When Sean came over for dinner, I was really excited to tell him about running into Vincent again. But then I remembered that I’d never told him about Vincent. So I decided to casually bring it up while we were eating.
“Hey, so, remember when we were talking about high school stuff?” I asked him.
“Of course,” he replied.
“Well, I said that no one really liked me back then and I had no friends.”
“There was one person who was always nice to me. He used to date my sister. I think I might have mentioned him one briefly when I explained the whole issue with Paige and the baby.” He nodded.
“Yeah, I remember. Kind of.”
“Well, it turns out he’s doing photography now, and he’s going to do the shots for my book.”
“Oh, that’s cool.”
“Yeah so—I had coffee with him today so we could talk about setting up a schedule. He’s going to come three days a week. Every other day. Until we get the pictures done.”
“Alright, cool. I’ll just make other plans then. I don’t want to intrude or anything.”
I honestly hadn’t even thought of that. Sean came over just about every other day. I didn’t care if he came over while Vincent was there. But I did want a chance to catch up with him without Sean having to sit there feeling awkward. So maybe it would be better this way. At first, at least.
Vincent showed up on Friday just as planned.
“Wow, this is a great place,” he said as I let him in through the front door.
“Thanks. My mom helps,” I admitted. He laughed.
“Well, that’s nice of her.” Reggie came trotting down the wall to see who was there. “There he is!” Vincent said to the sound of his little feet pattering on the floor. “Reg, my man. How are you, buddy?” He knelt down to his knees to give Reggie some pats and scratches.
“He’s great now because he’s free from my mother.”
“You’ve gotten big, dude. How old is he now? Like seven?”
“Almost. He’s six. Still a constant pain in the ass.”
“Yeah, but he’s awesome. Look at this guy.” He knocked Reggie over so that he flopped onto the floor. Then he grabbed his belly and twirled him around. Reggie loved it. He went right into play mode. He latched onto Vincent’s hand and gave him a round of thousand kicks. Vincent laughed, unbothered by the fact that the cat was going to down on his hand.
“I have a cat now too. She reminds me of him. Her name is Duchess. I didn’t name her that. I promise. The Girl Scouts, who were giving away kittens out front of the grocery store, gave it to her. I decided to keep it. I usually just call her Big D.” I laughed and leaned down to pet him too. He swatted at me.
“He’s crazy.” Vincent got his hand free and stood back up.
“This place is very Pip. Very cool.” I nodded.
“I like the Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster.” I rolled my eyes and laughed. Jaime got it for me, but with Vincent in my house, I was reminded of my first and only homecoming dance. Which ended in tears and embarrassment.
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” I said. I turned toward the kitchen as he laughed.
“Why not? That was one of the best nights of my life,” he said as he followed after me. I spun around in the kitchen doorway.
“That night was terrible!” I retorted. “I got felt up by a drunken idiot, Paige got mad at me and wouldn’t talk to me for months. Those cigarettes made me sick!” I popped into the kitchen again.
“Yeah, but the ride home was pretty nice. At least from my point of view.” He set his camera back on the table and hurried to the stove to check on my soup. I didn’t know what he was talking about. The ride home had been terrible too. I discovered that Paige would never respect me because I wasn’t as pretty, popular, or cool as her. I realized the boy I’d had a crush on since middle school was a slime bag.
And then I kissed Vincent. I forgot about that part. Was that what he was talking about? Should I bring up the fact that I had a boyfriend? I peeked around the corner so I could see what he was doing. He was standing at the dining room table assembling some complicated camera parts. Even as an adult he was too good for me. He was even more handsome now. He seemed like the kind of guy who still always had beautiful girlfriends and wouldn’t be caught dead with a chubby girl with pink hair.
But I’d also thought that in high school and he kissed me. Twice. I decided to just not say anything about it at all.
“Okay, are you ready?” I asked him. He looked up and smiled at me peeking around the doorway.
“I’m ready when you are,” he replied.
So I returned to the stove to pour some soup into one of my new vintage bowls. Then I brought it out to him. I sat it down on a placemat and looked back up at him. His eyes were wide. I was beaming. I really hoped he thought it was pretty. He did this a lot. He saw a lot of pretty meals. He had the artistic eye.
