Pinch of Love (9781101558638)

Pinch of Love (9781101558638) by Alicia Bessette Read Free Book Online

Book: Pinch of Love (9781101558638) by Alicia Bessette Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alicia Bessette
loves it, and besides, a little won’t kill him. He chews lying on his side. He doesn’t even bother to lift his head.
    The window above the sink frames Mount Wippamunk. As I gaze at it, a Memory Smack wallops me, and I submit, let it sweep me away: high school Nick on the chairlift. He swung his left boot freely over his snowboard and belted “Welcome to the Jungle,” and my back hummed with the vibration of his voice. In the chair behind us, France—six or seven years before she would become Officer Frances—pelted the back of Nick’s head with an ice ball she formed from the chunks clinging to her safety bar. “Shut up, re -tahd!” she yelled.
    Nick turned and grinned his famous wide grin.
    I slip into another, more recent ski-themed Memory Smack: Nick and I lounged in the Mount Wippamunk base lodge in front of the wood-burning stove. Our sopping-wet jackets and pants hung from hooks on the wall. Rain slashed the windows. But we didn’t care about the foul weather; we got in some good runs.
    He sipped steaming cider from a Styrofoam cup. He wore a battered wool sweater—one he had since high school.
    â€œThis is the life, right here,” he whispered. His hot hand sank into my hat-head hair. His light brown eyelashes fluttered. His breath was sleepy, whistling waves. “Someday that’ll be us,” he said. He gestured with his cup to the wooden Family of Skiers: life-size statues of a mother and father, two little kids between them, heading off to the lift line. Their faces suggested that anticipatory thrill of the first run of the season.
    â€œThat’ll be us,” said Nick. He admired the strange, happy wooden family. “Soon we’ll get started on our family. Except we’ll have more than two. We’ll have enough kids so that our whole family can be one big soccer team.”
    â€œHow many would that be?” I asked.
    â€œNine, plus you and me makes eleven. There are eleven players on an official soccer team.”
    â€œNine kids?”
    â€œSure.”
    â€œYeah. Right.”
    The timer dings: real time, real place. Still on the floor, I reach over and open the oven. Zell’s Banana Cocoa Milky Way Cookies form one giant gray spongy puff, like the brain of a large mammal. Some brain drips onto the floor of the oven and sizzles.
    First my Flourless Peanut Butter Treats nearly burn the house down. Then I create this quavering, inedible lump. I think of Polly Pinch on the cover of Meals in a Cinch, those teens gathered around her, happy and unified, as if about to burst into a spontaneous, harmonized version of “Peace Train.” Polly brings the whole world together with a smile and a Bundt cake, that cover seems to say.
    And I bring no one together. Least of all myself. Nick wanted me to mother his children, yet I can’t even operate an oven—or bake a single, normal cookie. A shameful loneliness carves into my chest, hollowing it out. I am the enormous lump I’ve created: a quivering, unidentifiable mess.
    â€œWho goes through her whole life without cooking, Captain?” I ask. “Without cooking a thing?”
    Ahab lifts his head and watches as I stand, wrap a dish towel around my hand, and grasp the heavy baking sheet. It clatters onto the stovetop.
    â€œHow did Nick stand it?” I howl. “How did he stand me ?” A single tear splashes onto the half-cooked lump. And I spill over, big hot tears everywhere—my cheeks and chin, the ends of my hair, the apron. Even the top of Ahab’s head, as he leans against my thigh.
    The doorbell wheezes: w-h-e-e-z-e.
    â€œCrap.” I press an apron corner to my eyes and decide to ignore the doorbell until whoever is ringing it gives up and goes away.
    W-h-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-z-e.
    Balls.
    Â 
    Â 
    MR. GARRETT KNOX WAITS ON THE PORCH, loosening his tie. “Am I . . . interrupting you?” he asks.
    I’m not sure what to say because

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