“And now you want to borrow my stuff?” She looked so horrified I could barely contain my laughter. Jude wasn’t just keen on decorating homes, she also liked to do it dressed up like a sexy goddess.
“Take whatever you want. I’m happy you get this chance. You’ve worked so hard, you deserve it.”
“Thank you. I wasn’t sure how you’d react, which is why I’ve made you dinner.”
I gawked at her, only now smelling the faint scent of roasted onions and something else. I sniffed the air loudly as I fought to place the smell. “What is that?” It wasn’t unpleasant, just…strange.
“I told you, dinner,” Jude said.
“You never cook.” Which was the equivalent of ‘you can’t cook’. Neither Jude nor I had a chef bone in our body.
“Yeah.” She grimaced. “I found out the hard way when I had to ask the neighbor to help me figure out the oven. His name is Tinker. As in Tinkerbell.”
I raised one eyebrow. “Honestly? You want me to believe we have a neighbor by the name of Tinker?”
She shook her head and winked.
“Okay. If you have to know, I don’t remember his name. But look, I’m telling you the truth.” She walked into the kitchen, expecting me to follow her, which I did. “I’m not a completely lost cause, which is why I’ve tried my hand at a foolproof recipe passed on to me by my grandmother.”
And by that she meant Google, because Jude’s parents migrated from Australia to the States when she was an infant and she never got to meet her grandparents.
“What’s this?” I looked at the sticky, boiling brown mass and fought the urge to grimace.
“It’s vegetables.” She looked at it. “You know, that stuff that’s supposed to be healthy and good for you.”
The gooey stuff looked like no healthy stuff I had ever seen.
I grinned. “In that case, I’m starving.”
“Then wait until you see the meat.” I stared at her open-mouthed as she opened the oven, wondering what she meant by that.
Jude’s first attempt at magic, a.k.a. cooking, looked edible. An hour later, a mouth-watering scent wafted over from the crispy brown roast beef with roast vegetables.
“Want some?” Jude said, coaxing me proudly.
Everything looked so delicious my stomach made a growling sound in response. “Pile it on, darling.”
She chuckled and retrieved her carving knife, which we had never used in the three years we had been roommates. Jude plunged the knife into our dinner, only it barely penetrated the skin.
“Are you sure this is ready?” I asked skeptically. “Isn’t the meat supposed to be tender?”
“I followed the recipe down to a T.” She frowned at it as she managed to cut a piece of sinewy meat. “Maybe it’s supposed to be a steak.”
No steak I had ever seen resembled that.
Ah, but the trouble with recipes was that they were written by people who knew what they were talking about, and as a result they believed the whole world did, too.
It took fifteen minutes and our entire strength to cut the meat in two thin slices. We were sitting at the table, our plates in front of us, eyeing the brown, palm-sized cuts warily.
“You did this for me, and I’ll gladly eat all of it,” I said resolutely, pointing my fork to my dinner plate. “It looks delicious. I’ll give you that.”
“It’s a Thai recipe. I used fresh spices,” Jude said flatly.
“Wow. A Thai recipe.” I nodded, impressed, and pushed a tiny piece of meat into my mouth. “Your grandma really knew how to cook.”
It was hot. So hot, I stopped chewing and scanned the table for anything to drink.
My eyes started to water as the burning sensation in my mouth began to grow. How much spice did Jude pour in there? A whole bottle of chili?
“Is it too hot?” Jude asked, worried.
“No. It’s perfect.” I shook my head and wiped at the tears trickling down my face. I didn’t know what was worse: the burning in my mouth or the way the spices made my eyes and nose water. Or the fact that I had no idea how to tell her that her cooking truly and utterly sucked. Big time. Through my foggy vision, I watched Jude take a bite and immediately stop chewing. Her eyes popped wide open and red splotches dotted her cheeks as she began to wave her hands in front of her mouth.
I laughed. She looked like a dragon about to spit fire.
“You should have said something,” she whispered in mortification.
“What? And spoil seeing the look on your face?” I laughed again. “No way. Besides, it’s not that bad.”