I hope you all enjoyed this new feature as much as I did! Your wild imaginations made for a great story line! To read the completed tale you all helped create,
"I am going to bring the salad so will you bring the dessert?" Do we really have to go to this thing? "Yes, we do," I replied. "And," I said pointedly, "we even have to pretend to enjoy ourselves." Mel sighed loudly on the other end of the line, paused, and then said, "Alright fine, I'll pick you up at 6." "Make it 5:30," I said firmly, knowing full well that my little sister Melanie was never, ever on time. Melanie looked at the wall, ignoring my every word, like usual. It was impossible to win any sort of argument with Mel, I thought to myself, as I studied her avoidance. Then I snapped out of my day dream as I realized that I could not see Mel's face since I was talking to her over the phone. I smiled because I knew exactly the look she would have on her face just from the tone of her voice.
"Fine, see you then." she said and I heard her hang up the phone. I sighed as I closed my cell phone. What was I going to do with that girl? Lately, she just hasn't been interested in the things that we have always done together. She doesn't enjoy shopping, she doesn't want to go to the dinner parties, and even working together isn't as fun as it used to be. The hardest part was that I couldn't figure out why. I mean, I know that she's been feeling really self-conscious about her body since her operation, but the doctors assured her that the scars would fully heal. Besides, I couldn't see why she wanted to have her nose shrunk. We both have the cutest button noses and she thought she looked like Toucan Sam. In the back of my mind I think she regrets the whole thing since changing her nose has made her look like a completely different person. She'd never admit to it out loud, though. I could almost swear that even the portrait of mom in my study had to take a second glance to be sure it was Melanie when she came over the other night.
Before the operation, I asked her why and her reply was, "I'm not happy with the way I look. I feel like when I enter a room, my nose is the first thing people see. I work in the fashion industry where EVERYONE is perfect and I want to feel confident."
I knew that a girl named Eva, Mel's frenemy from high school had just landed a job at the same magazine Mel worked for, and had been flirting up a storm with Mel's crush, a drop dead gorgeous Gabriel Aubry look-alike. This is it, I thought, really want my sister to be happy, and I'm not going to let this girl steal her man. Now all I needed was a plan to bring Mel and her crush together without Eva being able to interfere Well, that is for another time.
Right now I have to make a salad. It then occurred to me that I had no idea of what kind of salad to make. Salad nicoise? Potato salad? Caesar salad? Getting up and walking to the fridge, I looked inside of it and debated my choices.
I logged on to YumSugar to find a spectacular salad recipe to take to the dinner party our friends were throwing after but then decided, screw it. I'll order one up from the catering place a few blocks over and just pass it off as my own. Those upper crust socialites won't know the difference because they do the same thing. A knock on the back door jilted me from my food debate.
"Who is it?"
"It's John. I need a cup of sugar neighbor."
I knew full well what he meant by a "cup of sugar" Unfortunately, he meant a cup of sugar and that's it. I'd been lusting after John since he moved in last month, but he seemed more interested in Melanie. "So, how's your sister doing?" he said as I opened up the door. "She has a telephone, and a number; both work surprisingly well what with technology and all," I said. "Bad day or what Kim? Please, if it's hard to be neighborly, keep the cup of sugar and the comments," John said.
"No, no, I just, yes, bad day, long day. Whatever you want to call it," a little sigh escaping my mouth. "Please just take the sugar and accept my apology."
He took the sugar from me and as he started looking away I spoke without thinking as I always do, "What's the sugar for, SUGAR?". What was I thinking I just called a grown man SUGAR! I leaned againts the wall trying to recover, arms crossed. With that, John flashed his 1000-watt smile and took the cup.
"Thanks for the sugar, sugar" he laughed, walking out the door. I couldn’t help but smile; I abhor cutesy pet name but I’d be his sugar anytime. “SALAD, Kim” I reminded myself. I decided to call Café Dulce up the street.
“Yes, I’d like to order a fruit and walnut salad” I started, “ohh, and a dozen mini Lindsor Tortes” I continued. Mel might forget to bring dessert, but those trust fund babies weren’t going to be looking down their sculpted noses at the DeMaui sisters. Yikes, I’ll have to wean myself off the nose job humor, I thought, thinking of Mel. Just then the phone rang, I couldn’t believe it - it was John, he said, "thanks again for the sugar, but I'm gay so please stop hitting on me - it's pathetic." I was so shocked by the phone call that I simply said "Get over yourself" and dropped the receiver.
