Emma poked her beading needle into the pin cushion. She draped the completed bracelet over her wrist. The brown and green faceted beads sparkled in the lamp light. Daisy looked up from the hat she was knitting. “That’s pretty. Very woodsy, but feminine. I bet it’ll sell quickly.”
“I hope you’re right,” Emma said as she stretched her arms over her head. “I bought a bunch of these beads. Hopefully people will like the color combination.” She usually made jewelry while sitting at her work bench, but when Daisy came to visit she switched to using a lap tray so she could sit in the recliner and chat. At least once a week they got together to talk, work on their current projects and have dinner. That evening they were planning on going to a new Thai restaurant a few blocks away. Several of the other residents of the artists’ colony they lived in had raved about the food there. A low rumble drew Emma’s attention to the window. Icy snowflakes pummeled the glass, carried by an angry wind gust. She put the tray on the floor, went to the window and cupped her hands around her face so she could see into the darkness outside. A snow drift jutted from the base of the street light on the sidewalk below her window. Snowflakes swirled like angry bees in the bubble of light cast by the lamp. She shook her head. “I don’t think we’re going out for dinner tonight.”
Daisy joined her at the window. “Yeah. I don’t feel like turning into Frosty the Snowgirl just for some Pad Thai. Between the two of us, we can whip up something.”
“What about baked potatoes? I picked up some russets a few days ago and I have some sour cream.”
“That sounds good, but we can do better than just sour cream.” Daisy pulled her keys out of her pocket. “I’m starving, so why don’t we cut up the potatoes and roast them instead of waiting for them to bake whole? If you can start on that I’ll go get some more goodies from my apartment.”
Emma had just slid the pan full of seasoned potato chunks into the oven when Daisy returned. She waited for more orders from Daisy since it was her idea to go above and beyond butter and sour cream. “They should be ready in about half an hour. What can I do now?”
Daisy hefted a mesh shopping bag onto the counter. It was full of plastic containers and condiment bottles. She tossed a package of mushrooms onto the cutting board. “If you want to slice these and get them sauteing with a bit of onion, I’ll start on the sauce.”
Cooking with Daisy was always a lesson. While Emma could make a few things well, she always followed the recipes exactly. Daisy was an artist in the kitchen as well as being an accomplished fiber artist. She threw together ingredients and adjusted seasonings with an ease that Emma wished she had. Of course, after spending Christmas with Daisy’s family, she could see where her friend’s cooking prowess came from. A steady parade of sweet treats and savory nibbles flowed from the family’s small kitchen during the three days Emma stayed with them, everything from iced sugar cookies to barbecued meatballs made from scratch. Nothing was fancy or gourmet, but everything was delicious. A far cry from the microwaved, processed foods Emma grew up eating since her mother was always more interested in her newest boyfriend than cooking nutritious meals for her daughter.
“What kind of sauce are you making?” Emma asked as she tossed her piles of mushrooms and onions into a pool of shimmering olive oil. The vegetables hissed when they hit the hot pan. She quickly stirred them with a wooden spoon.
“Blue cheese.” Daisy retrieved a small whisk from the pot of utensils that sat next to the stove. As she stirred her concoction she explained, “I thought we’d top the potatoes with mushrooms, onions, blue cheese sauce and bacon.” She pulled a small plastic bag out of her bag. It was filled with mahogany bits of crispy, cooked bacon – Daisy’s favorite food. “Leftovers from the BLT I made last night.”
When the potatoes were done they assembled their meals in handmade ceramic bowls, made by a neighbor, then settled back into their spots in the living room. Daisy speared one of the crispy potato chunks and used it to point at Emma’s bulletin board. “Is that a card from your mom?”
Emma turned. It was the card her mother had sent, postmarked three days after Christmas. “Yes.”
“Why is it all ripped up?”
The heavy paper was bubbled and torn. Holes had replaces several ornaments on the card’s Christmas tree. Her mother’s scrawled signature was bisected by a jagged tear. “She put my Christmas present in it.”
“Damn. What did she do? Send you a roll of pennies?”
Emma balanced her bowl on her lap and clapped. “You’re close! It’s probably worth about the same amount. If you guess correctly you’ll win the grand prize. Instant chocolate pudding with whipped cream from a can.”
“Yay!” Daisy raised her bowl in celebration. Then her expression turned serious as she asked, “So are you going to tell me what the present was or am I really going to have to guess it?”
Emma shook her head. “It was a cheap necklace. Perfect, if I was still ten years old.”
“It’s the thought that counts?”
“This spring my mom called to tell me about the pink, rhinestone heart necklace her new boyfriend had bought for her at the flea market. The boyfriend’s long gone and I’m ninety-nine percent sure my present is that necklace.” She snorted. “What kind of thought went into giving her daughter a memento from one of her pathetic, failed relationships?”
Story Background: Emma and Daisy are the main characters in The Bartonville Series of culinary fiction. The entire series will be composed of stories varying in length from flash fiction to novellas. If you would like to try making the meal featured in this story you can find the recipe here.