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[Eleanor]: 668.Contest entries.2007 August - Famous First Lines

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2007-10-17 00:03:04
Contest Entry
short story
Free for reading
Dinner is served

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...” Alice fell asleep before she’d finished reading the first paragraph, her cheek on the smooth page of the hardcover copy of A Tale of Two Cities. She’d read the book in high school, and felt that it set the tone for her present state of mind. However, her sobs of frustration and loneliness had taken their toll and she succumbed to exhaustion as soon as her eyes started moving across the page.

There was a tap tap at the door, and Alice roused herself enough to mumble sleepily, “Who’s there?”

“It’s Gwen,” her roommate answered through the locked door. “Are you going to come down for supper? It’s ready now.”

Alice rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock on her bedside table. Oh wow, she’d zoned out for the whole afternoon, since after her embarrassing encounter with Stephen, Gwen’s brother. It was now 7 o’clock and her stomach was rumbling again, telling her it was time to eat. She closed the book and got off the bed, fumbling with the lock to let Gwen in.

Suddenly she was hit with the most tantalizing aroma. Cooking odours both rich and complex were drifting upstairs. Her mouth immediately started watering and she felt faint with hunger. Gwen smiled at the look of amazement on Alice’s face and said, by way of explanation, “It’s Stephen cooking. He’s a professional chef. Didn’t I tell you that?”

“No!” blurted out Alice, totally overcome by desire. “I didn’t know.”

She descended to the kitchen with as much decorum as she could muster, trying to control the salivating and the rumbling of her stomach. When her eyes beheld Stephen girt in her apron, the one with the trout in the frying pan and the logo “The end of the Rainbow” on it, humming quietly to himself as he lifted pot lids, tasted for seasonings and opened the oven door to remove something that made Alice think of Christmas dinners, she nearly swooned. It was too much. He was beautiful to behold and a chef as well. The part of her mind that always set her up for disappointment whispered, “He’s probably gay.”

Stephen looked up as Alice and Gwen entered the kitchen. The table was set with linen and crystal, the wine glasses Gwen had received from her mother on her last birthday, and there was a bottle of baco noir uncorked and ready to pour. With a flourish, Stephen took off the apron and hung it on the coat tree in the corner, then proceeded to serve soup before he sat down himself with his sister and her roommate. He smiled warmly at Alice as she gingerly dipped her spoon in the creamy, golden liquid. “I hope you like it,” he said. She smiled shyly and took a tentative sip, letting the liquid lie on her tongue a moment before greedily swallowing it.

“This is fantastic!” she gushed. “What is it?”

Stephen smiled again before answering, “Carrot and sweet potato. It’s our mum’s recipe, actually. I just dressed it up a bit.”

Alice didn’t reply; she was busy scraping every last drop of the precious potage out of the bowl with her spoon. Gwen and her brother exchanged glances, but said nothing.

The soup was followed by broccoli-cheese strudel wrapped in delicate phylo pastry, golden brown and crispy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth delicious inside. There were oven-roasted vegetables drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and a rice pilaf, all of which Alice devoured wordlessly. Just as she thought she couldn’t possibly eat another bite, Stephen produced bowls of fresh fruit salad, fragrant with crème de cassis liqueur. 

When everything was gone, Alice sighed in contentment. Never had she eaten so well, never had she had a meal prepared by such a beautiful and talented chef. At this particular moment, it was definitely the best of times.


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