“Queenie! You’re back!” I’d followed my nose and found the older woman stirring a pot in the kitchen. “I’m so happy to see you!” I beamed at her. “I gather that my presence here was missed?” She laughed. “Of course you were! Did you enjoy your month-long trip to Vegas?” I asked. “Indeed. It was…very interesting.” She gave me a sly look. “As far as birthdays go, I can happily say this one was the best.” She declared. “I didn’t realize it was your birthday! How old did you turn?” I babbled away without thinking then immediately regretted it. The twinkle in Queenie’s eye let me know that it hadn’t bothered her though. “Oh Valerie…you already know the answer to that. 29 of course!” She winked at me.
“So what are you making? It smells really good.” I changed the subject before I could embarrass myself any further. “It’s a surprise.” She murmured as she added more things to the pot in front of her. “In one of Johnny’s letters, he mentioned that you were keen on experimenting in the kitchen.” My face turned red and I shrugged in response. Apparently the only thing I was keen on doing was setting fires. “It’s an art, Valerie, and it should be nurtured. Some people can’t even boil water.” She glared out the window at Nancy who was sitting on the back patio. “With the right herbs and the right sauce…you can create a masterpiece. Taste this.” She held a wooden spoon to my lips. “Wow! That’s delicious!” I exclaimed.
“Damn right it is!” She chuckled. “So I was thinking, Valerie.” She turned the stove eye off and faced me. “Yes?” I replied anxiously. “I’m still in touch with an old friend of mine who runs his own restaurant. He’s a pain in the ass but he’ll get you set on the right track. Would you be interested in working for him?” She was offering me a job? “Wait.” I blurted out dumbly. “You would do that for me?” She nodded her head slowly and grinned at me. “Thank you!” I threw my arms around her. “You have no idea how much that means to me!”
“Don’t get the girl’s hopes up, mother.” Nancy snorted and sat down at the counter behind us. “The last thing we need is for her to burn down my house too.” Going by the grim expression on her face, she wasn’t joking. “Nancy, dear?” Queenie gave her daughter a sickeningly sweet smile. “What now, mother?” She sneered and waited for Queenie’s rebuttal. “Shut the hell up!” I pursed my lips to keep from laughing as Nancy stormed out of the room. Things between Johnny and I had been tense since we’d been under Nancy’s roof but now…I finally had an ally.