Interlude pt. II p.2

. . .

Maria woke and rubbed her eyes. Morning sun trickled through the fronds of a large palm just outside, and the air was thick with the smell of cooking. She propped herself up on an elbow and looked around the room: brightly colored cloth tapestries adorned the walls, and earthy tones dominated the furnishings, except for the clear glass coffee table on which her purse was resting.

‘Well this certainly doesn’t look like home.’ It was all such a great contrast to the glass-meets-stainless steel-meets-leather décor of her own flat.

What was more surprising though was the realization that she wasn’t being treated to any frightening recollections of the evening before, and had slept soundly through the whole night—no horrid dreams parading the faces of the dead through her mind; no frightened, screaming children. Just the warm comfort of deep, uninterrupted sleep, still glowing within her chest.

Beyond the kitchen counter, an oven door slammed. “Good morning my dear!” Lana called delightedly from the stove, “How did you sleep?”

“Unf, wonderful,” she half-grunted, struggling out from under a pile of heavy blankets.

Lana beamed at her, the gentle wrinkles in her skin exuding a deep joy. “I made a few kinds of things for breakfast, just in case you didn’t want what I was having,” she said. “And I have broccoli and mushrooms from my garden. And onions, tomatoes, and cheddar… I can make an excellent omelet… Or if you’re in a hurry, I keep the standard nutrient packages in a cupboard here, somewhere.”

“No, no,” Maria replied, “I don’t have anywhere to be right now.”

She sat up, still wearing her black, summery dress, rumpled from the night before. She tried to smooth out the wrinkles, unsuccessfully, before sauntering over to see what Lana had made. She gazed around a clean—but not entirely well organized—kitchen and rested her elbows on the counter, leaning forward to inhale the rich scents.

“Smells wonnnderful,” she said gaily. It was always such a delight to have food from a human-tended garden, especially when that was so rare amongst her and her technophilic white coat friends from the lab.

“Would you like some water? Or juice?” asked Lana, placing a glass on the counter. “Fresh squeezed.”

“What kind?”

“Orange juice.”

“Sure, thanks.”

“Oh, do you remember James, my friend who lives down the hall? He’s the one who grew these oranges.”

“Really?” she asked, feigning surprise. “Let’s see… James… James… Ah, yes, I remember him now. He was very nice.”

In fact, she couldn’t so much as recall a whisker from his face, or if he had even had any whiskers, but she was in a good mood this morning, and felt that ‘remembering’ him was the jollier thing to do.

“Oh that’s good,” said Lana, filling her glass with the rich, pulpy liquid, “He’s quite well liked around here.” Then, turning on the tap, she sprinkled some water on a heating pan on the stove. A crackling ‘fssh’ signaled that it was ready.

“So, do you want an omelet then?” she asked.

“Sure,” Maria said, watching curiously as Lana prepared the food. She knew a few people who still cooked as a hobby, but, like most, she much preferred the conveniences afforded by modern technology—namely that she could have restaurant quality dishes prepared at home at the press of a button. But, as she found herself saying delightedly in that moment, “There is something so indefinably magical about human cooking.”

“Well, love, of course,” her mother said promptly. “It’s the ingredient that even the best Metal Chef cooking cabinet can’t give you. It’s why I cook the way I do, and it’s why I go all across town for a carton or two of eggs and a gallon of milk. Things taste different when they come from something that has been genuinely cared for… Chickens, cows, and especially the Earth itself.”

“Hmm…” she intoned, noncommittally. It was a nice sentiment, if a bit cloying for her tastes. Still, she was grateful. “Thanks for making it, Lana.”

“Sure,” said the older woman, focused on sautéing a skillet of mushrooms and onions.

While waiting, Maria took a walk around the house. Lana had some odd things—lots of crystals, strange necklaces, medallions, and a few runic symbols scattered on a bookshelf—but the thing that most caught her attention was a winged statue of a young girl, kneeling upon the kitchen counter. Etched in stone, she had a somber appearance, as if she were contemplating things that Maria couldn’t fathom. Gazing steadily upon the effigy, she could almost see a kind of private joy gracing the lips of the young girl.

‘Beautiful statue…’ she mused, quietly entranced as she sipped at her drink.

With a clatter, Lana placed a plate in front of her and said triumphantly, “Now see if you have any doubts about the tasty power of love!”

No comments: