.

Heres a few of the things I am definitely planning to change in the future:

  • I’d like to have a posting schedule and tighten up the deadlines. I originally set a two week deadline for each author. I can see now that it’s not necessary for it to be that long – no one has needed it. I also see that the readers don’t want to wait that long – 4 days seems to be the maximum time we all prefer between posts, otherwise we lose our momentum. On the flip side, I will never post chapters two days in a row, even if they’re ready to go, because it seems to take that long for all of the feed readers to get here and for the buzz about each chapter to get out. Keep in mind the schedule has to be slightly fluid since each author cannot start their piece until the previous chapter is written!
  • I will not be publicly posting an author order of appearance in the future. I will continue to post upcoming authors and their websites, but not the actual line-up. The authors will know, but the general public will not, since the sequence can change at anytime due to personal circumstances.
  • At some point I’m intending to move to self hosting. Right now I’m not able to have multiple streams of posts. When I make the switch I will definitely have more than one book running at a time, but they will each have their own area of the site to minimize confusion.

Is there anything you can think of that I haven’t addressed that you’d like to mention? Don’t be shy! I would love to hear from you, either here in the comments or by email. You can contact me anytime at chapterbytes at gmail dot com.

16
Jun
08

Foodie, Chapter 4

written by Flutter

She received that nod from Professor Talbot. Then again, then again, then again over the next several weeks.

Evan had become her partner in crime, they always partnered in class, his technical perfection balanced nicely by the bravery she was finding in her ingredients. He kept her calm; she kept him on his toes. They moved around the station in total awareness of each other, but never in discomfort. Neither of them ever missed class.

Until today.

She waited for him to arrive and to take his seat at the station with her, the station that made the other teams roll their eyes. The station that had earned them the nickname “The Gruesome Twosome”. Together, they nailed every task set before them. Their dishes were elegant, daring and gorgeous. No one in class could stand them and that fact alone drove their friendship closer. It also made them laugh.

As the hours dragged on, she began to get worried. She’d received no phone call telling her he would be late. At break she grabbed her cell phone and tried to find a quiet place. She dialed his number and waited, trying to account for the sense of dread that was welling up, turning her stomach into a fiery knot.

“ ‘lo,” he answered on the third ring, sounding asleep.

“Ev, it’s me, where are you?” her voice held the slight edge of hysteria in it. Taking a breath, she tried to calm down.

“I was in an accident last night, my car is trashed and I broke my leg.” He was definitely on painkillers, his voice slurred and he yawned at the end of his explanation.

Her heart squeezed as she listened to him tell her the story. About the stoplight, the drunk driver barreling through, the crunch of the metal and breaking glass. How all he could hear afterwards was someone screaming and then he woke up at the hospital, where he remained. She quickly took down the name of the hospital and his room number.

“I’m on my way.” The finality in her tone caused him not to argue. He would normally have told her not to miss a minute of class.

She sped in her car to the hospital, tears collecting on her lower lids. She refused to let them spill. Evan, in a very short time had become the most important person to her. The reality of that slammed into her, making it hard to breathe as she reached the low brick building of the hospital. She stood outside the sliding doors for a few minutes to collect herself.

A few numb moments passed until she found his room, she paused in the doorway before entering and looked at him. He was asleep in the light of the early afternoon, a bruise blooming black from his cheekbone. The light of the open blinds sliced his face in sections. Light, dark, light, dark. His hands rested in his lap, one hand a perfect construction of long fingers and olive skin. The other a swollen version, an IV pushing fluids within.

She walked in and sat next to his bed looking at his face and his hair. She leaned in close to his sleeping face and whispered.

“Nice work staying out of the way there, idiot.”

His eyes fluttered open catching golden highlights in the slice of sun coming in through the window. He laughed.

“Hi, I smell, don’t get too close.” He joked.

“So it’s just the leg? Looks like you threw half of your face into something, too.” She had the strangest urge to brush his cheek with her fingertips, but she kept her hands in her lap.

“Yeah, that steering wheel was bugging me, I thought my face could move it where I wanted it to go.” His lids were heavy but he kept his eyes open, and right on her.

“When will they spring you?” She asked, fearing the worst.

“Oh, I can leave tonight I just have to find a ride home.” He closed his eyes for a second at the end of the sentence.