“How does it look?” I asked him.
“Wow, Pip. This is incredible,” he said. My smile grew.
“Really?” I asked. He shook his head in disbelief.
“I can’t believe you made this. What is it?”
“It’s potato and cheese soup with prosciutto and a few garnishes to make it pretty.”
“This is unbelievable. I mean, the last time I saw you, you were still just making cupcakes.”
“I was really lazy back then. Well, I still am. But I have bills to pay now so I might as well do something I enjoy.”
“I hope you made more because it smells fucking divine.” I nodded enthusiastically.
“I made loads. You’re my photographer and the tester of my second round. And you’ll have leftovers too.”
“You are my queen, Piper. Let me get started while it’s still hot.”
He picked up his camera, and I stood back with my hands clasped in front of my mouth. I’d never seen him in action before except for the one time my parents paid him for our family portrait. I knew he took a lot of pictures because half of them ended up in the school yearbook, but that was about the extent of it.
“Oh, I forgot the baguettes!” I said. Then I hurried into the kitchen to get the bread basket. I’d already sliced up the pieces. So I made sure it looked pretty and rushed it back out to him. He smiled and set it down beside the bowl of soup.
It was interesting watching him work. He pulled his camera out and set it up. He adjusted the overhead lights, opened the blinds, and then brought over the lamp from my computer desk. He fiddled around with the bread and vintage spoons and tablecloths. I really wanted the book to sell. And I knew from experience that people were more likely to buy books with pretty pictures.
I watched him lift the camera and saw the focus on his face. He was in his working mode. He was playful when he wasn’t working. Just like I was. When I was in the kitchen, I was focused and determined. He seemed to be the same with his camera. He moved around the table and shot the bowl from different angles. He relocated the light several times and moved the props around. Then he finally stood back and flipped through the digital files. Then he smiled and looked back up at me. I was still standing back nervously bouncing on the balls of my feet.
“These are looking great,” he told me.
“Really?” I asked. He nodded.
“Anyone who sees this is going to want to reach right in and get this soup.” I let go of a laugh.
“You’re just being nice.”
“Did you not hear my stomach growling?” he asked as he pulled the memory card out and set his camera down on the table. “Want to see the pictures?”
“Eat first. Before it gets cold.”
“Good idea.” I slid the bowl closer to him.
“Dig in. I’ll go get mine from the kitchen. Do you want a drink or something?”
“What do you have?” I thought about it. Then I winced.
“Milk, wine, cooking sherry, and beer. I use them all for cooking. Unless you want tap water. I have plenty of that.” He smiled.
“A beer would be nice.”
“Are you driving home?” He sighed.
“Fine. Water it is then.” I smiled.
“I can give you one to take home. How does that sound?”
“You’re a real angel, Pip.”
“I know.” I spun around and returned to the kitchen to get myself a bowl and two glasses of water. When I came back to the table, he was sitting down and twirling a string of cheese on the edge of the spoon.
“Have you tried it yet?” I asked as I set everything down and took my seat across from him.
“Not yet. I wanted you to be here so you could properly judge my reaction,” he told me.
“And you thought I was the angel.” He smiled, and I watched patiently as he scooped up a spoonful of cream colored soup with bits of red prosciutto, swirls of sour cream, and little green flecks of basil. It was really my personal favorite recipe. He brought the spoon to his lips and tested it on the tip of his tongue. I felt my breath catch with anticipation.
“Mm,” he said, putting the empty spoon back down. I had my hands clasped together. He kept his eyes closed.
“Is that a good mm?” I asked.
“I think I just had the best sex of my life and I didn’t even have to unzip my pants.” I felt a giggle burst out of me.
“I’m going to take that as a compliment.”
“I meant it that way. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. That was bad.” He smiled, but I laughed.
“It’s okay. I always used to say if I could marry food I’d never need a boyfriend.” He smiled again.
“It’s amazing, Pip, really.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had soup this good in my entire life.”
“Well, I wanted it to be amazing but not difficult to make.”
“Well, I think you nailed it. Would you be offended if I just inhaled this whole bowl now?”
“Please? By all means.” I decided to try it now that I’d seen his reaction. But okay, I was totally smiling the entire time we ate dinner.