Terry has been sitting for most of the afternoon, staring at the recipe book. He lights one Marlboro Light after another until the pasta bowl beside him overflows with butts. The whole time he thinks about Georgia, she of the thick braid that hangs to her waist. He sees himself beside her, trotting to keep pace with her long, impatient stride. He falls asleep with this image in his mind. When a cigarette burns his fingers, he shakes himself awake.
Hells’ bells it’s 6:00 and he’s promised her dinner. Optimism had inspired him to list gourmet cooking as one of his interests on his Plenty Fish in the Sea profile. Yes, he’s interested in it, but just from the eating point of view. When she asked him to cook for her, he was confident he could meet the challenge.
But look at this stupid recipe: start with a Sicilian eggplant. Sicilian for crying out loud, like it talks with a different accent and idiom than a regular eggplant. This is why people give up on fancy cooking. Every single recipe in this Easy Epicurean cookbook calls for at least three ingredients that he either doesn’t have or, worse still, hasn’t even heard of.
Now it’s too late to get the skills he needs before dinner.
Georgia is bringing Marjolaine, a dessert he has eaten once, in Paris. The flavours of nutty meringue, chocolate ganache, and coffee-flavoured buttercream rise in the back of his throat and his mouth floods with saliva. Terry wanted to make a dinner to complement Georgia's family recipe.
He tips his cigarette butts into the rubbish bin and gargles with mouthwash before snatching his keys and running, breakneck, to the gourmet restaurant down the street. He phones ahead so they expect him. Only favourite customers can order takeaway and Terry qualifies. There is enough time to wait for the cassoulet, so fragrant it makes him want to cry, and get back home before Georgia arrives. He takes his usual seat at the back of the dining room and plays Candy Crush on his phone to pass the time.
“Excuse me, are you a member of the club?” Georgia smiles down at him. Her loose hair curls and tumbles over her shoulders, past her elbows, like an auburn cape.
“The takeaway club.” She glances to where the maître d’ holds up a glass dish topped with dusty meringue. She waves at the host and turns back to Terry. “I hear there are very few members.”
© Maggie Bolitho
Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Ganaché de chocolate by Luisa Contreras