I was too busy to deal with such rudeness. I had just enough time to get to the store and back before 5:30 so I grabbed my car keys and headed out. On the way I ran into Mario. And I have to tell you that after that phone call, Mario was looking like the fresh drink of water that I needed. So I asked him if he might like to join me for dinner? What was I thinking dinner? After totally embarrassing myself with John, and here I am asking this tall drink of water to dinner. Oh my God please tell me I didn't just ask him! Please God, Please God! Mario had been a student in the ESL class I taught, and I had a crush on him that had been hard to hide. I'd seen him out for a walk several times since but chickened out and gone the other way before we got to speaking distance. And no wonder, I sounded like a total idiot; Mario quirked an eyebrow, and I could tell he was trying to hide a smile because his adorable dimple creased his cheek. "Bella Mia do you realize yourself? You are speaking strange things out aloud. I do not understand your drink of water. You are...it is....giornata stressante, no?" He shook his head. stressful day. That was putting it gently. "And your shoes --" he gestured. I looked down -- one sandal and one sneaker. Both left footed. Now I looked like a total idiot. "I just..." I broke off helplessly, flinging up my hands up in a gesture of humiliated resignation. I could feel a blush rise to my cheeks.
He caught one of my hands and stepped in close before I could pull away. "Yes, I would like dinner with you, anywhere, anytime." he murmured. "Tonight?" "Yes," I squeaked in spite of myself as his warm fingers traced my knuckles and trailed down to trace my fingertips. I could feel my pulse fluttering like a caught sparrow. If he did anything else I would melt right here on the sidewalk. How was I going to manage having dinner with him? Oh my god, I had invited him to my dinner party tonight. The one I was hosting for my ex-best friend and my ex-fiance.
My thoughts veered away from old memories, as I realized how close Mario was standing to me, his breath warm on my face. "Tonight, when?" he prompted gently. "6:00. My place and I'll drive you over." My mouth said, smiling, as my brain frantically screamed: zip your lips, girl, shut your mouth, call it off, call it off, get a rain check, you can't handle this tonight, you'll wreck any chances with him if you drag him into this, call it off, wow, he smells good and his hands are so warm....ohhhh....
"Not at your house, then?" he sounded faintly disappointed, then his dimple quirked again. "I will drive. It is a new Ferrari 612 Scaglietti - you will love it." He leaned in close, brushed a straying lock of hair off my face and kissed each cheek -- a European farewell. I could still feel the softness and warmth of his mouth long after he turned the corner and disappeared down Tobein avenue.
I floated home, despite the two left shoes, trying to figure out what to do next. What did I have that looked good that didn't ride up indecently in a Ferrari? How could I stand to be in the same room with ex-best-friend Beth or ex-fiance Sean again? Frack me, I had forgotten the salad, I realized as I changed for the tenth time. So long as I didn't put on two left shoes again, the rest would fix itself, I told myself determinedly, digging through my closet and changing again. I wasn't going to let anything screw up tonight with Mario. Especially given the circumstances of this dinner party I had to endure. I put on my sexiest red dress and did my makeup just right before finally deciding to delve into the salad once and for all. Finally my day is now over.
I had the salad, my outfit was way too sexy for Mario, and I knew I could face the rest. As I was thinking of changing the bed sheets for maybe a little surprise for Mario, I heard the door open and Mel say "hey Tracy, I'm here with the desert," I flung the duvet over my rumpled unmade bed, grabbed the salad out of the fridge, and checked my makeup one last time in the upstairs hall mirror. As hurried down the stairs to the front door entry, I heard a cacophony of noise -- car doors slamming, raised voices, running footsteps, and startled exclamations. I slipped on the steps and almost fell -- all the noise and chaos made the tiny foyer into Grand Central Station. I could see Mel holding the cake platter overhead with two hands, shrieking, trying to stay out of the way of a tangle of arguing men. I heard fragments of conversation "--only kissed her hello--" "--NOT gay!" "--stop fighting, my cake--" "--friend Eva was lying--" "--not GAY, I want her--" "--how they say hello in where I come from--" My neighbor John spurted free of the fracas and careened into me, grabbing my arm for balance the salad bowl spun out of my grasp. I fell with John still in his death grip and yelling in my ear
"--said I was gay to get you to leave me alone, you thick-skulled twit!" And we landed with in a heap, knocking into the crowd on the floor. A confetti of field greens and pear tomatoes rained down us. Wedged between John's shoulder and Mario's knee, I had a perfect view of Mel tilted against Gabe's chest (her crush!), the upraised cake wobbling precariously. I pinched my eyes shut, wincing. All I needed was Eva's frenemy Eva to show up to make this a total disaster. I felt salad dressing drip on my cheek and a tomato bounce into my cleavage.
Mario reached down and hauled me to my feet, and his laughing voice in my ear made me shiver. "Cara Mia, you invite disasters, my Armani is ruined, and yet I have I crave nothing but to taste your tomatoes."