I love to write food scenes. Making food, sharing it with your loved ones is part of how we create family and community. It’s how Tate reaches out to Matt after he helps her the first time they sort of met (she’s hit by a car and he’s on scene and gets it called in, etc). It’s how Polly takes care of Maggie when she’s down, or how Minx takes care of her friends in Celebration for the Dead. I decided to go with Matt and Tate, because it’s very much part of who she is and how she takes care of her people…
MAKING CHASE by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2008, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, Samhain Publishing
Matt saw her everywhere once he’d actually noticed her the first time. That bright shock of white-blonde hair was a beacon along with the vivid, colorful clothes she always wore.
Somehow, it fit and he loved the retro vibe it lent her. Quite often, she wore dresses that made him think of the fifties. Flared skirts and tight bodices in bright red or blue. Always shoes to match. The woman could probably give Cassie a run for her money in the shoe department.
Two weeks after he’d gone into her shop that first time, he saw her sitting on a bench at city hall. It was early May and the day was clear and warm. Her hair gleamed in the sunshine.
He plopped down on the bench next to her and began to unpack his lunch. “Hey there. This seat taken?”
Her surprised jump made him glad she wasn’t eating or drinking anything after the first choking incident. “Hi. No. No, sit down. I was just having my lunch.”
Looking between his sandwich and whatever the heaven in a bowl she was eating, made his stomach growl. “What is that? Looks way better than a turkey sandwich.”
She held out a forkful to him and without thinking he took it. Instantly, his taste buds lit as the flavor rushed into his mouth.
“It’s green curry with tofu.”
“That’s tofu? No way. Tofu tastes like, well, nothing.”
She laughed, that sweet, musical laugh. “Tofu will soak up the flavor of whatever you cook it with. This has garlic, basil, eggplant and tofu in it and I like to add mushrooms just because. The green curry is spicy and the coconut milk is sweet. All together it just works doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. I’ll never wrinkle my nose at tofu again.”
She curled her lip at his sandwich. “Is that pressed turkey?” Her tone made it seem like he’d been eating dog poop.
“Um, I don’t know?” He shrugged. “I get it at the market, in those baggies where the cheese is. Is it bad?”
“Tell me something, Matt Chase, does your mother ever serve turkey that tastes like that?”
He recoiled in horror. “Never!”
She handed him the curry. “Good Lord, eat this. And go to the deli to get your turkey there next time. You know what a tomato is right?”
Obediently he ate and nodded. “But it makes the sandwich soggy.”
“Keep the slices in a separate baggie until you’re ready to eat the sandwich.” She peeled the bread and looked at him accusingly. “Is this processed cheese? The kind that comes in little individual plastic sleeves?”
“Yeah. Hey, I like that stuff!”
“No you don’t.”
She sounded so sure of it, he started to doubt himself. Instead, he ate the food she’d given him. “What are you going to eat?”
She pulled out another container and two small containers. “I have marinated tomatoes and mozzarella with crostini.”
“Huh?” He leaned over and nearly drooled when she pulled the lid off the container and the scent of olive oil and basil hit him along with the sweet acid of the tomatoes. “No way.”
Grinning, she popped a tiny ball of cheese into his mouth and he groaned. “You can’t have it all but I’ll share some of it. I usually give my leftovers to Beth. If she hunts you down later, don’t blame me.”
She pulled several little toasts out of a paper sack. “This is crostini. Just little pieces of toasted bread with olive oil or even plain. You put things on it, olive spread, tomatoes, cheeses, that sort of thing. My brother William works at The Honey Bear. He bakes the bread and tempts me with it even though fresh sourdough bread is the last thing I need every day.”
“I go in there all the time. I can’t believe I haven’t recognized him. Does he look like you?”
“He starts work at four in the morning and he’s off by two most days. You wouldn’t see him, he bakes in the basement. All of my brothers and sisters are redheads with green eyes except me and Nathan. Nate’s got brown hair. William looks like a younger version of Tim, my older brother.”
He’d started to chide her about the bread thing until she spoke about her coloring. He remembered back to his momma’s comments about Tate’s mother’s behavior.
Tate cocked her head and he actually saw her openness evaporate. “Yes, I’m aware of my mother’s reputation, it’s well-deserved but you won’t catch poor white trash by sharing a fork with me.”
“Whoa!” The hurt in her words nearly made his eyes water. Putting the bowl down, he reached for her hand. “I would never think such a thing. Tate, I don’t think that about you.”
“I saw your face change when I described my coloring to you.” She tried to remove her hand but he wouldn’t let go.
“Yes. Yes, okay, I did think about what I’d heard about your mother. But that has nothing to do with you. I don’t even know your mother. For all I know, your dad has blond hair and blue eyes.”
“Both my parents are redheads with green eyes, Matt. Don’t think everyone in the world didn’t notice me and Nathan and that we don’t look a damned thing like my father. Don’t think my father failed to notice and make us pay.”
He stilled. “What do you mean?”
She began to pack her things up. “I need to get back to work.”
Reaching out, he touched her arm and she stopped, looking into his eyes. “Wait. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. If you leave I have to give your food back.” He grinned tentatively and she snorted.
“Ugh, another man after my food. I have to beat you all off with a stick. Really, it’s difficult to be objectified that way.”
He laughed but he saw her humor as a way to deflect the conversation away from her comment about her father.
They stayed for another twenty minutes or so before she had to get back to the salon.
“I’ll walk back with you. I need to get to work too. I can’t believe we work across the street and I’ve never really hung out with you before.” He helped her pack up. “Wow, what is this little lunchbox thing?”
“Cool isn’t it? It’s a Mr. Bento. I got it at this cookware store in Atlanta a few months back.”
They walked companionably through the early May afternoon toward their end of town.
“I take it you like to cook?”
She nodded. “It’s a great stress reducer. It’s a way I can do something for my family.”
“So you cut their hair and make them curry?” He grinned, liking that a lot.
“I do. Although Anne is really good with hair too. We’re all pretty handy in the kitchen but it sort of turned into my place to be the house everyone comes to for dinner.” And they all knew her cupboards would never be bare, ever. Once she’d moved out, that was her promise to herself and she’d kept it. No one she loved would ever be hungry if she could help it.
“Do you do men’s hair? I think I need a cut.” Absently, he ruffled a hand through his hair and a surge of giddiness rushed through her. Thirty-one years old with a crush, wasn’t that special.
“We don’t get a lot of men in the shop. Men in Petal tend toward the barber shop on First. But we get a few and I’d be happy to do you. Um, do your hair that is.” She blazed bright red.
He laughed. “You blush easily don’t you?”
“It’s a curse of very pale skin I suppose.” They stopped just outside the salon. “Give a call to check the schedule, I’ll be glad to fit you in and trim you up.” She brushed the hair away from his neck and tsked. “And I’ll get your neck too.”
“Okay, I’ll do that.” He paused before waving and crossing. On the other side of the street he called out, “Thanks for the curry. I’ll talk to you soon, Tate.”
“Hoo boy,” she mumbled, watching him as he went back into the stationhouse.