Andy put the finishing touch on his small wooden table. It was a purple candle. It was a single, half-burnt one but had a lavender scent. It was bright enough to shine over the plates, the cutlery and the red table mats on the table.
Andy’s mom and Molly had not been to his San Francisco flat before. He was always busy and the only times he went back to their house were birthdays and Christmases. But because he had some time off, they were able to come and visit him. And because it was their first time, he wanted to make sure everything was perfect.
It wasn’t the cleaning the flat that was stressing him out as it was very small; it was the salad, the garlic bread and the roasted chicken he was making for them. And as if his family coming over for the first time wasn’t stressing him out, he had invited Riley to come and meet them just like he met her family a week ago.
Andy and Riley had been practising at the basketball court for a whole week. She was able to keep her skills up while he improved the skills he never knew he had. He wouldn’t call himself an expert or a professional, though. Not yet, anyway. Today they got a call from Mr. Thompson who told them that the stadium was finally repaired. Tomorrow they could go back to work. Andy was worried about not working with Riley again. He knew how much she needed to focus on this job, but he enjoyed being with her. Though he was already friends with her on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, it wouldn’t be the same as meeting her in person. He hoped she would feel the same.
Then the doorbell rang. Andy opened the door and was delighted to see Molly and his mom. He hugged them both.
“Wow, I can see you keep on top of this flat,” Mrs. Davis said. “Top of this flat. Get it?”
Andy got the joke because his flat was the top flat on the building. “Well, I try my best,” he said. “So how was the train journey?”
“Loud but quick,” Molly replied. “Better than being stuck in all those traffic jams.”
Then the door knocked again.
“It’s not the landlord, is it?” his mom said.
Andy hoped not. “I paid him this month’s rent. I shouldn’t have to pay more.” He opened the door and felt relived who it was. “For a moment, I thought you were my landlord.”
Riley chuckled. “Well, let’s hope I never become one.”
Andy welcomed her in and introduced her to his family. Then his kitchen timer went off. “Okay, everyone, take your seats and I’ll bring everything out.”
“Would you like a hand?” everyone offered.
“No thanks,” he called.
His guests all took their seats.
“He always gets stressed when he’s cooking,” Molly told Riley.
“I can hear you, Molly,” Andy called from his small kitchen.
It didn’t take five minutes for the garlic breads and the salad of lettuce, spring onion, tomato, cucumber and feta cheese to be eaten. The table was full of empty plates.
“This is really good, Andy,” Riley complimented.
“This is only the starters,” Andy said modestly.
“No, really,” Molly said. “Your cooking skills have improved since the last time we baked Mom’s birthday cake together.”
“That’s because I wasn’t the sous chef.” He and his sister had a laugh between them. How much had he missed her and his mom. He was starting to relax more now that he was with his family again. And he felt more relaxed that they were getting on with Riley as well.
Then the kitchen timer beeped again and he went back into the kitchen.
Mrs. Davies faced Riley and asked what she did for a living. The young hockey player said she was in the Olympics. She told her how Andy was clever to help her keep her training up while the stadium was being repaired. She went on to say that Andy would make a great hockey player.
“Has he been on the ice yet?” Mrs. Davis asked.
“Not yet, but we should be able to soon,” Riley answered.
Then Andy immediately came back in and put a metal dish down. He took the lid off and everyone went in awe as they smelt the vast roasted chicken with dripping gravy and blocked with roasted potatoes among other vegetables.
“So how long has Riley been your…” Mrs. Davis tried to think of something that wouldn’t cause her embarrassment afterwards. “You-know?” she managed to finished.
Riley chuckled a little.
“Mom, it’s not been like that,” Andy told her. “We’re just friends that’s been working together. This is Riley’s first time here as much as it’s yours and Molly’s. I’m going to miss working with her.”
“But it doesn’t have to be like this if you don’t want it to be, Andy.”
Andy looked at her guest. “Pardon, Riley?”
“I mean, you could come with me early in the morning and help me practice,” she explained.
“But I can’t ice skate,” he said. “And I’m only worried about holding you back by teaching me how to be on the ice.”
Molly stood up. “Well, if you’re giving out lessons, I’ll join in as well.”
“That’s settled, then,” Riley said. “Tomorrow at 8:30 in the morning. Okay, Andy?”
After struggling to think of anything, Andy gave up and said, “Sure, coach.”
They exchange smiles as they headed to the door.
“Thanks for the meal, Andy,” Riley said. “And thanks for the lovely meal.” She kissed him on the cheek before she headed back down.
That was the first time Andy had been kissed by any girl with the exception of his mother. Already liking it and feeling happy, Andy closed the door and went back to his family. He was surprised to see both of them washing up and dying the pots. “I’ll do all of them, guys.”
“You’ve been so busy with dinner tonight,” Mrs. Davis said. “At least, let us wash up.”
“Yeah,” Molly agreed. “Don’t forget, you need to save your energy for your girlfriend’s ice-skating lessons tomorrow. Don’t want to let her down, do we?”
Andy couldn’t work out whether they were still confused about Riley not being his girlfriend (yet, he hoped) or they were just teasing him. Then he remembered it had been a lovely night with his family who he rarely saw so he just laughed about it with them.