Saturday, June 20, 2015

Love Chef writing contest entry. Finalist Elizabeth Lorraine.

Chef Jernard Wells - the Love Chef
Short Story Entry
Cooking My Way To Her Heart
By Elizabeth Loraine © 2015 all rights reserved

     “What is it that you really want, Aaron?”
     I glanced across the desk to my boss, Chet. How long had he been out of college? Two years? Since when did a Masters degree give you as much credibility as years of experience anyway?
     The years review wasn’t going well. This new guy, who came in six months ago, was making changes and I was going to be one of them, I could feel it. I decided I might as well step up and not tell him what he expected to hear, but what I really thought.
     “I want the company to be successful. I’m just not sure if it’s going in the right direction. Instead of bringing people up from within; people who know the business inside and out and what our customers want and expect; we are bringing new people in.”
Chet sat back in his chair. “New people, with new, fresh ideas. Companies like this have a tendency to get stale.” He looked through my file, glanced back over to me and smiled.
     “You’re doing a good job, keep it up.” He stood and shook my hand.
     At the end of the month I was packing up my things. Six years, and they didn’t even have the balls to tell me in person? A pink slip in my check….nice.
     I thought about leaving the box of miscellaneous items on my desk. I mean did I really need that employee of the year award now? Instead I took the walk of shame with it and tossed into the back seat of the cab I’d called.
     I took out my phone and called my best friend.
    “I need a drink, meet me at the Whiskey Tavern?”
    “Sure, when?”
    “As soon as you can get there. I just have to stop at home and drop something off first.”
The cab waited as I threw the box in my storage unit along with my coat and tie. When I got to the bar, my best friend Liza was already surrounded by men. She looked gorgeous of course, how could anyone resist that beautiful face, green eyes, and thick brown locks which cascaded down her back. Those long legs and perfect curves didn’t disappoint, but it wasn’t the most attractive thing about her. It was the way she was; thoughtful, fun, hilarious and smart, but unpretentious, and low maintenance. What other woman could you call at a moment’s notice and she’d beat you to the bar?
     “There you are. Sorry guys, my dates here.”
     She took my arm and gave me the smile that made my stomach tense. Yeah okay, I had it bad for her. Who didn’t? She always says she’s not the marrying kind. She likes her independence.
     “What’s going on?” she said as she slid onto her side of the booth. “You look like someone stole your glass slipper.”
     I had to grin. “Well it was the last one I had. I got fired, today was my last day.”
Liza frowned, reaching across the table for my hand. I took it, feeling heat rising from my fingers. It was a good thing it was fairly dark here, my face felt hot. I always seemed to act like a sixteen year old when we were alone. Liza on the other hand was relaxed. There was no problem she couldn’t solve, no situation she couldn’t spin into something tolerable.
     “They never deserved you anyway. You are way too talented of a business man to sit in the background and wait for some less qualified person to climb up your back.”
     “Obviously I’m so talented that my services are no longer needed.”
The waitress came over and we ordered bourbon. I need to mention that Liza could drink you under the table, out swear you while telling you the stats of every quarterback in the NFL. “Actually I am going to take a little time off before I decide what I want to do.”
     “Do you have any idea what that is?”
     I looked deeply into her eyes. “I want to get married, and start a family.” Liza’s smile dimmed and she sat back.
     “There’s a perfect woman for you. If that’s what you really want I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t find her sooner than later.” She took a big swig of the caramel colored liquor and raised her glass so the waitress would bring another. “Why don’t you let me make you some dinner?”
     “Why not. I can drown my sorrows in one of your fabulous sauces.”
     “That’s right and you can help me chop vegetables. It’s relaxing. My mom always said it was the way to show someone you care. I care. Come on, let’s go.”
      It wouldn’t help to tell her now it was her I wanted, so I canceled her drink and paid the bill. We headed over to her apartment in SoHo, and I had to admit I felt better already. I still had her all to myself and I was going to get a home cooked meal, something most people didn’t get in Manhattan. Everyone either went out, or ordered in.
Liza tied her hair back and put on a black apron. It was the one I bought her for her birthday last year. In pink ornate script it said ‘food is love’.
     I helped her chop carrots, celery and onion into a fine dice. She didn’t direct me or scold me because it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t cut myself; that was a victory in itself. She was right. It was a relaxing and distracting, and exactly what I needed.
     We ate steak and potatoes with the red wine sauce, which I help make and took full credit for its fabulous flavor.
     “So don’t tell me,” I said as we sat down to watch some TV. “It’s the food channel tonight.”
     She grinned and turned it on. “You might learn something.”
     Being with her was enough. Some nice red wine and the finally of a show called Cutthroat Kitchen. Actually it was fun and the chef that won was full of personality. He had the same philosophy as Liza. Making someone a meal was his way of showing love. The winner; Jernard Wells is even called, ‘The Love Chef’.
     When I got home I looked him up on the internet, he had some cookbooks out, and some sauces available. Then it hit me. I was out of a job for the moment. I could explore my options, and this Chef’s cookbook was going to get me started. I ordered a digital copy and pulled it up on my laptop.  88 Ways To Her Heart was the title, and I was going to make every single one. I was going to tell Liza how much I loved her with food. This was something she’d understand.
     It was time to call in the big guns so I picked up the phone. “Mom, can you come for a visit?”
     With my mom’s help I practiced my way through chapters one and two, and then I was on my own through chapter three starting with the Body-Rocking Baby Bleu Salad and moving through Wet ‘n Wild Watermelon Salad along with several more salads and soups. My days were filled with planning and shopping for fresh ingredients, and I knew why Liza loved it so much. Finally confidence began to fill me as I moved through main course after main course and onto dessert. In less than a month I had finished. I’d chosen my menu, the wine, the music and invited my best friend to dinner.
     My heart was pounding when I got to the door wearing a similar black apron. I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, wiped my sweaty palms on the apron and opened the door.
Liza smiled broadly. “You look adorable. I brought some wine.” I froze. She handed me the wine and continued. “Um can I come in? It smells amazing in here.”
     “Oh of course, sorry. It’s The Love Chef’s menu. I’ve been teaching myself to cook with it. I wanted to surprise you.”
     “Well you sure did.” Her gaze narrowed and I turned and walked back to the kitchen. I put her wine in the cooler and poured her a glass of the one I’d picked.
     “I know why you love cooking now, and I chose this menu because I wanted you to know something. Food is love Liza. I love you. I always have, I always will. I am your friend, but I want more, much more, I want you to be my wife,” I blurted.  I searched her eyes, and they started to well. I held my breath and my gut twisted.
“I thought you’d never ask.”

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