“Evan, I am right here, I will take you home.” She playfully pinched his arm.

He looked surprised. He smiled, and nodded. But then his face turned stormy and he broke his eyes from hers and looked away. “I will probably have to drop out of school…”

“The hell you will.” She stated with finality. The truth was, she could make it through school without him, but she didn’t want to. The thought spread a fresh wave of panic through her.

“I don’t want to but my car is done and it’s not like I can drive with this, “ he pointed to his leg.

She bit her lip. Without thinking she asked “Your mom?”

“Nah, I mean, my family is all in Halifax, remember?”

She did remember. She remembered every detail he’d ever told her about him and the silliness of that made her blush. Then inspiration struck. As he talked softly she was lost in thought.

His apartment, huge, and less than five miles from school. Three bedrooms. One his, one a makeshift paint studio where his paintings – finished and not – lived. The third? The third was meant for his brother, who decided not to move with him from Halifax. It remained empty. She thought of her own long commute, the price of gas, the apartment she hated an hour away. How much time she had spent in these few weeks, studying and cooking in his house. Being his nursemaid and chauffeur would be a cake walk compared to my commute. I could just take up residence and pay rent for the third room.

“-so by the time I can drive I will be so far behind…” he trailed off.

She spoke again well, the worst he can do is say no, She thought. “I think I have an idea.”

“Oh yeah?” he asked, arching an eyebrow and smiling his crooked smile.

“But it all depends on one thing.” Well a few things really, she lamented internally.

“What’s that?”

“How do you feel about cats?”

12
Jun
08

Foodie, Chapter 3

written by Schmutzie

Evan made his way to her station. He quietly set his backpack on the floor by the sink, removed a steno pad and a pen, and put them on the counter. His eyes smiled apologetically through a lock of hair that curled by his temple, and she gave him a little wave.

“Ahem.” The professor cleared his throat and then loudly clapped his hands together twice. “Let’s get on with the assignment. You two can make eyes at each other after class.”

Malorie blushed at his insinuation of an attraction between Evan and her in front of classmates whom she barely knew. Professor Talbot was obviously a teacher who adhered to the philosophy of tough love, and that is all it took for her to second-guess herself for what must be the third or fourth time since she had reached over to hit the alarm clock that morning. If there were a career path in second-guessing, and this were its school, she would already be the dean of the whole institution. She didn’t know if she could handle dealing with a professor who had no problem making her feel uncomfortable. Public embarrassment made her shut down, not open up to learning new skills.

She noticed that Evan was already picking through the ingredients on the counter to find out what they had to work with, and she gave her head a little shake. Not even ten minutes into class, and her mind was wandering. After the fast pace of the diner jobs that she was used to, it was going to take some time to adjust to an environment in which there were not prep cooks, dishwashers, waitresses, and loud customers simultaneously competing for her attention. This first assignment was a test of knowledge and performance under pressure, but it felt relatively calm. Still, she did have to prove herself right from the start.

“Have you made duck confit before?” she asked Evan.

“If you know as much as I do about it, then we’re both wondering how Professor Talbot expects us to cure a duck leg, poach it in its own fat, and cook it for between ninety minutes and ten hours within the next twenty minutes.” When he grinned, his eyes crinkled at the corners.

“I’m guessing that he has the duck legs ready for us,” she said, lifting a large plate cover to reveal a prepared duck leg. “I think he just put that part up on the board to turn the pressure on.”

“Oh, look who’s the smart one,” he said jokingly and chuckled softly under his breath.

Time was counting down, so they threw themselves into the task of creating poached eggs. Malorie found herself shying away from Evan’s hands and elbows as they dealt with ingredients next to each other at the counter. Evan seemed so comfortable with the close quarters, but she was not. The station felt more intimate than the bustle of diner kitchens, and Evan felt familiar somehow. It felt as though she had known him once, maybe a long time ago. I don’t know him, though. I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve lived in a few cities. I’m probably just confusing him with someone else. Still, every time he glanced at her or asked her a question, it seemed that she knew the intonation of his speech, that she could predict the shapes the expressions on his face would make.

