The only thing she knew how to cook was takeout.
Eve opened the back screen door to Bud’s Bar and barreled through, bringing the cool, crisp smell of leaves with her. Otis Redding was blaring on the jukebox, and Buddy Henderson stood behind the bar counting bottles.
“What?” Eve called. “No applause?” She struck a pose. Bud looked up from the glasses he was cleaning, wiped his hands on his watermelon belly, and gave a slow clap clap clap. With his graying beard, round glasses, and smiling face, he looked a bit like Santa Claus…if Santa Claus wore his hair in a ponytail, greased his handlebar mustache and wore a leather jacket.
“You’re looking good, old man,” Eve said. She leaned over the bar and gave a quick peck to his beard-speckled chin.
Bud sighed. “I tell you, Eve, it’s a real struggle for a looker like me to stay single.”
“Please. You’re still single because you haven’t let anyone know you’re on the market.”
“Ah,” Bud said, shaking his head. “I’ve been on and off the market so many times, I’m just plain tired out. I’ll give it one more try, though, when you’re ready.” He winked at her. “You know who we need to get back on the market?” Bud asked.
“Where is Julie anyway?”
Bud grabbed a beer, cracked it open, and handed it to her. “Where do you think?” He nodded towards the kitchen. “Can’t you smell it?” Eve took a deep breath. The bar (which usually smelled of stale beer and smoke) smelled warm, buttery and yummy. “Good God, she’s making bread?”
“She’s been here since last call last night…on her day off no less. And it gets worse. She’s got something in there with little pine trees and garlic.”
“Rosemary,” Eve said. “This is serious. All right if I check it out?”
“Be my guest. But be careful. She was working with chocolate earlier.”
Eve crossed behind the bar and walked through the swinging doors into the kitchen. When Bud opened the bar, he’d made an attempt at offering food, but over the years the menu had shrunk to whatever could be prepared in the deep fryer or microwave. Consequently, he only used one small corner of the kitchen. When Julie came in, he let her have the run of the rest of the place. During slow times in the bar, Julie would prepare warm meals with garlic and wine sauces for her and Bud to munch on. If someone happened to be in the bar, she’d feed them something too.
Eve’s stomach growled. The only thing she knew how to cook was takeout. She tried not to think about eating because she knew that if Julie were cooking up a storm then she was still upset over the breakup. She hoped this time Ronny was gone for good so that Julie could move on. “Julie?” Eve called. “You here, sweets?”
Eve couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The tiny kitchen was stacked with dishes of food: flourless chocolate cake, a steaming casserole of leeks and butternut squash, and a colorful salad with flowers and berries. Julie was slicing a loaf of French bread into thick chunks. “We’re having a little snack,” she said.
“More like a feast. Are you okay?”
Julie didn’t look up from the bread. She buttered one side and began layering the bread with red peppers, kalamata olives, and goat cheese. “Am I okay? No,” she said.
“Put the goat cheese down and come here.” Eve extended her arms; Julie turned around and gave her a hug.
“I hate him, Eve. I’m serious. And I can’t stop going over the whole breakup, and what he said to me. He said he wasn’t the problem, I was. I’m the problem. Can you believe it? So he’s living the life of a rocker with ‘string free romping’. Worst of all…do you know where he’s touring?” Julie didn’t wait for Eve to respond. “The Midwest! Dead-end bars. He’s left me for tight pants and Cincinnati.”
“Shhhh,” Eve said. “It’s okay. You’re going to be fine.”
“Look at this!” Julie handed Eve the most recent postcard. “Cincinnati rocks, cheers, Ronny. That’s all it says. No ‘Wish you were here’ or ‘I’m thinking of you.’ No. He just wants to rub it in that he’s off living this amazing life and I’m still stuck.”
“I’d hardly say a tour of the Midwest in dead-end bars is an amazing life.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter! He thinks it’s amazing. He thinks it’s a great adventure. He’s having the time of his life! And look at me! I actually look forward to getting another postcard! He was right. He said I was dependable. Old! He said…” Julie pulled away from Eve, and turned to a sandwich the size of a skateboard. “I want to show Ronny that I can suck the marrow with the best of them.” She grabbed a butcher’s knife, and walloped the sandwich, splitting it cleanly in two. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Eve said. “But no need to get violent.”
“I’d like to get violent with Ronny and I have a pretty good idea how.” Julie slid the sandwiches onto a hot griddle, placed a pan on top of them, and turned to Eve. “I call them Poor Man Paninis,” she said and smiled sweetly.
Eve laughed to herself. No matter how sad Julie was, if she was cooking food, she could always pull herself out of it. “It sounds divine,” she said. “Let’s eat, and you can tell me what you want to do to Ronny.”
“I don’t want to do anything to Ronny ever again. What I want is to do something to myself. And I will too.” Julie grabbed two plates, loaded them with French fries and coleslaw, and turned back to the sandwiches. “We’re gonna need some energy for this.”
Eve nodded. “Then I’ll grab this bread here. And this roast. And that cake. And you grab a bottle of wine because I don’t have any hands left to grab with.”