She tried to put all thoughts not related to eggs and the poaching of them out of her mind. This assignment was the first step in a direction away from naugahyde booths, gum-chewing waitresses, and dishwashers who received surprise visits from their parole officers, and she was going to succeed at this no matter how early she had to get up in the morning or how long the commute or how much the cost of gas forced her to sneak food from the refrigerators at school. I am going to make this work. I will be a chef one day if I have to starve while doing it!

Evan readjusted a few leaves of arugula and waved his hands above the plate like a game show model showing off a prize.

“I think we did a pretty good job,” he said. “We’ve aced this first…”

Bing! Professor Talbot hit a bell at the front of the class to signal that their twenty minutes was over.

“Time! Take a seat so that I can have a look at the potential, or lack thereof, that I have to look forward to this semester.”

He harrumphed over the first couple of stations, running his finger along the edges of plates to turn them in circles. Malorie gripped the edge of her stool and stared at the floor. Suddenly, she, the queen of second-guessers, was at it again. All she needed was just a simple nod from Professor Talbot to make her believe for a moment that this could happen, just one simple nod.

05
Jun
08

foodie, chapter 2

written by Kristen

The room filled with the shuffling of feet and muted chatter as students greeted one another, chose partners and made their way to the front of the class toward the kitchen stations. Malorie scanned the room, hoping to catch someone’s eye, but most of the students had already paired off. She seemed to be the only one who didn’t already know someone else.

The instructor, Professor Talbot, walked briskly to the front of the stations and began writing furiously on a dry erase board mounted to the wall. “We are trying something entirely new this semester. I need to see what you are each capable of right out of the gate. This classroom has been designed specifically for that purpose.”

Students stopped whatever they were doing and began opening notebooks and Malorie clutched the yellow legal pad she had remembered at the last second this morning. She rummaged through the side pocket of her large, black bag for a pen. She felt a paper clip, a frayed hair elastic, and an unwrapped piece of chewing gum. No pen. Oh, don’t tell me I didn’t bring one. I picked a crappy week to clean out my purse.

With his back still to the class, the professor held up his hand, punctuating the air with his marker. “You can all put your little books away, people. When you are famous chefs you can write your memoirs. First, you need to learn how to cook.” He turned on his heel, smiled tersely and tossed the marker onto the stainless steel counter in front of him. “Let’s keep it simple, shall we? You’ll find everything you need at your stations.” He pursed his lips and squinted at his wristwatch. “You have twenty minutes.”

Malorie approached an unoccupied station and blinked at the board as he stepped away. In red marker was scrawled: Poached Eggs with Duck Confit and Arugula, followed by a list of ingredients.

You have got to be kidding me. She peered around the room as the other students began conferring with their partners and sorting through their cooking utensils and containers of ingredients. She stared down at her own station, which included a small prep sink and gas range. The counter was lined with small bowls containing various fresh herbs, some of which she recognized, others she wasn’t so sure of. She spotted the eggs and what looked like the duck. Well at least I don’t have to make it from scratch.

She felt her head swim suddenly and she grabbed the edge of the counter. In an instant she was brought back to her first day of kindergarten. All of her old fears and anxiety welled up at once and she wanted nothing more than to disappear. It’s not too late to leave. Hell, I don’t even have a partner yet. I could just slip out the door, no one would even notice. She looked up and saw the couples all had some sort of prep already underway. She slipped the pad of paper into her bag, set it down on the floor and breathed deeply. Come on Mal, you’ve been doing this your whole life. This is nothing. If he goes all Gordon Ramsay and calls you a “stupid donkey” then you can leave. You can DO this. Well, you can poach the eggs at least.

Malorie raised her hand to ask professor Talbot if she should team up with another couple when the classroom door swung open. A tall, young man with dark hair clumsily burst into the room and leaned against the door for support. He recovered himself and nodded toward the professor, a flush growing up his cheeks. “Pardon me, sir. I couldn’t find a parking space.” He adjusted his backpack over his shoulder and stepped into the room, letting the door close behind him. The room was silent as everyone looked at the student, then shifted their focus expectantly toward the professor who was leaning against his desk, arms crossed.

“So nice of you to join us, Mr….?”

“Uh, Randall. Evan Randall.” He smiled crookedly. Malorie noted it was a nice smile. Full lips. She realized she still had her hand raised and pulled it down, smoothing a stray curl back into place as she did.

“Yes, well, Evan Randall, please do come in. I hope you have come prepared to cook.”

“Yes sir.” He nodded again, a bit self-consciously and looked down at his feet. “Where would you like me?”

Professor Talbot scanned the room and shook his head. “Well, unless someone still needs a…”

“Partner,” Malorie interrupted abruptly. Her voice seemed to ricochet across the room. A pot rattled on a counter and everyone turned to look at her, including Evan, who smiled gratefully, his dark eyes whispering “thank you”. She cleared her throat and added quietly, “Yes, sir. I still need someone.”

“Well there you go,” the professor said, gesturing toward Malorie. “I guess it’s your lucky day, Mr. Randall.”

03
Jun
08

Foodie, Chapter 1

“Oh no. Not traffic. Not this morning.” Malorie rubbed her hand across her face in frustration before she remembered she was actually wearing makeup. “Crap. Traffic this early on the beltway, I smudged my eyeliner.” She said only to herself “This is not turning out right at all.” As she sat still in the long line of cars she took a sip of her mocha and tried not to think about the day ahead of her.

What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be here. Of course I should. I have every right to do this. Oh. My. God. I can’t believe I quit my job. How am I supposed to pay for this?

Malorie glanced in the rear view mirror again and tried to clean up the liner above her right eye. Stupid makeup. Why am I even wearing it? No one is going to care what I look like. She gave up, and smudged the other side to match, not realizing the effect highlighted her green eyes even more.

As the traffic inched forward, Malorie clicked on the radio, only found talking heads, and turned it back off again. The she fiddled with the air conditioning, trying to push back the oppressive humidity steaming up from the road. Last night’s thunderstorms had blown through quickly leaving wet and hot instead of just hot. She pushed her hair back and hoped she had an elastic band in her pocket. She would need it to tame her curls when she got there.

The loan has to come through; the loan HAS to come through. What would Mom think about this? The thought made Malorie laugh out loud and mimic what she imagined what her mother would say “You quit a good job for that?! You’re going to pay them to teach you? It should be the other way around. You’re too good for them!” Not yet, mom, but I will be. Malorie had inherited her mother’s practicality and frugality, but this time she was going against that common sense and following her heart.

Everything she needed to know to get this far she’d learned at her parent’s knees, working hard for them, and learning every aspect of the business. When the diner had burned and her weary parents took the insurance money and retired, Malorie had gone and found her own way. She’d taken jobs in little cafés and big restaurants. She’d worked every position possible from dishwasher to line cook. Except for one. The one job she really wanted. Head Chef.

Malorie shifted uncomfortably in her seat and stretched her legs, as the cars around her finally began to speed up. How am I going to do this drive everyday? It’s going to kill my car and my back. God. I don’t even want to think about how much money I’m going to spend on gas every week. I have to find a new apartment. Something closer. Something where they’ll let me keep my cat.

“Something where I can avoid the beltway!” She jammed on the brakes and smacked her hand on the steering wheel as the car in front of her came to another full stop. “I can’t be late!” she yelled to no one. I’m gonna get kicked out on the first day of school. Well. I might anyway. If they think I can’t cook.

I can cook. I can cook. I just need a few new techniques and I can get a new job. So I can pay back the loan. If get the loan. I have to get the loan. I can’t tell my parents what I did with the money they gave me. The bank has to come through so I can pay them back before I tell them I’ve signed up for culinary school.

Traffic began to move faster now. She relaxed and took the curves as quickly as she could. Time was short now but she could make it. She saw her exit just ahead and her nerves cranked up. She felt around on the seat beside her and found the directions she’d printed out days ago. She’d studied them until they were burned in her brain, but she was still afraid of taking a wrong turn.

Malorie followed the instructions carefully and soon found her way to the front doors of the Culinary Institute. She walked into her classroom with scant minutes to spare. No time to meet anyone. She glanced about the room. Mostly men. Pretty much what I expected. Oh, another girl. Phew. She made her way to the back of the room and found a seat just as the instructor arrived, looked at the class severely, and said “Pair up, we’re going to cook some eggs. This is your first test, so don’t fail it.”

Malorie grinned to herself. Thank god for all those diners I worked in. If there’s one thing I can make, it’s a good egg.